Elmhurst real estate blog archive


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 11

Dated cabinets? There’s a reface for that

by Thomas Makinney

Kitchens are considered the heart of the home, and they’re one of the first rooms buyers look at when they enter a home, and one of the rooms that sellers worry about the most.

Oak cabinets, laminate countertops, and beige tile can stop some buyers in their tracks. But before you rip everything out, consider if underneath that brown boringness there might be a diamond in the rough.

A kitchen remodel is one of the highest returns on investments that a homeowner can make, earning back an estimated 80-85% of cost at selling. But it is also considered one of the most expensive, particularly when replacing cabinets. Not anymore. There is a booming industry in mid-range kitchen remodels, which typically involve refacing or painting existing cabinets.

The dated mid-oak tone cabinets of 20 or 30 years ago are typically better constructed with higher-quality workmanship than the more cheaply manufactured cabinets found in many homes today. These solid-but-shabby cabinets are perfect for a re-do rather than replacement.

There are a few avenues to follow if you want to paint or reface your cabinets. The most cost-effective method involves removing doors and drawers, sanding and cleaning them, and applying fresh coats of paint or stain. Homeowners can also opt to apply a new veneer overlay on the existing cabinet. Or they can replace the doors and drawer-fronts altogether and get a new design (the crisp Shaker-style door is a popular choice today).

In addition to not replacing cabinetry or cabinetry frames, owners are also saving money by not changing the layout of the kitchen, which can incur costs from moving appliances (which typically involve gas, electrical, or plumbing). Even if you put in new appliances, you’re still way ahead budget-wise.

Just don’t forget the hardware. Fresh brushed nickel or rubbed bronze hardware make a world of difference when updating a kitchen.

When considering a mid-range remodel, it’s helpful to check with a local real estate professional who knows what the market in your area and price range can bear. You don’t want to put in professional-grade appliances and top-line granite in a home valued at $275,000. Similarly, you don’t want to skimp on finishing touches that buyers in an upper-level home will be expecting (such as pull-out pantry drawers, under-cabinet lighting, high-end granite, stone, or quartz countertops).

A real estate professional will also know what must-haves are in kitchens in your area. Certain areas have features that attract or repel buyers. Finally, if you’re remodeling a kitchen for resale value, be sure to keep the color scheme simply and neutral. Neutral doesn’t have to mean boring, just nothing too loud or busy.

If you’re interested in what a kitchen facelift might entail in your home, give us a call at (630) 441-5570 or reach out through our website, www.gmregroup.com

Image courtesy of moneypit.com.

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

“Surban” millennials find Elmhurst the perfect hometown

by Thomas Makinney

Millennials are hitting the housing market and their unique needs and desires mean good news for cities like Elmhurst.
A recent article by the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/brand-connect/nar/millennials-go-surban/) coined the term “surban” to describe the type of town that is attracting millennials who are ready for the suburban life but don’t want to give up the amenities of an urban area.
They’re moving to the suburbs for the same reasons as other generations (less expensive housing, room to raise a family, good schools and parks) but they’re looking for more than a sleepy bedroom community: They want walkability, public transportation, ethnic restaurants, coffee shops, unique stores, and gourmet grocery options.
With our lively downtown, excellent school system, and prime spot on the Metra, Elmhurst is quickly rising to the top of Chicago suburbs for this generation.
The article points out that “surban” towns almost always have a college or university nearby (check!) along with quality daycare centers and upgraded playgrounds (check and check!). Other popular millennial amenities that we have include summer festivals, farmers’ markets, and a growing selection of microbreweries and wine bars.
This is the third straight year that millennials comprised the largest group of buyers (35 percent of all buyers), more than the combined number of younger and older boomers (31 percent) and more than Generation X (26 percent).
And while millennials are looking for a more urban-feeling suburb than past generations, they’re still relying on realtors for guidance and purchases. Todays supply shortages, strong competition, and conflicting internet information means a real estate agent is more valuable than ever.
We’re here to help buyers from any generation find the perfect home. To learn more about why Elmhurst may be the perfect place for you to put down roots, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, 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!

@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

Tips for avoiding wire fraud

by Thomas Makinney

It can happen to the best and brightest people. You receive an email or phone call asking you to transfer money or make a payment. Often, the request seems legitimate — maybe it comes from a company you do business with or a charity you support or even someone you know.

We see this happen all the time. Before you send money or give out personal information in response to an email or phone call, STOP. Electronic communication is neither secure nor confidential, and scammers have gotten very sophisticated at hiding their true identity. You need to verify the person or institution before you respond to an unsolicited request.

To verify an identity, do some due diligence.

  • Call the company using a phone number that you look up, not a phone contained in an email or given over the phone.
  • Look at the email address of the sender.  Reputable companies will have a professional address with their company name embedded, and it will not end in gmail.com or yahoo.com or other server names.
  • Don’t believe caller ID. If you recognize the company or person making the call, ask to call them back before you give them any information.
  • If the request comes from a company you do business with, go into your online account and verify that the request is there as well.

Any time you receive an electronic communication with wire instructions for the transfer of funds, even if that communication appears to be from @properties, your real estate agent or your attorney, do not initiate a wire transfer unless you have verified the source.

Making sure that your assets and funds are secure and in the right hands is important to us. We want to help you reach your goals. If you have any questions about wire fraud, or about how @properties will communicate financial transactions, please call us at (630) 441-5570 or contact us through our website, www.gmregroup.com    

Real Estate in the Real World: Appraisals Matter

by Thomas Makinney

If you’re a first time home buyer or seller, you may have questions about some of the steps along the way.  We’re here to help, and this week in our Real Estate in the Real World series we’d like to shed light on the appraisal process.


When a buyer’s offer is accepted and the application for their loan is pending, one of the approval factors is the appraisal of the home.  As brokers on the listing side, we are always present for the appraisal.  We will note the amenities and features that distinguish the home, and with the appraiser’s permission we will review and discuss the comparable properties in the area both sold and under contract.  

Without the justification of the purchase price, the loan will not be approved, and the transaction could end there.

 At the Gracik Makinney Group, we work actively and diligently to ensure that every part of the process is as smooth and successful as possible.

When buying or selling a home, it is of highest importance to enlist the help of a qualified professional who will do what it takes to complete the best possible transaction.  If you or someone you know are interested in buying or selling, The Gracik Makinney Group is happy to be a valuable resource in Elmhurst real estate.  Give us a call at 630-441-5570 or visit us on the web at www.gmregroup.com

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 11