Chicago Life and Style.

Your Home. Your Life. Your Style

Month: June, 2009

Interesting facts about personal economy in Chicago

Chicago Crain’s posted a very interest one pager full of interesting and informative facts. Check it out here:

I’m happy to say that the increase in cigarette tax does not affect me but I was SHOCKED to learn that the price of Ibuprofen has skyrocketed 92.8% since 2005!! Since I broke my tailbone while delivering my daughter, I’ve lived on that stuff!

Could the $8k tax credit become $15k?

There is a movement by some politicians to expand the current $8k tax credit to $15k AND expand those that are eligible for the credit. If the bill passes, anyone buying a primary residence would be eligible, not just first time home buyers. That’s great news for people that don’t fit the first time buyer category but want to take advantage of a tremendous market and still low rates.

Article here

$8k tax credit as down payment – Not really

It was big news, it was a great idea, we were all excited. But, we didn’t read the fine print. What the FHA approved was for lenders to “monetize” the tax credit to be used as part of the down payment. What they didn’t mention is that the lenders now have to come up with a product to make that happen. You may have hear mention of creating a bridge loan to cover the gap between the closing and when the tax credit is actually paid back.

Coming from a lending background, I can appreciate the difficulty in creating a way to ensure that the money being advanced by the bank is appropriately repaid at tax time by a third party (the IRS). Its too bad though that they didn’t do a better job explaining it up front. In this delicate and sensitive economy, consumers are easily scared. This tax incentive–which is still tremendous– was one of the best reasons for home buyers to come to the market.  This confusion creates some hesitation and fear–what ELSE don’t we know? Its a scary time and it takes a bit of a leap of faith to make a move now on a promise to be fulfilled later.

So, its unfortunate that the roll-out of what could be a very positive program is shrouded with confusion.  All that said though, its still a great opportunity for home buyers, its still an incentive that might not be offered ever again.  At the very least, it should be enough to push those on the fence about making a move into a more serious frame of mind and possibly into action.  I hope that first time home buyers wont let the vague and perhaps premature communications regarding the tax credit as down payment keep them from sticking their toes into the water. If you have questions, call me–or someone else you trust–and make the best decision for you–regardless of the rhetoric.

The best of times, the worst of times…..

No it’s not the Tale of Two Cities, well, not really. A recent article in Crain’s Chicago refer to this period as the best of times for home buyers. And with good reason. To her credit, the author also mentions some of the potential downside of taking advantage of this unique market.

While you feel great because you are getting a great deal, the consequence is that the comparable market price for your new neighbors’ homes just went down because you paid less than they did. Of course, it’s not personal and most people understand that but when you are lively in a very densely populated area–sometimes within a large building– it can create some tension. No one wants to go to their neighbors condo for a cocktail party and talk about how they paid 20% less for the identical condo in the same building. Guaranteed to start an awkward silence!

Regardless of the potential social pitfalls, real estate has always been cyclical and values will stabilize at some point. It certainly should be a reason not to take advantage of the incredible opportunities available now. For the full article read here  

Can you raise a child in the city?

Perhaps I should say, “Should you raise a child in the city”.  As far as I’m concerned, the answer is unequivocally yes to both. I happen to be a mother of an almost two year old. This was not a child that just happened, I planned for a year before I even started trying to conceive. And I included all my friends and family in on the decision and planning since I was deciding to become a single mom. I asked that everyone raise their concerns BEFORE I got pregnant so that we could all enjoy the ride when it finally came. Several people that aren’t very close to me suggested that I would definitely need to move to the suburbs.  Especially because I also had two very large dogs.

I laughed then as I do now at the idea that my life would be easier or that my daughter’s would be better if I lived in the burbs.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with making the decision to move to the burbs, it’s just not one I can imagine making myself.

The biggest arguments are:  the space-bigger house, bigger yard; schools; sense of neighborhood; safety.   I’m the last person who could or would argue that you get less space for your buck in the city.  I moved here from North Carolina, where half the cost got me more than three times the space. My sister and her husband live in a gorgeous corner lot single family home with a fenced yard in Shaker Heights, OH–where I grew up.  They love coming to visit but can’t get over the idea of living in so much smaller a space.  Well, we adjust.  It sounds trite but its true. After about a year of living here, something changed for me, when I went back to Shaker, I still admired the houses and the neighborhood, but I couldn’t imagine what I would do with all the space.  And when I walked the dogs, the huge front yards made me feel isolated from everyone living there, I barely saw anyone on our walks.

In Chicago, because we don’t have a yard, we have to venture out.  And its wonderful!  We walk up and down the streets, there is a small park on Honore (on the other side of my block) in a regular lot that is built specifically for kids my daughter’s age and we meet people there all the time.  One block further away is Commercial Playground which has a basketball court, baseball field, brand new playground and gymnasium.  I don’t care how far out I moved, I could never afford to buy all that!!  

Our walks are great because it gives my daughter and I time together–just as it  gives me time with my pup.  We connect and discover in wonderful ways on our walks that we never would if I opened the back door and watched her (and the dog) playing in the yard. Even from a health standpoint–not only am I in better shape for getting out–no matter what–but my daughter is incredibly hearty.  I absolutely think that the fact that she has walked the dogs with me three times a day–every single day–since she was born, has something to do with that.

The space in the house is something else but I think becomes a non-issue when you really utilize the outdoors. I have bundled my little baby up and gone out to play in the snow on more than one occasion.  Having limited space inside also makes me more conscious of what I give her to play with. I believe there is wisdom in those that say children don’t need a million toys and if you don’t have a million toys, a little bit of space does just fine.

Schools. There is so much to be said that I wont go into it. Suffice it to say that I believe 100% that you can get a tremendous education in the city of Chicago AND you can be sitting in a diverse schoolroom with exposure to many different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds while you learn. That’s worth a whole lot to me.

Safety. I haven’t had any problem, ever. Not when I walk my dogs in the middle of the night and not at home. Bad things happen everywhere, I don’t want to make decisions out of fear nor do I want to raise my daughter that way.

Sense of neighborhood.  Well, I’ve been talking about how wonderful the Chicago neighborhoods are since I started blogging!  My neighbors are not far away in the houses set back from the street or in their private back yards–my neighbors are tending to their parkways right next to the sidewalks, or on their decks that I can see and we can stop and chat when I walk by. My neighbors are out and about–just like me! And lest we forget about the best part of summer in Chicago–the outdoor cafes!  I walk my dog and daughter down Division all the time, just to be a part of all the bustling business and social interaction that goes on non-stop. 

Before I moved to Chicago I couldn’t even imagine a way that I could offer so much to my children. Now that I am here, in the heart of it, I cant imagine ever moving away.  I’ve been in small towns and I know people that grew up in them.  If my daughter decides she doesn’t like the city, she wont have any trouble adjusting to something else, something (in my mind) less.  Not so for many of those that grow up in the burbs or small towns–the transition is often so intimidating many never try.  The best I can do for my daughter is give her options and growing up here will give her many.

Everyone agonizes over how to be the best parent they can be and how they can give thier children the very best. For anyone worried that the city isn’t a place for children, relax, enjoy, you and your children have so many options in the city you can’t possibly discover them all in a lifetime.