Frequently Asked Questions
The following is a list of questions that will hopefully be of great use to you. If you still have a question about something not covered below, feel free to contact us.

Does Cook County offer a homeowner's tax exemption?

How is a buyer's agent compensated for his/her services?

How long does it take to process a mortgage application?

If I am interested in purchasing, where do I begin?

If I am purchasing new construction or a gut rehab condominium property, how can I estimate my property taxes.

Is an inspection a tax write off?

Is it necessary for a buyer and seller to utilize an attorney to represent each of them?

What are my out of pocket expenses initially purchasing a property?

What documents do I need to apply for a mortgage loan?

What is a "preapproval letter" and why is it important in writing up an offer?

What is a FICO Score?

What is a mortgage commitment or contigency date and why is it important?

What is a seller disclosure?

What is an escrow account?

What is PMI?

What is the difference between "prequalified" and "preapproved"?

Why do you recommend doing a home inspection?

Why does a lender do an appraisal after a contract has been agreed to?

Why is it important to have a Realtor represent me in finding a home?




Does Cook County offer a homeowner's tax exemption?
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Yes. If a property is one's primary residence, owners can apply through the Cook County Treaurer's Office website. Property owners can save at least $250. Clink onto the resources page for the Cook County Treasurer's Office web link.

How is a buyer's agent compensated for his/her services?
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Realtors are paid on a commission basis. The seller pays the buyer's agent commission. The agent splits the commission with his/her brokerage agency with whom he/she is affliated.

How long does it take to process a mortgage application?
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Usually about 45-60 days, although it can take as few as 7 days and as long as 90 days for some transactions. The actual time depends on how quickly the lender can get an appraiser of the property, a credit report and verification of employment and bank accounts.

If I am interested in purchasing, where do I begin?
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Our recommendation prior to meeting with us is to review your monthly budget and speak with a mortgage lender. When you do so, you will have a better picture of what your price range is when you meet an realtor for a buyer consultation. One way to begin is the online affordability calculator which is available on our website under the resources tab.

If I am purchasing new construction or a gut rehab condominium property, how can I estimate my property taxes.
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Buyers who purchase into a condominium gut rehab project or new construction can conservatively estimate paying 1.75%-2% of the purchase price. Because taxes are paid in arrears, it may take the county a full tax cycle to recognize that building's change of ownership.

Is an inspection a tax write off?
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Yes. Be sure to keep your inspection receipt for your tax records and when you file your taxes be sure to include that in your write offs.

Is it necessary for a buyer and seller to utilize an attorney to represent each of them?
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The state of Illinois is one of the few states that utilizes attorneys in real estate transaction. Each party of a real estate transaction has an attorney. An attorney is each party's advocate and advisor. He or she reviews the contract, negotiates the inspection remedies if necessary and facilitates the closing in concert with the title company and lender. If one is purchasing a condominium or townhouse the attorney reviews condo decs and bylaws as well as association minutes.

What are my out of pocket expenses initially purchasing a property?
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In the city of Chicago, $1,000 is offered as earnest money with a contract offer. After a contract is agreed and signed by both parties the seller's agent places the check into an escrow account. Following attorney review an additional percentage (often it is remaining 5% of purchase price but can be a set amount determined in the contract prior to agreeance) is turned over to the seller's agent and deposited into the escrow account. Another expense out of pocket is the hiring of the inspector during the attorney review period. Although it is voluntary, it is highly recommended for one to engage with an inspector's services. Average cost is $250-$400, depending on the size and type of home a buyer is purchasing.

What documents do I need to apply for a mortgage loan?
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When you apply for a mortgage, you will need to furnish information regarding your income, expenses, and obligations. Please contact us if you need recommendations of lenders who offer competitve rates with superior customer service.

What is a "preapproval letter" and why is it important in writing up an offer?
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If you will be financing a property, getting preapproved and presenting a letter with a buyer's contract offer will show the seller your commitment and ability to purchase the property. It gives you credibility and validity as a serious candidate to purchase.

What is a FICO Score?
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FICO is an acronym for Fair Isaac Corporation and refers to the best-known credit score model in the United States. The FICO score is calculated by applying statistical methods, developed by Fair Isaac, to information in one's credit file. In the United States, a credit score is a number typically between 300 and 850, based on a statistical analysis of a person's credit files, to represent the creditworthiness of that person, which is the likelihood that the person will pay his or her bills. A credit score is primarily based on credit report information, typically from the three major credit reporting agencies.

What is a mortgage commitment or contigency date and why is it important?
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It is a date that the buyer's lender commits to the buyer that the loan is secured and lender is committed to the buyer for the loan of his/her purchase. It is an important date on the contract for the buyer because it acknowledges that the loan has been secured and important for the seller that the buyer most likely can't default on the contract. A letter is sent thru the lender and attorney acknowledging the lender's commitment.

What is a seller disclosure?
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State law reguires sellers to provide buyers with a residential real property disclosure report. This report indicates any known material defects in the property that the seller is aware of (ie..flooding problems, leaky roof, cracks in the foundation, faulty furnace, air conditioning or plumbing, or lot line disputes.) By indicating knowledge of any defects in a property through this report, a seller is not obligated to make repairs. However, if you have signed a contract and then receive information through this report about any defects, a buyer can rescind the contract within the number of days stated in the contract. Sellers must also disclose known information on lead-based paint hazards before selling a house. Sales contracts include a federal form about lead-based paint in the building. Buyers will have the option of exercising the right to check for lead hazards within 10 days.

What is an escrow account?
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A procedure in which a third party acts as a stakeholder for both the buyer and the seller, carrying out both parties' instructions and assuming responsiblity for handling all of the paperwork and distribution funds. An escrow account is kept by the seller's agent brokerage agency.

What is PMI?
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There are a lot of acroynoms within the Real Estate Industry and if you are a first time buyer, it can be a real learning process. PMI stands for Private Mortgage Insurance. It is insurance written by a private company protecting the lender against loss if the borrower defaults on the mortgage. PMI can be avoided if a buyer places 20% down on his or her purchase. There are other ways to forgo having to pay PMI. Contact us and we are pleased to provide you with lender recommendations to walk you thru the process. In addition, Congress just passed a law stating PMI is now tax deductible.

What is the difference between "prequalified" and "preapproved"?
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A prequalification consists of a discussion between a home buyer and a loan officer. The loan officer collects basic information regarding the customer's income, monthly debts, credit history and assets, and then uses this information to calculate an estimated mortgage amount for the home buyer. The prequalification is not a full mortgage approval, but estimates what a home buyer can afford. A preapproval, on the other hand, is a comprehensive approach using basic information as well as electronic credit reporting. Preapprovals, in most cases, are true mortgage commitments. The lender commits to financing your home and indicates the total mortgage amount available to you.

Why do you recommend doing a home inspection?
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Because many buyes are not familiar with the mechanical systems and construction of a home, we suggest that a professional building inspector examine the property they are considering purchasing. A professional inspector will make a careful check of all construction items and will render opinions as to their condition and any needed repair or replacement. An inspector will also examine possible environmental issues such as asbestos or buried fuel oil tanks. Inspectors are inclined to list everything that may cause a potential so as not to be considered remiss at a future date. However you, not the inspector, should make the ultimate decision on what is considered to be of primary importance.

Why does a lender do an appraisal after a contract has been agreed to?
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An appraisal is an estimate of the property's value provided by a professional appraiser. It is an assurance for the lender that the property is valued properly and that the buyer is not paying beyond the value of the property. If you are the buyer, be sure you request a copy of the appraisal from your lender, as this is paid by the buyer thru the lender's closing costs.

Why is it important to have a Realtor represent me in finding a home?
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These days with the internet, there are so many advantages of being able to do self searches when looking for a home. But finding the right place for a buyer is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Although the internet is a fantastic tool, there are so many variables to making a decision to purchase a property. Having a buyer's agent allows the buyer to have professional representation. What does that exactly mean? The seller's agent has a fidiciary responsibilty to the seller, therefore, has his/her seller's best interest in mind. The buyer's agent will provide a comparable market anaylsis of what properties have sold recently so that the buyer is well informed of the market. In addition, guidance through the entire transactional process is extremely important, especially when a purchase is the largest single purchase one will likely make in his/her lifetime.