Tips to Increase Your Credit Score

By Anthony Caciopo

Like it or not, credit scores impact many areas of our lives beyond just financial considerations. Credit scores are sometimes evaluated by insurance providers and even employers these days. Keeping one's score in the best shape possible is more important than ever. Even if you have no immediate desire to obtain a loan or additional credit, keep up your score. It's vital. 

Your credit score can be managed, and managed well. Sure, having lots of money to pay off every bill well ahead of time is one way to ensure you keep a great credit score, but let's see a show of hands among us all who can do that these days. Bueller? Bueller?

Effective credit score management takes time. Nothing happens overnight.  Start by obtaining  copies of your report from the three primary credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Steer clear of certain consumer services which will provide a report from only one of the agencies, or an averaged or distilled version of all three. AnnualCreditReport.com is the official site sponsored by all three credit reporting agencies mentioned above. It allows consumers to check for free once per year.

After obtaining your credit reports, employ these tips to raise your score:

  • Check the reports for accuracy. Credit reports are highly interesting, detailed documents. They might contain mistakes. Review everything, including your birthdate, social security number, names of accounts, credit cards, duplicate items, etc.
  • Report errors. Credit bureaus are required by law to investigate mistakes you bring to their attention and report back to you.
  • Pay your bills on time. Yep, you knew there was going to be at least a little heavy lifting in these tips, didn't you? Well, here it is. There's no magic bullet or shortcut to a lot of basic things in life, and keeping current with your bills is simply the best way to be financially responsible and increase your credit score.
  • Pay down your debts. Don't be too close to the limit on your credit cards. Lenders look at this and may judge you to be near the edge financially.
  • Keep credit cards and other revolving accounts open. That may seem counter-intuitive, but closing old accounts you're not using  won't help your credit scores and may, in fact, hurt them. And from a lender's perspective, if you are carefully and wisely using various credit cards, without maxing them out or being delinquent in your payments,  it speaks volumes about your ability to manage your finances.

If you're looking to purchase a place to live, be it a condo, townhouse or single family home, and you need financing, take that credit report to a lender for a look-see. Lenders will probably be required by their in-house rules to pull their own version of your credit reports in order to make any official committement to you, but generally speaking they can at least use the reports you supply to give you a general idea where you stand and perhaps prompt some additional tips and conversation that can help you. Also, be sure your credit reports are no more than 30 days old. Beyond that, they will be relatively useless, except for your own information.

With your credit reports in hand, you now have knowledge, and knowledge is power. Your credit score is important. Manage it well.


Customer Wants Value. We’re All Over It.

By Anthony Caciopo

A routine correspondence between our Customer Care Department and a person browsing our website led to an interesting thought about that classic old real estate axiom of "location, location, location."

Kyle O. registered for a search on OwnACondo.com and left us a comment stating that he is looking for rental condos under a certain price per month. Our customer care manager asked  for a general idea of where Kyle would like to live, and Kyle replied via email:

"I know this sounds vague, but I am willing to look anywhere that gives me the most bang for my buck.  I will need a reasonable commute from any location as I work on Randolph/Wells. The areas I was initially interested in were Lakeview, UIC area, and Lincoln Park.  With that said, if a unit in Evanston provides me a better situation I will gladly look into that. "

We thanked Kyle for his reply and have already gotten to work on his behalf. We didn't find any difficulty whatsoever with Kyle's description. He has a wide range of interesting and desirable communities, and we should be able to hook him up without problem. But beyond the locations he specified, what we heard especially loud and clear was his stipulation that he is "willing to look anywhere that gives me the most bang for my buck."

Value has always been important to consumers, of course. But currently, we've noticed more and more consumers demand the very best deal possible, whether they are renting or buying real estate. Obvious? Sure, but that wasn't necessarily the case just a few short years ago, when buyers were grabbing properties at top-dollar prices, often not daring to make an offer less than asking price for fear of being passed up by someone else who was willing to pay more.

We understand and we can help, because we're not only in the business of real estate, but we're consumers, too, and a desire for the best possible value is never far from our minds.


Resale Value and Condos

By Jennifer Alcide

When buying a condo, what holds the most resale value? 

A lot depends on why you are buying the condo.  Are you buying it for a home or for an investment?  There is a difference.    

The resale value is always an important factor when purchasing property.  If you are looking at your purchase as a home, then make selective improvements that will mostly enhance your quality of living, and not based solely on a possible return.  If you are looking to invest, then spend only a minimal amount on upgrades.   

Condos with a pleasant view of the city or the lakefront often sell at a premium above similar condos without the view.  If a view is important to you, try to pay as little extra as possible.  Otherwise, you might not get your money back, as a view may be a deal breaker for you, and an added bonus for someone else.   

Since the resale value is an important factor when purchasing, make sure you do not buy in a neighborhood that is already saturated.  It may be difficult to sell when the time comes.  You should buy a modest sized model, perhaps not always the largest. When determining market value, the surroundings in your area are most important.  

In the end, choosing to buy a condo is a matter of personal preferences.  This is one of those times where determining your "wants" versus your "needs" can be extremely important.  

Want more information about resale value and other topics related to condos? Contact me via email at jalcide@ownacondo.com or call me at 847-414-5349.


While I Was Away

By Patty Boysen

I just returned back to work from my honeymoon and so much has changed since I have been gone! I drove in to work, put my flashers on and ran in to grab my parking pass that I had left at work for someone else to use while I was away. It was that moment that I decided to take a look around and see all of the new improvements that OwnACondo.com had made. I took a quick lap around our brand new office at 540 N. Lake Shore Drive to see that most of the boxes were unpacked, furniture was cleaned and pictures were hanging on the walls. I then hopped back in my car, parked it and entered back into work. Just as I sat down to start my day, my co-worker comes through the door.  The questions that of course come out of my mouth right away was, “Hello, How are you?” and “What did I miss?”

After a short pause my co-worker says, “Oh, you didn’t hear what happened while you were away?” I said, “No, what?” He goes on further to say that I needed to get up right away and follow him to the conference room. Here I am thinking, oh maybe we got a new table or a new TV for the conference room or something.

As soon as I walk into the room, I immediately gasped! Yes, he explains someone drove into our conference room early Sunday morning. Needless to say there was glass everywhere, blinds broken, windows boarded up, and the bumper with the license plate on it. So my co-worker proceeds to say, nothing much really happened while you were away, just this small mishap!

So, just as OwnACondo.com gets the office spruced up and looking beautiful, a little surprise comes our way. This does not stop anything or anyone however, and work is resuming as usual. We are still recruiting and expanding all over the United States. Let’s just say, a car driving into our office doesn’t even stop us!


Car Crashes into OwnACondo.com’s Lake Shore Drive Office

If the phone rings at 3 a.m., it’s usually not good news. And sure enough, when OwnACondo.com’s Owner and Managing Broker Brian Kuzdas answered his cell phone late Saturday night / early Sunday morning June 5, he didn’t like what he had to hear. 

“It was the doorman at our building, informing me a car had crashed into our office,” said Mr. Kuzdas.

The vehicle, apparently heading southbound the wrong way along a frontage street that runs parallel to Lake Shore Drive, struck the southwest corner of the vintage condominium and office building at 540 N. Lake Shore Drive where OwnACondo.com opened only two months ago. 

Mr. Kuzdas said he was told the car then backed out of the damaged area and made a getaway heading west on Ohio—again, going the wrong way—but not before leaving behind something very important. 

“The car’s bumper with license plate attached was lying in the street,” he said. The pieces were looked at by authorities and eventually removed from the area. 

Damage to the building includes broken windows, various structural elements surrounding the windows, furnishings and supplies inside OwnACondo.com’s office and possibly more to be revealed when insurance adjusters finish the investigation. 

As of this writing, no information is available about citations, injuries or suspects. And despite the well-known habit of Realtors® to work long and unconventional hours, the OwnACondo.com office was fortunately unoccupied at the time of the incident. Our condo specialists and their colleagues at our sister company, BankREOs.com,  had thankfully long since returned home for the night.


Tami Theriault Shines With Silver

OwnACondo.com's very own Tami Theriault earned Silver Inner Circle honors from the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors® for her contribution to the Realtor® Political Action Committee (RPAC).

Although such a distinction might seem strictly of interest to co-workers and industry insiders, it's actually important to consumers, too. That's because of major issues that Realtors® are fighting for on behalf of not only themselves but for the home-buying consumer. Realtors® like Tami Theriault, through their RPAC donations, have worked tirelessly to preserve the mortgage interest deduction, address problems with banks and short sales, defeat new taxes and regulations on property transactions, and defeat ornerous proposals in Illinois to put municipalities in the role of land trusts. Although the real estate market is currently down, Realtors® and the RPAC are busier than ever defending the interests of consumers.

Tami Theriault has been a condo specialist Realtor® with OwnACondo.com since 2008. She helps people buy and sell condomniums, single family homes, townhouses and more. We're not at all surprised she advocates for her profession and the public at large. Good people always rise to the ocassion, and good people are what we like here at OwnACondo.com.


Rent-to-Own: Is It the Right Option for You?

By Jennifer Alcide

I recently had this discussion with a friend of mine.  He asked me, “Why would anyone Rent-to-Own in the first place?”  If you are at a place where you’d rather not be paying rent, but you don’t quite have the money for a home yet, then this alternative option may be fitting for you. 

In general, Rent-to-Own is a good option if you desire your own home, but lack the ability to secure financing.  However, this is not the best option for everyone.  Rent-to-Own is a great way for you start on your journey of homeownership.  You will enter into a lease giving you an option to purchase. 

Benefits to the seller

“What benefits are there to the seller?”  my friend asked.  Rent-to-own is a great alternative for sellers who are having trouble selling, and need the monthly income to keep up with the mortgage.  Subsequently, the selling price has already been established and is secure in the lease-option contract; therefore, knowing exactly what you will receive will eliminate any amount of worry if the market declines slightly during the lease period.

Benefits to the buyer

“So how does the buyer benefit?”  If you are entering into a Rent-to-Own agreement, more likely than not, it is because of financial difficulties.  If you don't currently have the down payment and/or the monthly income to qualify for a mortgage, but will within the next couple of years, a lease option allows you to speed up the process to homeownership rather than renting outright from a landlord. By signing a contract now, you will be securing a purchase price and you'll have no worries about home prices rising.

If you think you are not eligible to own your own home, you may want to consider the Rent-to-Own option; it may be a possibility for you!  Get on the path to homeownership, and learn how to make your money work for you, not for your landlord!   

Rent-to-Own applicants must qualify. Contact me today for more information via email at jalcide@ownacondo.com or call 847-414-5349.


Rochelle Grossley

OwnACondo.com welcomes Rochelle Grossley to our growing team of experienced, condo-specialist Realtors®.

After being a Chicago mortgage broker for many years, overseeing an office with 20 loan officers and two loan processors, Rochelle earned her real estate license in 2008, and worked for Coldwell Banker before joining OwnACondo.com. From a customer’s perspective, her experience and skills are very valuable assets to have access to. The Evanston native has lived in Chicago neighborhoods such as Wrigleyville, and worked in Hyde Park. She now lives in Naperville, so she is very familiar with the real estate market throughout  Chicago and the suburbs.  

“I decided to get my real estate license because I love working with people, and seeing their eyes light up when they find that right house is. That is what I most enjoy about real estate, helping people. I can share my knowledge about mortgages also, and the importance of being pre-qualified for a loan.”   

Rochelle Grossley’s specialties include:

  • Condos
  • First-time homebuyers
  • Single-family homes
  • Townhouses
  • DuPage County real estate
  • Will County real estate
  • Downtown Chicago real estate
  • Chicago North real estate
  • Chicago South real estate
  • Mortgage lending
  • Real estate auctions
  • Foreclosures
  • REOs
  • Open houses

“I was attracted to OwnACondo.com due to the company’s prime location at 540 N. Lake Shore Drive, and the plans for expansion into other cities. I want to be part of the growth,” said Rochelle, who also is a transportation operator for FirstGroup America. When she is not showing houses or assisting clients in other ways, Rochelle Grossley enjoys spending time with her two children, NeCole, 8, and Nicholas, 6. Her hobbies include cooking, sewing, skating, bowling, and writing poetry.

Contact Rochelle Grossley at rgrossley@ownacondo.com or (630) 386-6856 for help buying or selling condos and other real estate.


Foreclosure News

It seems, these days, that most good news in the real estate market comes with a little bad, particularly when it concerns foreclosure issues.

For instance, industry observers see indications that the foreclosure crisis is improving.  A recent report by Realtytrac stated that the number of foreclosure notices filed during the first quarter of 2011 fell 15 percent over the previous quarter and  27 percent compared with the same period of 2010. Nationwide, this amounted to 681,000 properties receiving a notice of default, a scheduled auction or a foreclosure sale during the first quarter of 2011, one for every 191 households.

During the same time period, 215,046 borrowers lost their homes, which is 17 percent lower than the same period last year, and the best it has been in three years

Despite the improving picture regarding foreclosure issues, sales of existing and new home homes remain low, and home prices are not improving yet, according to industry officials. Theoretically, the low home property values and interest rates make this a great time to buy homes.  

The so-called “robo-signing scandal” that involved banks automatically signing off on foreclosures without looking into them case by case, evidently affected the rate of foreclosure. Since that scandal broke last year, many banks have cut back on filing foreclosures while they correct their procedures.

The drop in foreclosures is widespread. RealtyTrac reported that filings dropped in each of the 20 hardest-hit metro areas. Year-over-year declines reached as high as 59 percent, in Cape Coral, Fla., for the quarter. Even in Las Vegas, the hardest hit city during the foreclosure crisis, filings fell 8 percent. But Las Vegas remains the highest ranked metro area in per-capita foreclosures. One of every 31 homes absorbed a filing during the first quarter of 2011, about six times the national norm.

Nevada, Arizona and California continued to rank as the top-three states in foreclosure rates. Florida, however, a consistent fourth, has improved to eighth place for the first quarter and ninth for March, and with any luck, and a few more sales, foreclosure issues will clear up across the country, and people will be more encouraged to buy and sell condos and other homes.


Jennifer Alcide

Jennifer Alcide has joined the growing team of condo specialist Realtors® and broker associates at OwnACondo.com, bringing financial knowledge, and a caring and perfectionist attitude—all qualities that are very beneficial to  her clients.

“I have always been interested in real estate, and I feel this is where I need to be. My educational background and skills in accounting and finance are beneficial in my real estate career,” said Jennifer, who earned a degree in accounting at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2008 before getting her real estate broker’s license. She has been working for several years in the finance department of STATS, a Northbrook-based international sports statistics and information company.

Throughout her career, she has upheld the same strong work ethic.  “I strive for perfection in everything I do. If I don’t have the answer, I will find it for you. I enjoy helping my clients get the best deal possible in this challenging market.”

A resident of Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood,  her specialties include:

• Condos
• Single-family homes
• First-time homebuyers
• South Cook County real estate
• Downtown Chicago real estate
• North Cook County real estate
• Suburban Chicago real estate
• Real estate investors
• Real estate auctions
• Short sales
• Condo financing

In her free time,  Jennifer Alcide relaxes with water sports, such as swimming, snorkeling and boating. She also plays basketball and other sports too, and is very involved in her church. Travel is another passion. She spent many summers visiting relatives in Haiti, and most recently has gone snorkeling in Jamaica.

If  you would like Jennifer to help you buy or sell property, she may be reached at jalcide@ownacondo.com or at (847) 414-5349.