Hans Ziegenbein

Hans Ziegenbein

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Prepare your home for winter

Tuesday, 10 Nov 2009 at 02:45 am

How to Prepare your home for winter.

The winter winds are beginning to blow briskly and bringing frigid air with them.  This air can penetrate your home and make it difficult to maintain a level of comfort.  Luckily for you I have a number of ideas to help assist you with preparing for the long winter months. 

Your home should be a place to escape the cold winters and if treated properly it will keep out the elements and keep in the comfort.  Follow the list below and you can not only maintain a warm and cozy home, but you could also reduce your energy bills:

  1. A simple and easy fix for drafty windows is to caulk around the window edges.  For a couple of dollars you can pick up a tube of caulk at your local hardware store.  It is important to buy the right kind of caulk, so I suggest that you speak with an employee as to which type is best for you.  Caulk both the inside and outside of the windows for maximum effect.
  2. Repair, replace or add weather stripping to your exterior doors.  The weather stripping around your exterior doors becomes worn over time, this can greatly reduce the effectiveness of the seal.  You should look around all the edges of the doors and see where light is coming through the seal, you can also hold a candle or match around the edge to see where the breeze comes in.  Peel away the old stripping and replace it with appropriately sized new weather stripping.
  3. Install a new door sweep.  The bottom of many older doors allows a draft to come in, this area can be properly covered up with a new door sweep. 
  4. Check your attic for adequate insulation.  While it is a little more expensive than some of the quick fixes, the money it saves you can make it worth while in the long run.  If you are handy you can easily blow in or add batts of insulation yourself.  Remember not to cover the vents in your eaves, this will prevent proper air circulation in an unfinished attic.  If you are unsure of the process please contact a qualified person to assist you with the insulation.
  5. Have your furnace tuned up by a trained professional HVAC technician.  This will help with the efficiency of the unit and also help prevent/detect safety hazards.  (While I am on the subject of the furnace, please be sure to check your Co detectors and make sure they are functioning properly.  The city of Chicago requires them within 40 feet of all sleeping areas, if you have a furnace or a fossil fuel burning boiler.)
  6. Replace the furnace filter.  If you haven’t done this in a while, most filters last only 30 to 60 days and need to be replaced.
  7. Don’t forget to remove all hose lines from the exterior water spigots and shut off the water to prevent any freezing. 
  8. Many gutters are starting to be filled with leaves this time of year.  It’s best to get them cleaned out prior to the first snowfall, this will allow water to proper drain and help reduce ice damming and back up in the gutters.  It is recommended that you hire a professional if you are not comfortable on ladders.

 Hopefully some of these tips will help make your home warmer while saving you some money this winter.

As always, advice is free, referrals are priceless and your time is appreciated.

Categories: Home Owners

$8,000 tax credit extended

Tuesday, 10 Nov 2009 at 02:43 am
Great news the $8,000 government tax credit has been extended.  First time home buyers would have until April 30th to sign a purchase agreement and until June 30th to close on the sale of the house.  The tax credit was set to expire the end of November but, because of the success of the credit, Congress voted to extend it well into next year. 
In addition to the first time buyer credit a new credit has been added to give home owners looking to move up in their homes a credit of $6,500.  Both credits are great news for future and current homeowners, and should help assist first time buyers with making the leap into home ownership. For more information please feel free to contact me.

As always, advice is fee, referrals are priceless and your time is appreciated.

Categories: Home Buyers

Why use a Realtor?

Wednesday, 04 Nov 2009 at 02:53 am

Why use a Realtor®...I have the internet.


That’s the question just about every person will ask themselves when buying a home.  What exactly can a Realtor® do for me?  Why can’t I just find the properties online and go see them myself?  Is using a Realtor® going to cost me?  Will I get a better deal on the house if I skip the Realtor®?

These are all very legitimate questions and concerns.  It is an important part of any decision making process to ask questions, but, even more important is to get accurate answers to those question.

Let’s walk through a couple of these concerns.

While there are some exceptions, the vast majority of the time using a Realtor® to buy a property will cost you nothing (some real estate firms will charge a small transaction fee, usually no more than a couple hundred dollars).  The commission paid to the real estate agent assisting the buyer is almost always paid by the seller of the home.  There are a few rare exceptions, such as the possibility of a “for sale by owner” that the home owner refuses to pay a commission.

Yes, you can find most of the properties online that a real estate agent can find.  Thanks to search engines and web sites such as www.atproperties.com and www.trulia.com many of the tools that Realtors® use are now at your fingertips.  It is important to note that real estate agents are trained to use and read these websites (and have additional resources not available to the public) and to communicate with other agents about these properties.  So, while you can easily find many of these properties, it is best to let a professional go over the properties with you to help weed out the ones that are not going to meet your criteria.

No, you will most likely not get a better deal by attempting to negotiate the price on the property yourself, unless of course if you happen to be an FBI trained negotiator, then perhaps you do have a leg up.  But, going into negotiations without a real estate agent on your side could cost you big in the end.  Real estate agents are your buffer between you and the buyer.  A good Realtor® will take you emotion out of the negotiation process, they will run comparable properties in the neighborhood and see what they have sold for, they know how to talk to the selling agent and handle the seller.  They will take the number you want to offer to the table and present it in a clear and concise manner to the seller. 

So, why should you use a Realtor®, and what can they do for you?

They can help you narrow your property specifications, find your properties, arrange for you to see properties and take you to see properties, place an offer and negotiate the offer on a property and assist you with everything that follows, from finding a lawyer, mortgage broker, home inspector or just about anything else you need, to scheduling your closing and massaging your hand when it cramps up from signing way too many signatures.  All and all you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by working with an Illinois licensed Realtor®.


As always, advice is free, referrals are priceless and your time is appreciated.

Categories: Home Buyers

Buying a house

Wednesday, 04 Nov 2009 at 02:51 am

So you want to buy a home, now what.

The first step in you adventure should be to meet with a licensed Illinois Realtor®.  The Realtor® can walk you through the steps that you will need to get yourself into your dream home.  I will cover the basics here to give you an idea of what to expect.  There is no substitute for meeting with a professional.


The first step is to figure out what you are looking for.  When you start looking these are some very important aspects to consider.


  1. Deciding where to live.  This is probably the most important decision you will make regarding your new home purchase.  If you are not familiar with the area you are moving to a quality Realtor® will be able to provide you with area information to assist you in your decision.  You need to decide what you are looking for in a neighborhood, do you need to be close to public transportation, how about the expressway.  Many of Chicago’s neighborhoods are easily accessible without owning a car.  Of course the neighborhood you decide to live in will greatly affect the price of the building.  You might have to make sacrifices in the size of your new home in order to achieve the neighborhood you want. 
  2. Deciding how much you are willing to spend.  This is not just a decision made by you, but a decision dictated by your financing.  It is important to meet with a qualified mortgage broker and get pre-qualified or pre-approved for the amount you are looking to spend.  You should seriously consider this step as soon as you start looking.  Many homes on the market in these times are requesting pre-approval letters with any offer to buy.
  3. Deciding what you want.  Do you want a single family home or a condominium, what about an investment property such as a three flat, where tenants can help pay the mortgage.  You need to seriously consider the different pros and cons of the type of home you are considering.   While there are too many areas to address in this short article it is important to note that each type of ownership has its benefits.
  4. Deciding the size of your home is another important step.  This step may be dictated strongly by your financial situation.  You should however take into consideration what your life may bring down the line if you plan on staying in the same home for years to come.


Now that you know the basics of what you are looking for it is time to start searching.  Your Realtor® can assist you in finding properties that meet your criteria, as well as narrowing down your search with more specific guidelines.

Once you have a list of properties you can decide which properties you are interested in seeing, then your Realtor® can assist you in setting up appointments to see the properties. 

Finally you’ve found the home of your dreams, now the fun begins.  It’s time to put in an offer to buy the property.  Your Realtor® will assist you in figuring out what a fair amount to pay for the home would be, but the final decision on how much to offer is all yours.  This is the part where offers and counter-offers are exchanged until hopefully you and the sellers are able to reach an agreement on the final price of the home. 

There are time frames and paperwork that take place over the course of the next several weeks that would take many pages to explain, so here it goes in a nut shell.  You will have a home inspection, an appraisal, possibly more negotiations, make sure that all of your paperwork is in order, make sure that all of your financing is in order, set a closing date, meet numerous times with your Realtor®, meet with your attorney, meet with your mortgage broker, sign your signature more than you have for all the years leading up to this day, and hopefully if everything goes as planned you will walk into the office at the title company on your closing day and walk out with a set of keys that you feel like you just signed away your life for.  Yes, if you are a first time home buyer, this is both an extremely exciting and nerve racking moment in life. 


If this process may seem long and complicated, that’s because it is.  But, with the help of a licensed Illinois Realtor® to walk you through the process, you will be able to smoothly sail into the twilight of home ownership without any confusion.


As always advice is free, referrals are priceless and your time is appreciated.

Categories: Home Buyers

Electrical Safety Tips

Wednesday, 04 Nov 2009 at 02:49 am

Knowing your home’s electrical system is an important safety measure that can prevent both fires and injuries.  It is important to go over your electrical system with a qualified person prior to or upon taking possession of your home.  Below I will go over some of the basics of the electrical system as well as some safety measures you can take to help make your house electrically safe.

One of the main electrical features you should familiarize yourself with is your electrical panel.  This panel is the heart of your electrical system and feeds all the electricity used in your house.  An electrical panel should include a main shut off switch to shut off all the electricity to your house.  This switch is generally located on the top of the panel.  It is important to know the location of this switch in case there is an electrical emergency.  Another important feature is the individual circuits (or fuses if it is an older electrical panel) these should be properly labeled as to which outlets/lights they control.  Lastly, the panel should be properly sealed with no opening to the inside of the panel, it is extremely important that the panel only be opened by a licensed electrician.  The entire inside of the panel should be considered live and extremely dangerous.

You should also familiarize yourself with the outlets and switches of your home.  Make sure that the switches are functioning properly and the outlets should be checked by a qualified person to ensure that they are properly wired.  Any outlet outside, near a water source or along a countertop (kitchen or bath) should be a GFCI outlet.  This type of outlet is designed to stop the flow of electricity quickly in case of contact with water. 

That is a simple summary of the electrical system, of course there is much more to it.  This article is simply meant to familiarize you with the basics.  Now, here is a short list of electrical mistakes to avoid.

  1. One important thing to remember about outlets, if the outlet is a 2 prong (ungrounded) outlet it should not be used with an appliance that requires a three prong (grounded) outlet.  This could pose a potential hazard and should be avoided.
  2. If you must use extension cords, make sure they are the proper size for the electrical appliance they are feeding.
  3. Do not run extension cords under carpeting or anywhere there will be heavy foot traffic or continued pressure on the cord.  This could lead to potential fire hazards.
  4. Obviously avoid using anything electrical when you are in or near water, ie. Hair dryers, razors etc.
  5. Incandescent (bulb type) light bulbs in closets need to have a cover or dome over them so they don’t accidentally touch any flammable materials, such as blankets stored on a top shelf, and start a fire.
  6. Unplug any chargers or any other electrical devices that are not in use and don’t need to be plugged in.  This will not only save you money on electricity it will also help avoid any potential hazards that these devices can pose when left unattended. 

These are a few safety tips that will hopefully help keep you and your family safe.

As always, advice is free, referrals are priceless and your time is appreciated.

Categories: Home Owners

Know Your House

Wednesday, 04 Nov 2009 at 02:49 am

Know your house before you buy. 


The importance of knowing the overall condition of your house and the mechanical systems prior to purchasing can’t be overstressed.  You are making an investment in your future and want as few surprises as possible down the line.  That’s why every future home buyer should take advantage of the time allowed to have a home professionally inspected.

When you walk through a home to consider purchasing it you are usually looking at what type of lighting the kitchen has or what type of fixtures are in the bathroom.  But, most people rarely consider if wires supplying lighting with electricity are going to catch fire or if water will flow properly from those fixtures.  And unless a structural defect is blatantly obvious, most people will never know it’s there. 

That is why I recommend getting your future home inspected by a licensed Illinois home inspector.  A quality home inspector will go through your house room by room and examine every aspect of the home.  This is important whether it is a 100 year old house or a new construction condominium.  Undetected defects can surprise you down the line with expenses that you aren’t budgeted for.  If you can see these issues prior to closing on the home, it could be possible to prepare yourself for them or even convince the seller to pay for the repairs. 

There are a number of basic components a home inspector will inspect, some of these components are:

  1. The roof system, drainage and penetrations.
  2. The exterior components. 
  3. The garage
  4. Attic and roof structure
  5. Kitchen and components
  6. Bathrooms and components
  7. All individual rooms
  8. Electrical systems
  9. Plumbing systems
  10. Structural components
  11. Heating and Air conditioning

This list is not all inclusive and does not include many of the minor portions of the home that are inspected.

It is important to get a good recommendation for a home inspector, make sure they are licensed and insured.  I always recommend an inspector that gives you a full narrative report with pictures.  This is an important part of your home buying process and you shouldn’t let anyone sway you from getting an inspection.


As always, advice is free, referrals are priceless and your time is appreciated.

Categories: Home Buyers