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Chicagoland real estate purchases, real estate sales, short sales, foreclosures, first-time buyer
representation, Illinois condominium association representation, estate planning for everyone, powers of attorney, quit claim
deeds, landlord/tenant issues, forcible detainer/evictions, civil unions, foreclosure defense and more...
office serves clients in real estate transactions of all types. I also assist clients with estate planning for everyone, including
the GLBT community, and represent Illinois condominium associations as needed. I help real estate investors who are renting
their properties deal with difficult renter issues, and I advocate for renters dealing with difficult landlords.
I work with clients in Chicago and all over the Chicagoland area, including
Wilmette, Skokie, Morton Grove, Plainfield, Wheaton, Glencoe, Lake Forest, Naperville, Oak Park, Winnetka, Des Plaines, Orland
Park, Berwyn, Carol Stream, Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake, Barrington, Palatine, Park Ridge, Gurnee, South Holland, Park
Forest and more.
My goal is to give each
and every client personal, friendly and competent service at a reasonable price. I also strive to use technology in the best
way possible to keep my clients informed.
My legal background includes working for a major Chicago
developer and working for a boutique firm in their real estate division. I am also a landlord of a three flat building in
Rogers Park and I am managing broker of a small real estate brokerage.
I work with all different
types of clients, including developers, first-time buyers, buyers of second (or third!) homes, all sellers and the gay, lesbian
and transgender community.
My real estate blog is below. Please make sure to check back on a regular basis
to check out what's new. I update my blog about once a week and welcome any questions that you may have.
me too about help with personal injury, divorce, and any other legal issues!
N. Seeley Avenue, Suite 1, Chicago, IL 60645
Recommend my site by clicking here!
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Illinois Offers a New First-Time Homebuyers Program
4:03 pm cdt
home buyers in Illinois could receive further assistance in the process with a new loan program.
A new program,
Welcome Home Illinois, will allow qualified first-time homeowners the opportunity to receive $7,500 toward the down payment
or closing costs as well as a 3.99 percent interest rate on a secure 30-year fixed mortgage. Governor Pat Quinn announced
the program Tuesday.
Borrowers must be first-time home buyers or haven't owned a home in the past three years,
contribute the greater of 1 percent of the overall purchase or $1,000 toward the down payment and have a credit score of at
Welcome Home Illinois is funded through the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and Illinois Jobs Now!
home buyers can find additional information about the program and a list of lenders on the Illinois Housing Development Authority website.
What Happens at a Closing?
10:26 am cdt
Many of my first time buyers ask me what exactly happens at closing, and how long it usually takes.
Here is a brief outline of what happens at a closing table.
1) First, you will sign loan
documents. Your attorney will be there to explain all the documents you're signing, and to make sure the terms that you agreed
to in your Good Faith Estimate are the terms reflected in the loan documents.
2) Your attorney
will also review Seller's documents at that time, including a deed, affidavit of title (a promise from Seller that title is
clear), title policy or commitment that has been "waived" (showing that title is clear from liens and encumbrances)
and other pertinent documents for the title company. If you are buying a single family home, and a survey is being provided
by the Seller, that will also be reviewed at that time. Keep in mind when you purchase a foreclosed or short sale property,
a survey may not be provided at closing.
3) After your loan documents are signed, they
will be sent to your lender in order for them to review them. This may take a matter of minutes, or longer, depending on how
busy the lender is. There may be some waiting involved, and this is the wild card in guessing how long a closing may take.
Some closings will take an hour or two, some may take longer. There's no way for anyone to make an educated guess as to how
long it will take because of this.
Once the lender gives a funding "number",
or funding approval, you officially have your loan, and you're a homeowner! You will leave the closing table with copies of
all documents you signed, keys to the property, and possibly a refund check if you brought too much money to the table. I'll
blog more on this in the days to come, and give more detail.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
I have been getting a lot of calls from clients to ask what they should do when they can't afford their
home. Please consult an attorney before you do anything. You DO have options. I can help!
2:10 pm cst
Friday, December 6, 2013
Chicago Bed Bug Ordinance Taking Effect This Month
4:31 pm cst
The City of Chicago has recently been named
the nation’s #1 city infested with bed bugs.
This summer, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance aimed at putting an end to the spread of bed bugs
which will go into effect on December 23, 2013.
The key Landlord responsibilities are as follows:
- To supply a tenant starting or renewing a lease with an informational brochure
- To maintain a written record of bed bug control efforts
- To send a written
notice to the tenant explaining their responsibilities before the inspection
- To provide
pest control services when bed bugs are found by a pest management professional as many times as necessary to eliminate the
- To inspect within 10 days and treat if necessary the
two units on either side as well as the two units above and below of the infested unit
Tenants also have responsibilities:
- To notify the landlord in writing of any
suspected or known infestation in the tenants’ unit, clothing, furniture or personal property within 5
- To notify the landlord in writing of any recurring or unexplained bites,
stings or sores suspected to be caused by bed bugs
- To cooperate with the landlord in
the control, treatment, and eradication of bed bugs including
- To grant access at reasonable
times upon reasonable notice for inspections and treatments/to not interfere
- To prepare
unit prior to treatment including: cleaning, dusting, vacuuming
- To properly dispose
of personal property that cannot be treated or cleaned before the pest control services
The Chicago Bed Bug Ordinance also mandates the disposal
of bedding, clothing, furnishings or other infested materials. For example, you may not place, discard or dispose
of any bedding, clothing or furnishings infested on the public way (i.e. dumpsters, sidewalks, hallways). To get rid
of infested items, you must enclose the item in a plastic bag and label it as infested. Doing so should prevent neighbors
from bringing to their home infested items, therefore stalling the spread of bed bugs.
Please note that this section of the ordinance does not apply to tenants
living in assisted living or a shared housing establishment, when the establishment provides assistance with daily living
will be enforced by the Department of Buildings and the Department of Public Health. If any person is found violating
the ordinance, that person may be fined $300.00 to $1,000 per day for each offense. By
complying with the ordinance, these fees can be avoided. The full ordinance can be found at www.cityofchicago.org. You can make a request for a City inspector here.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
New Guidelines for FHA Short Sales
2:11 pm cdt
|Effective October 1, 2013 U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced the following changes to their Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Short
Sale requirements: |
To review additional information about FHA requirements, please log
on to www.hud.gov. Questions can be directed to Short Sale Customer/Agent care at 1.866.880.1232.
- Eligibility Requirements: To
successfully complete a short sale under the FHA short sale program, the borrowers must meet the following requirements:
- They cannot list the property with or sell it to anyone with whom they are
related or have a close personal or business relationship. In legal terms, it must be an "arm's-length" transaction.
Any knowing violation of the arm's-length requirement may be a violation of federal law.
- Your mortgage must be in default, on the date the short sale transaction closes.
- Before closing, any additional liens against the property must be released.
A lien holder who demands a payment to release its lien must submit a written statement, and an agreement to release the lien
if that amount is paid.
- Financial Hardship
Validation Requirement: For a standard preforeclosure sale, servicers must use a Deficit Income Test (DIT) to
determine a homeowner's financial hardship. The IRS Collection Financial Standards will be used to verify homeowners
expenses not reflected in their credit report. Only owner-occupied properties are eligible for the standard preforeclosure
- New Streamlined Short Sale Option: Homeowners
eligible for a streamlined short sale may not be required to submit financial information or have a financial hardship.
Principal residences, second homes, investment properties and service members who have received Permanent Change of Station
(PCS) Orders are potentially eligible.
- Property Appraisal: The
appraisal of your property should be completed within approximately ten business days. After the appraisal, the short
sale file will be updated and prepared for review. In some cases, approval may be required by the investor and/or FHA,
which may take more time.
- Cash Contribution: As
a new condition, you might be required to make a final payment (sometimes called a cash contribution) before or at closing.
This payment will reduce the deficiency balance.
Incentive Compensation: If you are an owner occupant, acting in good faith, and successfully selling your property,
you may be eligible for an incentive of up to $3,000. If you are required to make cash contribution, you are not eligible
for this incentive.
- Short Sale Contract Addendum:
- The revised FHA short sale addendum must be signed
and dated by all parties. Under this addendum, all parties agree that the subject property must be sold through an arm's-length
transaction. An arm's-length transaction is defined as a short sale between two unrelated parties that is characterized
by a selling price and other conditions that would prevail in an open market environment. Also, no hidden terms or special
understandings can exist between any of the parties (e.g., buyer, seller, appraiser, sales agent, closing agent, and mortgagee)
involved in the transaction.
- Action Required: Review
the Short Sale FHA Program guides located on the Agent Resource Center:
National Foreclosure Settlement Rules Tweaked Amid Complaints
11:05 am cdt
From today's Chicago Tribune...
$25 billion national mortgage foreclosure settlement is getting tweaked, to address numerous complaints that mortgage servicers
are falling short in their dealings with struggling borrowers.
When it was announced in February
2012, the settlement sought to compensate borrowers for wrongs they experienced in the foreclosure process. Equally important
was the development of new mortgage servicing standards that applied to the nation’s five largest servicers, Bank of
America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Ally/GMAC.
But homeowners, housing counselors
and state attorneys general have complained that the banks are not complying with many of the 304 standards they agreed to
as part of the pact with the Justice Department, state attorneys general and the five companies.
standards "were supposed to eliminate headaches for borrowers, but homeowners continue to report problems," said
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office is a member of the settlement's monitoring committee.
changes announced Tuesday night by the committee, many of which were agreed to only by Bank of America and Wells Fargo, seek
to correct those issues.
Under the new procedures announced Tuesday night, all five banks will give
homeowners 60 days, instead of 30, to submit additional documents that might help them secure a loan modification before the
home goes into foreclosure or moves toward a foreclosure-related sale. The banks also have promised to do a better job of
overseeing employees who work with borrowers.
Two servicers, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, also agreed
to adopt other policies, such as being more specific about what missing information they need from homeowners. Currently,
if a borrower sends in a document but forgets to sign it, the servicer may send a letter saying the document is missing, rather
than just telling the homeowner that they forgot to sign it.
Those two companies also agreed
to escalate loan modification applications when a customer is being asked repeatedly for more documents. And they will use
an online portal to submit documents and create a direct contact for the housing counseling agencies working with struggling
The committee continues to discuss additional service improvements with the three other
banks, according to Natalie Bauer, a Madigan spokeswoman.
In May, Madigan said she saw an
"alarming" pattern of potential violations of loan modification servicing standards. Among them: In 60 percent of
files reviewed by her office, servicers did not notify borrowers within the required five days that their applications for
a loan modification were missing documents. And in 45 percent of the files reviewed, servicers asked homeowners for
documents multiple times.
In his June report on the settlement's progress, independent monitor Joseph A. Smith Jr., said
four of the five banks were failing to comply with the servicing aspects of the settlement. At the time, Shaun Donovan, secretary
of the Department of Housing and Urban Development said the "deep and pervasive problems" in mortgage servicing
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
FHA Cuts Time for Previously Foreclosed Homeowners to Obtain New Mortgages
4:17 pm cdt
Homeowners who were laid off and lost their homes to foreclosure could qualify for a new mortgage in as little as
a year under an unprecedented federal rule change that slashes the usual waiting period between financial disaster and buying
a new house.Lenders regard the changes with some skepticism.
Normally, homeowners who were foreclosed on must wait three years before they can qualify for a loan backed by the
Federal Housing Administration. FHA loans require only a 3.5 percent down payment and have more lenient lending standards
than conventional loans, though borrowers have to carry long-term mortgage insurance. Getting a conventional loan after foreclosure
can take up to seven years.
The new changes allow borrowers who meet a set of strict criteria to qualify for an FHA
loan only 12 months after losing their house for failure to make payments.
"To get A-paper institutional financing
so soon after a foreclosure is unheard-of," said Brent Wilson, with Comstock Mortgage in Sacramento, Calif. "It
should increase the buyer pool throughout the country."
The FHA announced the changes Aug. 15 in a letter to lenders
titled "Back to Work: Extenuating Circumstances." Officials say it was meant to acknowledge the reality of the recession,
with its mass layoffs, and to help people return to home ownership.
"We've just been through an economic shock in
this country when people lost their jobs through no fault of their own," said Brian Sullivan, spokesman for the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees the FHA. "Now we're in a recovery, and many borrowers have
become re-employed and are able to sustain a mortgage again."
To qualify, borrowers must fit the FHA's profile of
those who deserve an early second chance.
They must have lost their homes in a foreclosure or short sale because they
were unemployed or experienced a big drop in household income due to circumstances "beyond the borrower's control."
They have to show they have recovered financially and otherwise have a clean credit record. And they have to complete housing
The new guidelines are gradually gaining attention.
"We're still in the digestive mode," said Dan Starelli,
senior vice president with Umpqua Bank in Sacramento.
Some say the new rules are a breath of hope for former homeowners and
for the housing market, which would benefit from a new pool of potential buyers.
"There are a large number of
people who are going to fit these criteria," said Chris Little, president of the Sacramento Association of Realtors.
"For a lot of people, it could get them back in the game."
Sooner is probably better for buyers, he said.
strong upward pressure on home prices in the past year, they remain far below the peak of last decade's bubble. Mortgage rates
have risen from a low of less than 3.5 percent earlier this year to around 4.5 percent today but remain a bargain in historical
Cash-paying investors have dropped out of the market as prices rise, leaving room for those with FHA loans and lower
down payments to jump in after being virtually shut out for most of the past year. A growing supply of homes for sale is also
helping to stabilize the market.
"There are so many fewer cash buyers," Little said. "Prices are floating
up to where investors don't perceive it as the screaming deal they did a year ago. It allows (traditional buyers) a better
crack at getting into the mix."
Pat Shea, president of Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, said many buyers have been waiting
for a chance to take advantage of prices and interest rates that are still relatively affordable.
Real estate agents
and homebuilders have been counting on these so-called "boomerang" or "recovery" buyers to help bolster
sales in the next few years.
"These people owned homes before," Shea said. "They want to own homes again.
There will be hundreds of buyers coming back."
with Umpqua Bank, said his financial institution is unusual because it services its own loans. That means it can start implementing
the new FHA standards without holdup.
From our standpoint, we're going to go directly with this guidance," he said.
many other lenders sell packages of loans to investors, who have their own underwriting criteria.
FHA makes the changes doesn't mean all lenders will do it because the investors won't allow it," Starelli said.
Many people lost their jobs and homes in the recession more than three years ago and can already qualify for an FHA
loan, he noted.
Starelli also said he thought it was unlikely that someone who went through a foreclosure only a year ago would have
recovered their income and creditworthiness enough to meet the FHA's new standards.
Comstock's Wilson said he thinks the
FHA's changes are meant to increase business after it raised its mortgage insurance premiums earlier this year and extended
the insurance payments over the life of its loans. The changes make FHA-backed loans more expensive and less attractive than
they once were, driving away borrowers, he said.
"I'm a big fan of conventional financing," Wilson said. "I
advise against FHA as much as I can if people are qualified."
(c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento,
Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at http://www.sacbee.com
Thursday, September 5, 2013
3:16 pm cdt
I haven't blogged in a while because things have been super busy, which is good. I just want to make
a quick statement to anyone who is "on the fence" right now about buying, either because you think rates are going
to go down again, or you're afraid the market is not yet at it's bottom. I don't believe either to be true, and market indicators
seem to agree.
Even though a 30 year fixed mortgage is getting into the 4's now doesn't
mean it's a bad deal, and I don't think that there's going to be much going down. Can you imagine that when my parents bought
their first home the rate was almost twenty percent? When I first started my practice rates were in the sevens and eights
and that was a deal.
Also, the market is only going to go up, in my opinion, and the inventory
for buyers is low right now, but I believe it will improve, especially next spring when Sellers realize that they can now
sell their properties. There will still be a number of homes that are in the foreclosure market that are going to be released
by banks as well.
Don't wait! Think about buying now if you're in the market.
Friday, August 9, 2013
Homebuilders on Track for Best Year Since Crash
9:58 am cdt
From today's Crain's Chicago:
Local homebuilders finally had a
spring selling season worth crowing about.
Builders sold 1,343 new homes here in the second
quarter, up nearly 40 percent from a year earlier, according to a report from Schaumburg-based housing consultant Tracy
Cross & Associates Inc. Area developers are on pace to sell 5,025 new homes on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate
in 2013, up 46 percent from last year's total.
That would mark the first year since 2008
that local homebuilders hit the 5,000-unit sales mark and the second consecutive annual sales gain. Yet the market is a far cry from its peak in 2005, when 33,000 new homes sold here.
the data is encouraging for a business battered by the recession, and homebuilders of all kinds are seeing new demand.
Suburban sales rose 30.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, while city sales were up nearly
81 percent. Sales of single-family homes and town homes and condominiums were each up about 40 percent on that basis as
Many of the top-selling projects are in further-out exurbs such as Hampshire and
Oswego, where new homes are cheaper and where many developers set their sights before the crash.
wouldn't have this level of sales at all these suburban developments if (buyers) didn't have some confidence there was security
in their investment,” said Erik Doersching, executive vice-president and managing partner at Tracy Cross.
The surge in city sales can be attributed mostly to the strong performance of two failed South Loop condo
towers rebooted by a joint venture including developer Related Cos. The venture sold 154 condos in the second quarter, accounting for nearly
half of the city's new-home sales, according to Tracy Cross.
Though demand for new homes
has been strong this year, supply has waned. There were 320 active housing developments in the Chicago area at the end of
the second quarter, down from 394 at the same time last year and a peak of 1,285 in 2007, according to Tracy Cross.
High-rise condo development still isn't palatable to many lenders, and though home prices are rising, prices
haven't risen to the point to justify buying large pieces of land to build from scratch.
Benach, co-principal of Chicago-based Lexington Homes, said more than 5,000 new homes would sell this year if “builders
Mr. Benach has sold 49 homes this year and just launched sales of
two town home developments in suburban Palatine totaling 56 units, 41 of them part of a stalled project Lexington bought
out of distress.
He said he is “guardedly optimistic” about housing's momentum,
but many factors, including the tepid broader economic recovery ,could impede the comeback. Mr. Benach said he is searching
for raw land development sites, but not for projects larger than 50 or 60 lots.
don't see a lot of jumping on major, big pieces” of land, Mr. Benach said. “Nobody's quite comfortable yet to
commit to a long-term thing, at least at this point.”
Monday, June 24, 2013
Crazy Real Estate Contract Clauses
In family law, there’s something called a lifestyle clause that is becoming increasingly common
in prenuptial agreements (which themselves are becoming increasingly common). They memorialize in ink agreements between
bride and groom that seem strange subjects for negotiations and contracts. The diaper clause, for instance, is the
colloquial nickname for an agreement not to have kids. And there’s a whole laundry list of in-law related lifestyle
clauses, including the popular no-overnight-visits term.
8:43 pm cdt
In prenups, lifestyle clauses aren’t always binding.
But they do always create the opportunity to have a conversation about something which, if undiscussed, would probably lead
to marital strife. In real estate law, however, there are a number of strange contract terms and clauses which are
actually binding in many states. In fact, some are clauses are imposed by the state, whether or not the private parties
are on board with that. Here’s a glimpse into the strange world of real estate laws and contract clauses:
1. Irregular Inclusions. During the course of their transactions, most buyers and sellers
become familiar with the distinction between fixtures and personal property. Fixtures, items which are attached permanently
to the property, are included in the sale - personal property items are neither attached nor included in the transaction.
They are not included unless the buyer and seller expressly agree to include them, that is. Here’s a tip: if
you’re not sure that something will stay after closing, write it into the contract. And sellers, if there’s
something you want to make sure you can take with you, pull it out of the property before showing it or at the very least,
expressly exclude it from your contract. Your agent will help.
Most often, buyers and sellers negotiate
to include items (“inclusions”) that would keep the look, feel or function of the home the same as it was when
the buyer first viewed it, like appliances, television screens, custom furnishings and even lawn mowers, tractors and pool
equipment. On occasion, though, the negotiations turn to slightly stranger items. Many an agent has heard of or worked
on a deal where one party wanted to keep - or leave - the seller’s dog. (Outrageous, I know. But you know what they
say about different strokes.) I’ve also seen and heard of home sale contracts that include the tombs of the
family cemetery on the grounds, or require the buyer to keep the tenants that are currently in the property. (In fact, some
municipalities’ eviction control laws require that tenants be allowed to stay after sale, in some cases.)
But there’s also a lighter side of this conversation. Sellers have thrown in everything from a $1000 bar tab at
the local watering hole, to another whole vacation home as a bonus to their home’s buyer.
Last year, Law
and Order TV star Christopher Meloni reportedly offered his Manhattan condo for sale, offering a 2013 Porsche Panamera as
a bonus if the buyer closed by a certain date. Hollywood, generally, doesn’t disappoint when it comes to weird real
estate inclusions: my friend Ann Brenoff, reported a few years back that actor George Hamilton's demanded that the seller
of his LA condo, who owned a famous bakery, throw in a dozen cookies every month for the year following close of escrow.
2. Life Estates. In real estate law, a life estate is a type of ownership interest or
deed that is only good for the life of a particular person. For example, a wife might pass away and leave her husband
a life estate in her home, then direct him to pass it to her children. Some parents even go ahead and transfer their properties
to an heir before they die, retaining a life estate so that the title in the property goes directly to the heir upon their
death without any other estate planning required. Issues can arise, however, given that life tenants (the person who
has title until their death) are not able to sell the property and might not be able to even mortgage or make other desired
changes to it.
3. The Rule Against Perpetuities. The Rule Against Perpetuities is
another arcane law that prevents a property’s owner from dictating what happens to that property far into the future.
Traditionally, the Rule Against Perpetuities prohibits people from creating interests in property that could possibly be
activated more than 21 years after the death of a “life in being” at the time the interest was created.
It’s a bit complicated, but the long and the short is that the intention of the law is to prohibit someone
from dictating and limiting what can happen with a property for many, many generations in the future. This used to
be the law everywhere, but many states have eliminated it entirely, or extended the time frame to 90 years. Other courts
choose to wait and see how things turn out rather than invalidating will provisions that violate this rule. In fact, the
state of Florida’s stance is to wait and see - for 360 years. (No typo.)
If you have reason to want to control
what happens to your property for generations to come, it behooves you to work with a seasoned, skilled estate planning
attorney precisely to avoid violating this and other strange real estate rules.
When the market heats up and buyers are forced into fast-paced competition with each other, escalator clauses tend to come
into vogue. An escalator clause is inserted into a buyer’s offer to purchase a property, and essentially guarantees
the seller that the buyer will beat any other legitimate offer by a certain dollar amount, up to some maximum price.
There are a couple of challenges with escalators. First, they tend to set the scene for disputes about whether another offer
was legitimate. More importantly, they tend to result in purchase prices that are not justified by the recent sales data
on comparable properties - prices that are not likely to be supported on appraisal. So, both buyers and sellers in
transactions with escalators should be prepared for the possibility that the property won’t appraise. Smart sellers
and listing agents in these situations often will not accept a contract with an escalator unless and until the buyer agrees
and proves that they can make up the difference between the purchase price and the appraisal price with their own cash.
5. Seller Contingencies. If you read much about real estate, you’ve probably seen
thousands of references to the first-time buyer and the downsizing empty nester. But today’s market has created
a whole new persona that is being forced to bring back a long-ignored contract clause. I call this player the Exasperated
Seller/Buyer. These are folks who waited long and patiently for the market to recover so they could sell their home and move.
Now that they are no longer underwater, they are concerned about selling because it’s so difficult to buy!
These folks have reintroduced the phenomenon of Seller Contingencies, contract clauses in which the seller accepts
a buyer’s offer contingent upon the seller being able to find and successfully purchase their next home. The effect
of a Seller Contingency is often to extend all the time frames of the contract and escrow events until the seller has secured
a new home. It also allows a seller to back out of the deal entirely if they can’t find another place, and empowers
the buyer to give the seller notice of their intention to back out and buy another property if the seller doesn’t
move the deal forward.