Seniors, like all of us, need to be prepared for disasters. In Chicago, we’re not as concerned with hurricanes, tornadoes (to a lesser extent!), but storms with their accompanying flash floods and power outages are of great concern. In addition, today is COLD (!) and we should all be ready for the problems that extremely cold weather creates.
The Red Cross has mobile apps (some for Android and Iphones, some only in Itunes format) for first aid, shelter, fire, earthquake, and hurricane…
Click on the photo below, or go to Itunes or GooglePlay stores to download….
Chicago is on the cutting edge of technology, and this winter, I expect that the ChicagoShovels.org website will help neighbors – not only Chicago Seniors – but all Chicagoans have a safe and secure winter season.
Please view the video below to find out
How to track the Chicago snow plows,
Claim a sidewalk to shovel,
Find your car if it was towed for snow plows, and
Volunteer to shovel a sidewalk for a Chicagoan in need
There are several opportunities in Chicago for Seniors to get benefits and be prepared. Below is a map of Chicago Senior Centers.
Click on the map and then the location for more information:
Find what streets have overnight parking restrictions and are on the 2″ snow route
Was your car towed because of snow? Find it by using this app!
Next week: We’ll discuss Walk Scores in Chicago and how these can be used to choose your next home!
No matter what size your home is, being stuck inside all winter can make anyone claustrophobic. While this isn’t the best time of year to build room additions, there are simple steps you can take to make any space seem larger.Do use mirrors. The best and least expensive way to make smaller rooms appear bigger is to decorate walls with mirrors. Choose locations where the mirror will reflect the light back into the room to add warmth and depth.
Home Staging Tip #1: Don’t neglect lighting.
Lighting is crucial when it comes to opening your space. Maximize any natural light available by getting rid of heavy draperies. Add more lamps at varying levels to give the room a glow, and install track lighting to make sure every corner is well lit.
Home Staging Tip #2: Do choose a lighter color scheme.
Pale, cool colors will reflect the light and make the walls appear farther apart. Add visual impact to your space by separating the walls into blocks of color using gentle tones.
Home Staging Tip #3: Don’t get hung up.
Your wall art should be hung at eye level or about 60 inches from the floor. Hanging items too high will make your ceiling seem lower.
Home Staging Tip #4: Do space things out.
Instead of pushing your furniture against the walls, give pieces some breathing room by playing with interesting angles. You can also choose one large statement piece – like an armchair or coffee table – and fill in gaps around it.
This is a terrific book for both first time buyers and time-tested real estate investors. It’s not limited to Chicago Real Estate – the information on buying and selling real estate is applicable to everyone who’s considering a real estate purchase.
The fantastic book includes chapters on
The New World of Mortgage Finance
What Can you Afford to Buy?
Fixing Your Credit History and Credit Score Forever
Down Payment and Reserve Money – Where to Find it
Identifying Amazing Opportunities
Savvy Real Estate Investing
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Winners will need to either pick up the book or provide a mailing address for the book to sent to you by January 31, 2013.
The pre-listing time we share is critical – we will work together to stage your home, bring in a professional photographer. and develop the marketing materials that will make your home appealing.
3709 N Ashland – 3 Bedroom Duplex in Blaine School District
This is an example of one property I successfully sold in 2012.
You’ll see the property as it looked when I first met the sellers. They purposely didn’t clean or prepare for our meeting.
After listing the property, we worked together to stage the home.This involves de-cluttering, moving furniture, and cleaning. The seller did a great job preparing for this meeting, so we only needed to tweak a few things – we moved the crib in the 2nd bedroom, removed a few more items, and added items to the kitchen counters so they wouldn’t look like landing pads.
As is my common practice with real estate listings, I brought in one of my favorite real estate photographers. She uses the proper lighting and lens to get terrific photographs that show the properties to their best advantage.
Once the sellers moved out, I took another set of photographs.
You’ll see how important it is to keep furniture in your home during the selling period – vacant homes don’t show the space to its advantage. Rooms look smaller, and it doesn’t seem like all the furniture will fit in the space.
If properties HAVE to be vacant, we can rent/borrow furniture, or I have another trick I use that helps buyer visualize the space (one of my trade secrets!)
You’ll see, too, that my photographs are poorly lit, and they aren’t taken using a wide enough lens — the rooms look smaller.
If your home looks more like the BEFORE than the AFTER – don’t panic!
These changes were made without buying any new furniture!
We de-cluttered, moved furniture, hired a cleaning company, and a professional photographer.
My 5th grade band director told me to use elbow grease to better clean my trumpet, and I remember asking my mom what elbow grease was- I thought it was a magic potion. Alas, I learned that he meant I had to put some effort in – that’s just what staging your home for sale is about — ELBOW GREASE!
As posted in my monthly email newsletter, Pantone has released the color for this year…
THE OFFICIAL COLOR OF 2013
is Emerald Green!
Last year, tangerine was in, but today, it’s Emerald!
Pantone, a provider of color standards, has famously declared the ‘color of the year’ since 2000, influencing everything from fashion designers to car manufactures. The color company announced that the 2013 color will be emerald, and design themes have already begun to incorporate this rich jewel tone.Perfect for the winter months, emerald also makes a great transition into spring. There are many ways to utilize this new color to freshen your home. Here are a few ideas:
Shades of green are known to provide feelings of harmony, relaxation and balance. While an entire room painted in emerald may prove overwhelming, an accent wall is a great way to incorporate the color. To maintain the regal feel of the shade, incorporate dark but neutral pieces into the room.
Window treatments alone offer endless possibilities, coming in more shapes, sizes, patterns and colors than you can even count. Ditch those boring blinds and find a style that works for you and your home. A chevron pattern of emerald and white is very much on trend.
Adding emerald colored accessories is a great way to integrate this new trend without the hassle of a more permanent commitment. Throw pillows and rugs will give any room a regal yet inviting feel. You can get creative by adding pops of color with picture frames and wall art in a living room or table runners and vases to a kitchen or dining room.
The housing market is looking good for 2013, but there are many mixed messages and inaccurate predictions found in today’s market reports. Is now a good time to sell or should you wait? Industry data says that prices have hit bottom and we can expect small but steady increases over the next few years.
– It was recently reported by Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) that the Chicago Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA) was up for the number of homes sold in October 2012 by 44 percent and the median home price was up 2.1 percent.
– Lawrence Yun, chief economist and senior vice president of research for the National Association of REATLORS® (NAR), predicts that the real estate market will see a slight pull back in the number of transactions and pricing in the next several months. However, 2012 will still finish strong with a one to four percent increase in home prices.
– Dr. Geoffrey J. D. Hewings predicted something very similar. Director and professor for the University of Illinois, Dr. Hewings is hired by IAR for monthly real estate forecasting. He estimates an average year over year increase of 3.5 percent.
With an expected pricing increase of 6 percent over the next two years, double digit increases will not happen in the near future. Interest rates are at an all time low, making it the perfect environment to meet with a real estate professional to access your needs and expectations.
Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, discusses the real estate market:
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As reported in my monthly Chicago Real Estate Update newsletter,
JANUARY IS THE NEW SPRING MARKET
The article, which you can read below, spells out why now is such a great market – inventories are low and it will be a busy spring market… don’t wait to act!
The health of any Chicago real estate market can be measured in terms of inventory of homes — not just how many are for sale, but how many are for sale in relation to how many are selling and have recently sold. (Read the article below for more details…)
Chicago Real Estate Market…
As of January 3, there are 5511 homes for sale in Chicago, while an average of 1837 homes have sold over the last 3 months. That means that there are currently 4.6 months’ worth of homes for sale in the city – a very healthy number indeed!!
In my market area, the Chicago Real Estate area roughly extending from the Loop to Edgewater*, the numbers are even more exciting! Sales are moving at a terrific clip, and the inventory of homes is lower than the Chicago city average. The following numbers include both detached and attached real estate properties…
There are 2210 properties for sale vs.1853 sold over the last 3 months (617.7 sold/month).
This is a 3.6 month inventory!
What does this mean?
Generally speaking, it’s a sellers’ market,
If you are thinking of selling – NOW is the time to put your property on the market,
If you are looking to buy – you need a real estate agent who can sift through the properties to find that one special home for you,
Don’t think there aren’t enough homes to choose from, and you must therefore wait to buy.
The interest rate savings TODAY combined with lower purchase prices mean you can buy a bigger property
You can afford to make the few cosmetic improvements that personalize your home.
Don’t wait until rates are higher and prices rise again –
Here’s a reprint of one of the January, 2013 email articles…
To say the housing market has changed drastically throughout 2012 is an understatement. Buyer confidence has been on the rise throughout the year, providing vital movement in the market. While sellers have notoriously waited to list their homes until the busy spring market, many industry sources indicate that the time to sell is now.The monthly supply of inventory (MSI) is one such source, providing an excellent gage for the housing market. MSI uses simple math to indicate how long it would take for all the homes currently on the market to be sold based on current inventory and sale rate. A “normal” or neutral market is six months of inventory. In 2009, the height of the housing crisis, the MSI was over 17 months, a definite buyer’s market.
In November, the MSI was down to just over four months, indicating a lack of housing inventory and a potentially prime seller’s market. The lack of inventory has created pent-up demand, driving market time down by 10 percent and creating a sense of urgency with buyers to find the right home.
What does this mean for sellers? Declining inventory + compelling pricing = shorter market time and more ‘sold’ signs.If you are thinking of listing in the near future, it’s important to have your home ready to hit the market.
Contact me today if you are interested in selling your home. I’ll work with you to develop a pricing and marketing plan, as well as advise you on the steps you can take to make your home more appealing to potential buyers.If you are considering buying a new home during this time of historically low interest rates, please contact me for the latest available properties.
I will be happy to provide you with market information specific to your desired neighborhood so you can find a home that suits your unique needs.
It’s the time of year when we consider last minute charitable donations:
Christmas puts us in the “giving” mood,
Donating by 12/31 means tax savings on our next tax return, and
If the tax code changes in 2013- this may be a good time to maximize the tax benefits of “doing good.”
My family is highly committed to contributing to organizations we care about. We donate in three ways – financial contributions, in-kind gifts (goods) and, of course, our time. Our contributions have evolved over the years, and we have become a bit more “selective” about who we support.
Tips to Maximize Your Charitable Contributions
Invest in Human Capital
As Charles Wheelan, in Naked Economics writes, the investment in human capital does greater long-term good than just donating cash. “Teach them to fish…” is a term recognized by many familiar with New Testament. By creating better educations for our young people, providing job-training to those out-of-work, and supporting institutions who mentor individuals’ development of productive lifestyles (e.g. social skills, executive functioning…), we all benefit. These gifts are life-changers, not a short term band-aid.
Local schools – CPS schools are desperate for funds to bridge the gap between funds they receive and what they need to provide the technology, arts, and auxiliary programming so necessary for our growing youngsters.
Heifer International– programs like Seeds of Change in Arkansas/Appalachia help communities build food sustainability programs, working to end poverty in those regions
Small Donations can be Big Donations
Perhaps you’ve heard of giving a cow or a goat? Heifer and Oxfam America give animals – these valuable assets help build communities and end poverty – see the Oxfam video below:
Give the Gift of a Loan
Having heard wonderful things about Kiva, I spent time on their website. Kiva provides micro-loans to businesses throughout the world. You can read about the various opportunities and choose the people you’d like to lend money to.
Because one of our 3 children was born in Paraguay, I chose to support 3 businesses there:
Right now I have over $75 in credits that I can reinvest in these or other businesses. How gratifying to see the progress!!
Make sure money’s well spent
Charity Navigator evaluates organizations and rates them by evaluating two broad areas of performance — their Financial Health and their Accountability & Transparency. The charities earn stars, and donors can thus determine which organizations best utilize their contributions to help those in need.
Many of us have heard stories of United Way CEOs earning hundreds of thousands of dollars — very frustrating for those of use who work so hard for our incomes. Do you know what per cent of your charitable contributions actually reaches the person(s) in need vs what per cent is used for administrative/soliciting donations? Find out using this helpful site!
Children in grades one through twelve, from the Near North, West Town, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods, come to Fourth Church for weekly one-to-one tutoring sessions with volunteer tutors/mentors. Healthy meals, creative enrichment activities, computer lab access, job training opportunities, internships, scholarships, and literacy activities are key components of the program, which operates four evenings a week during the school year.
This fantastic organization matches services and businesses to schools in need. From eye exams and dentistry to theater programs, businesses contribute resources by partnering with this group. Do you have a business that would benefit Chicago students in need? This organization may be a great resource for you!
Get Involved in your Community
Harry Osterman updated the 48th ward on Nov 30, providing information on Vital Bridges (HIV/AIDS), Heartland, the Swift School hat and coat drive, as well as the Peirce Elementary Book Drive. Our Lakewood Balmoral Residents Association rallies the neighbors to support local initiatives. Make sure you’re a member of our block club and you get regular updates from your alderman.
Be Careful Of Sound-Alike Names
Uninformed donors are easily confused by charities that have strikingly similar names to others. How many of us could tell the difference between an appeal from the Children’s Charity Fund and the Children’s Defense Fund? Their names sound the same, but their performances are vastly different.
Confirm 501(c) (3) Status
Wise donors don’t drop money into canisters at the checkout counter or hand over cash to solicitors outside the supermarket. Situations like these are irresistible to scam artists who wish to take advantage of your goodwill. Smart givers only support groups granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Check The Charity’s Commitment To Accountability & Transparency
Check out your organization on Charity Navigator!
Obtain Copies Of Financial Records
The most efficient charities spend 75% or more of their budget on their programs and services and less than 25% on fundraising and administrative fees,
a charity’s ability to sustain its programs over time is just as important as its short-term day-to-day spending practices,
seek charities that are able to grow their revenue at least at the rate of inflation, that continue to invest in their programs and that have some money saved for a rainy day.
Review Executive Compensation
Charities need to pay their top leaders a competitive salary in order to attract and retain the kind of talent needed to run a multi-million dollar organization, but compare to other organizations to make sure the salary is not out-of-line. See CN’s CEO Compensation Study
Start A Dialogue To Investigate Its Programmatic Results
Talk with the charity to learn about its accomplishments, goals and challenges, and be prepared to walk away from any charity that is unable or unwilling to participate in this type of conversation.
Concentrate Your Giving
Spreading your money among multiple organizations not only results in your mail box filling up with more appeals, it also diminishes the possibility of any of those groups bringing about substantive change as each charity is wasting a percentage of your gift on processing expenses for that gift.
Share Your Intentions And Make A Long-Term Commitment
Smart donors support their favorite charities for the long haul. They see themselves as a partner in the charity’s efforts to bring about change.
A Final Note about Charitable Contributions
Donating your time, talents, or resources doesn’t just leave your bank account intact. It gives you an opportunity to connect with your neighbors. Spending time building relationships and community, by helping those nearest to you, is truly the most rewarding contribution of all.
As a member of NAR’s Senior Real Estate Specialists Group, I receive a monthly newsletter that I’m able to pass on to my 50+ clients. Usually, the news is worthy of passing along to the under 50 crowd, too. This month, that is the case.
Since seniors are usually considering how they will downsize, clutter and staging are key issues. I always help my clients “de-clutter” as they prepare to list their homes for sale, but with seniors, whose items can be the culmination of a lifetime of memories, it can be a daunting task.
Best advice for getting rid of clutter:
Stay on top of the clutter today and always! Don’t wait until you’re ready to sell before you think about your “stuff!”
Use technology to move from paper to digital (documents AND photos)
Hire a professional organizer if you’re not sure where to start – you’d be surprised what a consultation can do to get you started in the right direction!
I recently helped a terrific senior move from The Malibu into The Admiral — Check out the Before and After Photos as we guided him along to staging and decluttering:
First – I’m NOT an expert. We gave up on LIVE trees 4 years ago (which at 28 I SWORE I would never do). But, as I spent year after year stringing lights by myself, getting prickles from the needles and sap, and then worrying about potential fires every time I left the room, we gave in and purchased 2 Frontgate trees during an after-season sale.
While Thomas was home for Thanksgiving, I had the boys bring in the TWO trees from the garage (yes, when there’s a sale, my husband, Tom, takes full advantage!) and put one in each of our two front windows. Alas, after pulling down the custom canvas covers (about the cost of the trees themselves!), I plugged them in and discovered the perennial decorating dilemma — non-functioning lights. If you string your own lights, it’s less of an issue- just don’t use strings that are broken. If, however, your tree is pre-strung, and the lights are non-functioning… that’s trouble!
So, as I begin to write about FRESH trees, I’m working up a head of steam to find the broken lights on my tree. I’ll be searching for Fir candles to fill in for the lack of fresh pine smells, and the Christmas tree skirt that Tom sewed (yes, my husband!) will hide the canvas cover and fake base.
Stay tuned – I’ll post photos as soon as we muddle through.
Choosing your Christmas Tree
If choosing a balsam fir, gently bend a needle between your thumb and forefinger. If the tree is fresh, the needle will break.
If choosing a pine tree, the needle should not break if the tree is fresh
For any species, if the tree is fresh, the needles will stay on the branch and not fall off if you touch them.
Caring for Your Tree
I searched all over the internet for the best sources, but I like the article I found in Bottom Line’s Best Ever Kitchen Secrets.
The Dept of Risk Management and Safety at University of Arizona strongly recommends that cut trees should be treated with flame-retardant solutions (either sprayed or dipped).
Recipe for Christmas Tree Flame Retardant
(Keep away from kids/pets, as it’s harmful when ingested – store with poinsettias!)
9 oz of borax powder
4 oz of boric acid,
1 gallon of water
1/2 teaspoon of low-sudsing laundry detergent
Water – Water – Water your Christmas Tree!
First, make it hot water – 80 degrees. It opens the tree up to accept more water
Afterwards, use lukewarm water daily.
The average tree will consume up to 1 gallon of water per day.
Give the tree a pick-me-up by adding 1 oz of maple syrup to the water. The sugar feeds the tree and makes the pine needles more vibrant.
Remember that trees sold on retail lots in urban areas may have come from out of state and may have been exposed to drying winds in transit. They may have been cut weeks earlier.Buy trees early before the best trees have been sold and where trees are shaded.Ask the retailer whether his trees are delivered once at the beginning of the season or are they delivered at different times during the selling season. (Select this link to read all their advice on choosing trees)
Recycling Your Christmas Tree and Greenery
It’s so easy to recycle your tree – I heartily recommend you consider taking it to one of the many Chicago locations after the new year. I didn’t find this year’s list of locations, but I’ve included last year’s choices – the city has done this for 23 years, so I expect it will be similar to last year. The trees are chipped, and you can pick up some of this mulch for your garden if you’d like.
Here are the top locations that my clients use for recycling their Christmas Trees: