Maureen Murnane

Maureen Murnane


Buyer/Seller Tips




One of the keys to success in today’s ultra-competitive real estate market is to position your home as the most desirable property at a given price in a given area. Obviously, the most important variable in that equation is price. But making sure your home is in optimal showing condition will set it apart from the competition and could be the difference between a timely and productive sale and a long, drawn-out process.


Here is a checklist of preparations to make before showing your home. Be sure to consult your @properties agent to find out what improvements they recommend.


De-Clutter. Go through your home room by room and ask yourself what you can throw away and what you can box up and put in storage. Pay extra attention to areas like closets, bookcases, shelves, and kitchen and bathroom counters.


Organize. Lack of storage space can be a deal-breaker. Go through your closets and pantries and throw away, give away or put away anything you don’t need. Clean out bedroom closets so that hanging clothes are aligned and have ample space. Remove items from closet floors. Reorganize and clean out your kitchen cabinets and line up dishes and glassware. Make sure bathroom and kitchen drawers are neatly organized – even your junk drawer.


Clean. Give your home a deep clean from top to bottom, including windows, upholstery and carpet, and the refrigerator and oven (yes, buyers actually open them).


Paint. A fresh coat of paint is the least expensive, most effective way to enhance the appearance of your home. Be sure to use neutral colors. Consult your agent for recommendations.


Brighten your home. Light gives the impression of space, so it’s important for every room in your home to have ample light at any time of day. Prior to showings, wash windows, raise blinds and turn on lights. Add floor and table lamps to brighten dark rooms or corners.


Maintain the exterior. If you live in a single-family home or townhome, maintain your lawn and landscaping. In winter, shovel and de-ice walkways. In a condominium, pay attention to the area in front of the doorway. Keep it neat and inform the superintendent of any problems, such as burned-out lights. Make balconies, decks and patios inviting with potted plants and flowers.


Make repairs. Consult with your agent prior to undertaking a large-scale home improvement project, but go ahead and make easy repairs such as touch-up spackling and painting, replacing a cracked window or torn screen, fixing a leaky faucet and changing burned out light bulbs.


Remove personal property. If you do not plan on including personal property such as window treatments or light fixtures as part of a sale, then remove them prior to your first showing and replace them with attractive alternatives.


Remove pets. Keep pets out of the home during showings. Also be sure to conceal food bowls and litter boxes. If pet odors are present, have the home professionally cleaned.


Hire a home inspector. Hiring a professional, licensed home inspector prior to putting your home on the market allows you to spot potential problems and make repairs before buyers make them an issue.


Disclose everything. By law sellers must disclose existing structural and mechanical problems, flooding, the presence of lead paint, information on radon hazards and other known defects to potential buyers. Withholding this information can have much more serious repercussions than the problem itself.

Staging your home

Staging, the art of merchandising a home to improve its marketability, used to be reserved for homes or rooms with serious deficiencies. But today, every home that is listed for sale should be staged to some degree. Your home must show like a model in order to stand out in today’s competitive market. Staging can be as simple as rearranging a few pieces of furniture or as elaborate as hiring a professional to furnish an empty home right down to the plants and artwork. Your @properties agent can give you suggestions for staging or help you decide if you would benefit from a professional stager. Here are some easy and inexpensive staging tips to consider:


  • Use neutral colors and décor to help your home appeal to the largest number of potential buyers. Add color through accessories such as pillows, vases and oriental rugs.


  • Arrange furniture in small groupings that demonstrate a room’s functionality, and do not overcrowd a room with furniture. Place pieces in a way that dictates logical traffic flow.


  • Use light, airy window treatments, like simple sheers on a curtain rod. Hang window treatments so they cover the least amount of glass.


  • Higher wattage light bulbs can brighten up dark areas, while dimmers are a low-cost way to add a desirable feature and allow you to increase or decrease light levels in different rooms.


  • Camouflage outdated furniture or worn upholstery with slip covers, and replace worn bedspreads and throw rugs.


  • Keep kitchen counters clean and clear of all items, and remove all magnets and notes from the front of the refrigerator. If your kitchen needs an update, paint cupboards with a neutral color and replace knobs on cabinets.


  • Remove all personal items from the bathroom counter. Stock fresh towels and get a new shower curtain and rug for the floor.


  • Personal photographs and mementos add warmth and character to a home, but use them in moderation so the buyer will focus on the home, not its owners.


  • Use interesting accessories to draw the eye to desirable features like built-in shelving, book cases or fireplace mantels.


  • Display fresh flowers.


  • If you have collectibles, display them in neat, uncluttered groupings.


  • Remember outdoor spaces like your back yard, patio or balcony. Add furniture, plants or potted flowers with seasonal settings. 

 negotiation: guiding principles


Priced correctly and marketed aggressively, most homes will draw a timely offer. How agent and client receive that offer and handle subsequent negotiations is important for getting the best possible terms for your sale.


Your @properties agent will conduct negotiations with professionalism, attention to detail and a loyal representation of your interests. The following principles guide @properties’ agents in every negotiation.


Confidentiality: Confidentiality is vital to the integrity of the deal and to our reputation as professionals.


Responsiveness: Time is of the essence in a real estate transaction. We will expedite the presentation of offers and counteroffers and quickly act upon any opportunity.


Resourcefulness: Real estate sales are multi-faceted transactions. We examine all angles of a deal to find strategies and solutions that help you accomplish your objectives.


Communication: Your @properties agent will involve you in all aspects of the negotiation and communicate your options clearly and candidly.


Strength: We will do everything in our power to help you negotiate from a position of strength. Our goal is to achieve an outcome that meets or exceeds your expectations.



Negotiation: contract terms

A real estate transaction is a fluid process that involves a fair amount of negotiation between the initial offer and the accepted contract. On some level, negotiations often continue all the way to the closing. A REALTOR’s ® objectivity, experience and counsel are essential to this process. Some of the most common points that are negotiated include:


  • Price – Your agent’s knowledge of the current market is invaluable in helping you decide whether to accept the offered price and terms or counter. They will also help you consider the time value of money in your decision, i.e. will a higher offer offset potential additional carrying costs?


  • Mortgage Contingency – Most buyers purchase a home subject to obtaining a mortgage. The terms of the mortgage and the timeframe for securing a financing commitment must be stated in the contract. Make sure you are comfortable with these terms.


  • Home Inspection – Most buyers choose to conduct an inspection of the property with a licensed home inspector. If the inspector uncovers any problems, you and the buyer must negotiate what items will be addressed and who will pay for them.


  • Attorney Approval - Attorney approval is usually a one-week period, in which both you and the buyer have your attorneys review the contract and suggest alterations. During attorney review, if the contract is not acceptable to either party, both parties have the option to cancel.


  • Closing Date – This is the date when ownership changes hands and usually, but not always, the date when you must vacate and the buyer may occupy the property. If you have specific requirements for scheduling the closing due to your own move, the buyer’s flexibility in this regard might be an important factor in deciding to accept an offer. 






Guiding your real estate transaction from contract to closing is a multi-step process that requires proactive management and thorough attention to detail. Our emphasis on communication, organization and follow-through ensure that deadlines are met, documents are distributed, and every item is in place to make your transaction efficient and seamless.


Our agents, managing brokers and support staff will:


  • Handle earnest money and escrow account management
  • Distribute contracts to all relevant parties
  • Coordinate attorney review
  • Coordinate a home inspection
  • Provide information to lenders
  • Distribute required disclosure forms
  • Collect important documents such as the tax bill and condominium documents
  • Coordinate an appraisal
  • Coordinate walk-throughs
  • Update you when contingencies have been satisfied
  • Coordinate your closing
  • Help you find a new home

·        Follow up to see if you have any questions




Item                                                                  Typical Cost                                      Who Pays

Commission                                                     6% of Purchase Price                      S

Appraisal                                                          $250-$500                                         B

Credit Report                                                   $5 per borrower                              B

Inspection Fee                                                 $350 /Visit                                       B

Lender-direct Underwriting Fee                  $735                                                   B

Processing Fee                                                $150                                                   B

Flood Certificate                                             $5 - $20                                             B

Tax Service                                                       $0 - $100                                           B

Attorney Fee                                                    $600-$1,000                                    Both

Settlement Closing                                         $250-$1,000                                     B

Title Insurance (Buyer)                                  $250-$1,000                                     B

Title Insurance (Seller)                                   $300-$2,000                                     S

Recording Fee                                                 $75-$250                                           Both

State Transfer Tax                                          $1.50 per $1,000                             S

County Transfer Tax                                      $3.00 per $1,000                             S

Chicago City Transfer Tax*                          $7.50 per $1,000                             B

Survey                                                               $300-$1,000                                     S

Termite Inspection                                         $40-$100                                           Both

Interest Per Day                                              Loan Amount x Rate/365               Both

Escrow Taxes                                                  1-5 Mos. (if applicable)                  B

Escrow Insurance                                           1-5 Mos. (if applicable)                  B

Tax Proration                                                  105-110% of Last Tax Bill              S


Estimated closing costs courtesy of Guaranteed Rate®. Prices subject to change. Actual costs vary per lender, loan amount, property type and other factors.


*Property transfer taxes vary per local jurisdiction or township. Please consult your real estate attorney to obtain the best possible estimate for taxes and other closing costs.



We care about communication

At @properties, we know what you want from your real estate agent because we ask. We understand what’s important to you in selling your home because we listen. And we help you make the right decisions because we share our expertise. It all boils down to good communication, and there are few things at @properties that are more important. Setting expectations, being proactive, speaking candidly, staying in touch – these simple but vital principles are behind the thousands of successful transactions we broker each and every year, as well as the outstanding reputation we enjoy in real estate circles. 


Here are some of the communications measures that keep you informed before, during and after the sale.


Welcome Letter: Upon listing your home, we will furnish you with a copy of the listing agreement as well as a letter recapping our sales and marketing process.


Showing Feedback: We will provide feedback on showings according to the frequency and mode of communications you prefer.


@properties Seller Reports: We will provide a report that shows online activity for your home by day, week and month, including how many times your property was returned in search results and how many times it was viewed on the @properties website. This report also displays comparable listings, their price and status.  


Market Updates: You can elect to receive news and updates on the local real estate market through e-mail newsletters, sent monthly, and @properties Market Reports, updated daily.


Client Satisfaction Survey: This important post-closing survey gauges your satisfaction in several areas including your agent’s knowledge and professionalism, marketing services and negotiating skills.


Ongoing Communication: Long after your home is sold, @properties and your agent are available to provide information and answer questions not only about the local real estate market but also about all things Chicago. Our agent base is an incredible resource when it comes to recommending home repair and maintenance contractors, professional service providers and neighborhood businesses. We are always just a phone call, text message or e-mail away.