1. Kitchen Updates
Want to add an average of ~ $25,000-$30,000 in value?
Purchase a stainless steel kitchen appliance package, update the back splash, install a carrara marble, white quartz, solid black granite or solid toffee colored quartz, gray cabinets or white cabinets – you can paint the current ones and add modern hardware or get new cabinets if yours are completely out of style. Get a new square sink and duck neck faucet. Make sure you match the faucet and cabinet hardware with the same finish – i.e. brushed nickel or chrome.
White cabinets or grey cabinets look good with the 1st photo and a black counter-top can also go well with the 3rd photo:
Inline image 1Inline image 2Inline image 3
2. Floor Shade
Having an outdated floor stain like Golden Oak or Brazilian Cherry can seriously out-date a home. More up-to-date colors will compliment and pull from the tones in the paint, kitchen finishes and more modern furniture such as grays, toffees and golds. This can add ~ $10,000-$15,000 in value.
Sand and stain the floors with a rich medium-dark color like the Miniwax© Jacobean / Classic Grey mixed or Special Walnut / Classic Grey mixed. Theses shades sets the home in ahead of trend and looks very distinguished!
Inline image 4
3. Paint Color
Paint is one of the most important things to add onto your checklist outside of purging your hoarded belongings, keeping the place spotless and smelling nice. This helps buyers feel more at ease in the home either subconsciously or consciously. Nevertheless, it will get your home sold faster!
Paint the homes either of these colors (straight light grey or a very light grayish sage green blend, maybe even lighter than the below):
Inline image 5Inline image 6
4. Make Your Bathrooms Timeless
4 decades that have infamously failed in the bathroom design area: 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Pink, blue or yellow sinks, bathtubs, wall tile and toilets – each matching in tasteless unison.
Just glaze it all white change the faucets, mirror, light, hardware and change shower fixtures to a brushed nickel or chrome. All fixtures should have the same geometric theme and metal finishes.
If you can afford to do a full rehab on the bathrooms, the value would increase by ~ $10,000 each and cost roughly estimated $8,000 on the lower end to redo a small bathroom.
You can pull out money as a home equity line of credit or refinance into a renovation loan with a renovation lender to pay for these updates and get more profit from your home sale if the numbers work out on thd sale side verses how much you’re spending on the rehab. You will definately want to consult with a local real estate broker to weigh your as-is value, construction budget and projected resale net profit.
I personally have done a few fix an flips, made a good profit and also have an in-house renovation lender who can see how you can qualify for a refinance into a renovation loan. Contact me for additional questions about the value of your home in the Chicagoland area as well as any basic real estate questions!
Barbara Barker
Real Estate Broker
Cell: 312-798-9675
Email: urbanrealtor@live.com

Getting Your House Ready to List for Sale

I’ve sold a few homes of my own and know what it feels like to prepare a home to sell – especially one the seller is living in! The key is to think your home has been selected to on Sell This House, a TV series that selects a real seller looking to spruce up their home to prepare to sell. If you haven’t seen an episode, please, stop what you are doing, youtube it and watch https://youtu.be/wo9E1z4fBnE !

There is a misconception that sellers think a buyer will want to move into a new home that they could put into action their own creativity and ideas. Truth is, buyers are picky, discriminating, harsh and opinionated. They may say they can do this or that, but in the end, they always pick the most finished home.

Major things that improve value and limit scrutiny:

  • Modern Appliances (stainless steel)
  • Trendy Finishes
  • Fresh Paint (look at colors that are in – like light grey or light sage)
  • Generally Well Kept Hardwood Floors
  • Minimal Furniture and Feature the Basics
  • Up-to-date Decor
  • Cleanliness

If you have the money to do these things, please invest it into your home. Sellers usually double their investment at minimum from my experience in fixing and flipping homes. You already have the home, already half the battle!

When you are getting ready to list, talk to your REALTOR to see what it will take to get your home up to par with the current style. Ask for contractor referrals, get quotes on how much your plan would cost, see what you can afford and adjust your plan with your REALTOR to find out affordable solutions to keep style in mind while putting your home in the best light!

For a free listing prep consultation in the Chicago area, call me today!

Barbara Barker


Cell: 312-798-9675

Email: urbanrealtor@live.com

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Written by Barbara Lowe Barker 3/12/2015


There are many different factors in deciding when the right time to purchase a home is. Some buyers wait until they are mentally ready, some wait for the mortgage rates to fall to records lows. Being a Real Estate Broker in Chicago where the majority of home sales are condominiums, this article is tailored to the demographic of the average Chicago home buyer. With the average Chicago home buyer comes the widely popular loan package those buyers tend to choose. I want to reiterate that I am a Real Estate Broker and not a “Mortgage Broker”, you should consult your mortgage broker about the accuracy in my predictions / theories. Rates started falling around November 2014 according to trends provided by Bankrate.com and continued to stay low until today – 03/12/2015. How much money will you save buying at lower rates vs higher and how are home prices affected by these low rates? Looking at all these factors can help you determine whether you should or should not be reconsidering getting out there with your Realtor (ah hem…me!).

Have you ever stood in line at a Subway with 10 other people behind you and the guy in front is trying to decide which sandwich to get like he’s buying a house? You have to get to work, you know what you want and are mind blown as to why this guy is taking so long. Well – there are a lot of buyers out there that know what they want. There are a lot more of the public who are so baffled by where to even start, they try to stick with what’s comfortable – renting or an old fashioned cold-cut sandwich. It’s not that difficult to purchase a home, yet some people take 3 years searching & thinking.

Most Chicago first time condo home buyers want to put down the lowest down payment possible to leave cushion for any repairs or pitfalls, so they typically put down 5% and go with a 30-year fixed rate so they have a lower monthly payment. There are options like putting down 20% (dramatically cuts down your monthly payment and rids the PMI), but first time home buyers don’t normally have that kind of money on hand. Hence, the normal loan package chosen by 1st timers being the 5% / 30 year fixed. Rates can make or break someone. Back in 2008-2013, many homeowners stopped paying their mortgages, because they chose the wrong package, paid record high market prices for their homes and above all, the mortgage rates were 8%-10%! Today, the mortgage rates were as low as 3.625%!

What is the difference in terms of monthly payment for a rate of 4.75% vs 3.25%?

Estimated Monthly Payments
Purchase Price:  $200,000
Percentage Down Payment: 5
Down Payment: $10,000.00
Interest Rate: 4.75%
Number Of Years: 30
Taxes: $3,416.00  (Annual)
Insurance: $20.00  (Monthly)
Association Fees: $350.00  (Monthly)
Other: $0.00
PMI: $83.33
PMI / MIP: 0.5
Monthly Principal & Interest (PI): $991.13
Total Estimated Payment: $1,729.13
Notes: This data is for informational purposes only and accuracy of the figures hereinafter set forth is not guaranteed. The actual costs with respect to each transaction will vary depending upon the circumstances.


Estimated Monthly Payments
Purchase Price:   $200,000
Percentage Down Payment:   5
Down Payment:   $10,000.00
Interest Rate:   3.65%
Number Of Years: 30
Taxes: $3,416.00  (Annual)
Insurance: $20.00  (Monthly)
Association Fees: $350.00  (Monthly)
Other: $0.00
PMI:   $83.33
PMI / MIP:   0.5
Monthly Principal & Interest (PI):   $869.17
Total Estimated Payment:   $1,607.17

With a lower interest rate would save ~ $122 / month, ~ $1,454 / year and $44,000 over 30 years! In Chicago/Illinois, you can write off interest paid on your home as well as taxes when you file your yearly tax returns. Can you do that with your rent?

Like all things discounted – there is always that “Limited Time Offer!” attached to the “special”. Mortgage rates will fluctuate on a daily basis and unless you are pre-approved, secured a property, have an accepted contract (signed by all parties) and locked in the current rate with your mortgage broker – we will not know how these rates will look tomorrow. Experts may commonly say, “I can’t tell you what the future will hold.”, “I don’t have a crystal ball.” Or “Do I look like Miss Cleo to you?”. What we can use to try and predict patterns are history of mortgage rates.

Below I’m using a line chart from 5 years back supplied by Bankrate.com:

5 years apr

This chart shows Illinois mortgage rates from 2010. Rates seem to fall around September and start to climb in March. That’s probably largely due to the lower interest of buyers in this State during colder months.

Last 6 months in Illinois mortgage rates:

6 months apr

Never mind the roller coaster of ups and downs in short term rates, you’ll want to document the high points and use that as the point of reference as to where the trend is leading. Generally it’s travelling down. Although it’s human nature to say, “how low can it go?”, or “maybe next year rates will be lower”, why not take advantage of saving money today? Why give the “man” more money?

Don’t be that guy at the beginning of the line wondering if the world will collapse if he orders the wrong sandwich today. If you are at a point in your life looking at where you can cut on spending / living expenses / budget – this is the #1 place to start… your mortgage rate. If you need help planning your next move, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’m very good at helping renters transition into buyers. Over 75% of my clients are new home buyers who, at first, don’t have a clue of this real estate jimber jamber I’m speaking of. Get educated and set up a 1 hour consultation with me – after all, it’s free!

Written by Barbara Barker of RE/MAX Edge November 2014

You may currently be renting an apartment and considering buying or at the last steps of your purchase heading to the closing table. If you are buying a home and thinking “this is going to weigh so much more stress on me” or “here’s to my new depressing and fun-free adulthood”, it’s more fun and more rewarding than you have expected! That is, if you have not exceeded your allotted purchase limit. 1. Homeowners are on average 20-40% wealthier When you purchase, you’re saving quite a bit! Take a look at these numbers: Lakeview, Chicago, IL 2 Bed 2 Bath Purchase Price- $270,900 5% Down Payment- $13,545 P&I- $1,304 Taxes- $285 HOA- $160 2 Bed 2 Bath Rent Rent- $2,000/mo Deposit- $2000 Move in fee- tbd Taxes- n/a HOA- n/a P&I- n/a ————————————————————– Total Monthly Payment- $1,749 to buy vs $2,200 to rent You save more than 20% each month! Not to mention the property taxes are tax deductible. 2. DIY is fun and adds value at a low price As a renter, you don’t want to touch a thing, that’s why you’re renting right? Maybe you despise those cream cabinets with the wood trim? You know you are itching to paint them, but can’t. Well, scratch that itch as a homeowner and have fun painting your cabinets on a weekend with a buddy. Call in the pizza, grab a drink and roll on that cool color you love! Just add some hot hardware and BAM, you have a new kitchen! Before: Laminate-Kitchen-Cabinets-2 After: country-painted-kitchen-cabinets-lacquer-painted-kitchen-cabinets- Well… not quite – but you get the idea! It’s smart to buy homes that need work at the lower price than to buy homes at the market price already fixed up. This way, you can control the costs of the rehab instead of the seller making all the money on the upcharges. If you are smart about the way you spend your money on useful upgrades that add value to your home and you resell your home in a seller’s market in a good market climate – you should be able to either break even or gain profit on your resale. 3. More Trips to Home Depot As a homeowner, Home Depot is a candyland filled with shiny new bling you can add to your home. You can be sitting on your couch watching TV on a Sunday, then all of a sudden, you’ll want to change your blinds. You’ll soon be off your couch and in the store looking at the endless possibilities in literally 30 minutes. The following weekend, it’s the closet doors that have to go. It’s almost like a DIY addiction. Thank goodness they have really helpful home decorating consultants to turn your ideas into reality. 4. Tax Write Offs As a homeowner, you can deduct many items associated with purchasing, selling and owning your home. Property taxes for an example, are a big deduction you can count on getting back. You may be able to write off interest, PMI, MI and some home efficiency improvement costs if the filed tax year allows for that. You’ll need to speak to your accountant, to confirm your specific situation pertaining to that specific tax year. 5. Moving Less Did you know the top 5 stresses a person can deal with are 1. death of a loved one, 2. terminal illness, 3. divorce, 4. job loss and 5. moving. Moving also costs a lot of money and time planning. In Chicago, most renters tend to move every 1-2 years. Homeowners occupy the same home for 5-10 years. If moving is one of the top 5 stresses, why would someone want to go through that every 1-2 years?? Hiring movers, packing your boxes, organizing / throwing away old junk, cancelling and starting new utility service, purchasing new furniture and selling the old stuff sounds great right?! If you have a job, this is the worst thing to add to your checklist. Moving is such a time consuming ordeal and labor intensive regardless of having movers or not. Not to mention costly!