No Comments

Landscaping Issues We All Face


A homeowner’s journey toward the perfect landscaping project never starts smoothly. Site issues, such as terrain slopes, inadequate drainage, easements and narrowness can impede forward progress, frustrating normally calm Illinoisans to the point of giving up.

Instead of waving the proverbial white flag, let’s discuss the challenges you face and how to overcome them prior to, and during, the design phase.

Issue: Potential erosion and runoff

Overwatering by previous land owners could cause soil erosion which, if prolonged, can create slopes and valleys in uncommon places. Even with Illinois’ relatively normal soil composition, the potential for eroding land is real, although you’ll find this issue less prevalent within Mokena and other major cities in Northeastern Illinois.

Solution: Backfill eroded areas prior to designing new landscapes; install pavers around or across eroded areas; design and implement a timed watering system which will release water in smaller amounts to vital areas only.

Issue: Property slopes and inclines

A good number of Illinois homes have inclines in odd places or slopes due to natural ground settling. These pose challenges to homeowners who want flat landscape designs, leaving many design concepts off the table due to difficulty or perceived costs.

Solution: Bring in professional landscapers to create terraced levels (think “steppe farming”) adorned with pavers, a misting system, beautiful specimens of shrubs and plants, or possibly vegetables if you’re going for an edible landscape.

Issue: Utilizing excess shade in landscaping projects

Homeowners who’ve tried growing Bermuda grass, certain plants and even shrubs in areas with excessive shade can attest to the difficulty shade growing brings. Although there are numerous plants that thrive in shady areas, not all bring “life” to dull areas nor are part of any homeowner’s landscape design plans. Shade, by all accounts, is the “party pooper” of landscaping.

Solution: In areas where plants and trees will remain despite excess shade, install artificial grass. Not only will this eliminating reseeding, fertilizing, watering and mowing, but you’ll retain the aesthetic beauty no matter how dark the area gets. Another idea would be to shave the grassy area down, install pavers, and repurpose that shade into a functional outdoor kitchen or meeting area.

Issue: Capitalizing on small spaces

Some subdivisions in Lockport and surrounding areas have houses grouped closely together, taking away front and back yard space from homeowners looking to get creative with their plot of land. While on the surface less space seems troublesome, it’s actually a blessing.

Solution: Change your mindset from having a large putting green or in-ground pool to having less maintenance and yard work to perform. With pavers, landscaping rock, and a little ingenuity, you can build a raised plant bed with a small misting or fogging system. Container gardening is another brilliant way to functionalize small spaces, as are backyard barbecue areas.

Make Landscaping Your Passion

You must appreciate your land in order to be an effective landscaper. This means learning about your soil, finding your property lines, and working with easements and other obstacles.

Stay tuned to our blog for more landscaping tips and ways to spruce up your outdoor property prior to selling your home.

No Comments

Never Skimp on Listing Photos. Ever.

listing photos

Thirty short years ago, you would be hard pressed to find anyone talking about putting listing photos online. Not because sellers had no interest in the internet, but rather because the internet was yet to exist. How did property owners find buyers back in the day? A single photograph in the daily newspaper (remember those?) complete with property information, or perhaps an index card with a Kodak photo affixed to it pinned to the grocery store corkboard (another relic). Either got the job done.

Today, the internet is alive. We have smartphones capable of taking photos in stunning HD. Which means there is no excuse why photos fail to accompany online property listings.

Photographs can literally make or break your listing. They can persuade buyers to call you, or dissuade them from clicking your ad to learn more. The horror of having bad pictures does not stop there, my friends.

Here is what you can expect if you skimp on listing photos.

Buyers may beware

A buyer may have the mindset the seller (you) have something to hide by not displaying photos of your home. In fact, they may be inclined to believe you really have nothing to sell and report your listing as a potential scam.

Photos of only the exterior of your property carry the same sentiment. If you can snap photos of your front porch and the back yard, why not take photos of the interior? The goal here is to emphasize the beauty of your home to every buyer that may be looking to move into your neighborhood. In accentuating that beauty, you will need stunning photos of every inch of your interior and exterior.

Your home may lose value to the buyer

The old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words” is as true as it gets in the real estate world. At least to those shopping for their next home online.

Colorful photos taken on a beautiful sunny day can literally send potential buyers into an almost euphoric dream-like state. They will imagine themselves planting a garden while their children play. It will take them into the kitchen where they can prepare their favorite Sunday dinner for scores of family members who comfortably fit into a sprawling dining area. All because of your listing photos.

Dark photos, those taken outside during a thunderstorm or those that lack a steady hand could devalue the property and force the buyer to look elsewhere. True story.

Nobody will accept your listing. Except maybe Craigslist.

If selling your home without an agent (a bad idea, by the way, but we will discuss this later), bad photos or no photos will almost eliminate a good number of listing websites for you. In fact, you will be stuck posting on Craigslist or your personal blog. We all know how the former pans out for sellers, but if you are unfamiliar with the nightmare involved with listing homes there, we will discuss that down the road as well.

Property listing sites may or may not have strict rules on what they deem “acceptable” in terms of listing photos. Most will not accept listings without one, while others may want to see both interior and exterior pictures before approving your listing.

As real estate agents serving Will and Cook County, we make sure photos are plentiful. In as vivid color as possible, too. If your home does not sell, that is bad news for everyone. This is why we make sure photographs, descriptions and every little bit of information known about the property is readily available to all who view a particular listing.

Listing photos are your best friend. Or worst nightmare.

If you cannot take good photos of your property, we suggest either having a professional take your listing photos, or list your home with an agent.

Should you wish to sell your home without one, we must stress the fact that you need some type of evidence that your home is worthy of being scooped up by someone you have never met. Yes, you are essentially using photos to sell property to complete strangers, some who may have trust issues.

Photos of your home can either sell your home fast or force you to lower your asking price well below what your home is worth. Keep this in mind when you decide to put your home on the market.

Credit for the photograph in this article goes to our admin Dave. Can you guess where it was taken? We’ll reveal that answer in a post later this week.

No Comments

How Home Appraisals Work

home appraisals

An appraisal is the process of determining the value of the property for lending purposes, although that is not the only way home appraisals can be used. Because the value of property sometimes differs depending on who you are speaking with, a professional will come in and help determine the true worth of the property based on numerous data points.

As a home buyer or seller, you will definitely have strong feelings about what your property is worth or what you would pay for a piece of property. Your realtor may have a different view on what your property can sell for or how much a purchase is worth.

What make this even better is the likelihood the lender will have their own opinion on the value of any piece of property you are wanting to obtain, or offload.

So, how do home appraisals help when it comes to financing?

The lender’s value as determined by the appraiser or through systematic valuation is what matters when home appraisals are requested.

With an appraisal, the lender sends a qualified appraiser to your property. He or she prepares a detailed appraisal report for the lender that outlines how the appraiser calculated the value of the property, together with any comparable properties that were used (often supported by pictures).

With system valuation, the lenders leverage valuation databases and look at the comparable properties sold in the area to arrive at their valuation.

How Do I Handle Discrepancies in Home Appraisals?

Some people may find a huge discrepancy between the appraised value and the purchase price or refinance value of the home you intend to buy. This is rare in home appraisals.

With most purchases (especially purchases of solid properties in excellent areas), it is unlikely for any significant discrepancies to occur between the appraised and purchased value of property.

In weaker real estate markets, or if the property is in rough shape, the risks of such discrepancies may be higher. In that case, you have few options:

  • Negotiate a better price before proceeding with the purchase.
  • Pay the difference.
  • Get a second opinion on the appraisal by requesting another company handle the appraisal.

Choosing a plan of action will depend on how big the discrepancy is and the timelines associated with the waiving of the conditions. Your real estate agent will often help you determine the best course of action.

Discrepancies between the Appraised Value and the Refinanced Value

Most home appraisals have errors during refinances as opposed to during purchases. Often the property owner wants to take out some or all of the existing equity and she or he has a certain perceived value of how much their property is worth. The discrepancy is often present during slowing real estate markets.

However, for the most part, most appraisals are accurate even in down markets – even if one only goes by the value of neighboring homes.

Comparable properties, known by insiders as “comps”, are one way to expedite the appraisal process. However, if the appraisal cannot find sufficient comparable properties, he or she has to conduct more research on the area. By looking at comparable properties within a three to a four-mile radius of where the property is located, an accurate appraisal can be generated.

Do Not Confuse Appraisals with Inspections

Home inspections are required by FHA and other lenders to make sure homes are habitable. It also helps potential home buyers understand what problems may exist before they settle on the home.

Home appraisals are done almost exclusively based on aesthetics and comparable home sales.

We will tackle home inspections at a later time. Until then, make sure to bookmark the Sold21 Blog.