Sunday, March 25, 2007

Your mortgage application can 'Trigger" a flurry of sales calls

Your guides just learned of a practice by the mortgage and credit reporting industries we had not heard of before. Home buyers that talk to a mortgage broker or baker can unleash a barrage of sales calls from other lenders trying to tempt you with competing offers.

How can this happen?

If you're out shopping for a home, and you diligently follow the advice of your Realtor or Morgtgage Broker by calling for a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter, your lender will pull your credit report.

The credit bureaus know that a mortgage company has requested this info on you and accurately presume that you are shopping for a loan.

The credit bureaus also have "Lead Generator" affiliates that make a hefty profit on providing leads of ready, willing customers out shopping for particular products. These "Lead Generator" companies can even match loan prospects based on criteria such as location, credit score, income or other factors.

The names and credit profiles are then sold to lenders that subscribe to these programs, and the calls start rolling in. Often within 1 day of your first call to your mortgage broker.


Some steps you can take to protect yourself from these practices:

  • Opt Out. Consumers can cut off all pre-screened credit solicitations - whether for mortgages OR pre-approved credit cards - by opting out. You can visit on the internet or call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. According to the Federal Trade Commission your request should be processed within 5 days.
  • Make sure your phone numbers are on the National Do Not Call Registry. Visit or call 1-888-382-1222 to add your numbers to the registry.
  • If you experience problems, suspect "Bait and Switch" tactics or are otherwise harrassed by callers, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at

Your Guides' Advice - make these calls first before calling your mortgage broker this week.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

This is a classic Lakeview 'tweener.

You can buy a cute home on an exploding neighborhood for $579,900. We're in the 1700's of West Nelson. This house has 7 rooms, two beds, two baths and a rec-room in the basement that could do double duty as a third bedroom. Mind you, the list price of this home is within $30,000 of land. Think of it this way - buy a $550,000 lot and get a $30,000 house.

Or, you could head one or two blocks south and get three beds, three baths, an attached garage plus additional parking in the driveway from $555,000.

Post your best guess in the comments below. I'm looking forward to hearing your predictions!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Seller Preparations - Get an Entry Rug

I had a quick conversation with a new seller this morning. She has a home that's almost 7 years old and in pristine condition. She has been able to keep her home in this condition by forbidding visitors from wearing shoes inside her home. Her place truly is a testament to how effective removing shoes can be in keeping carpeting and floors in brand-new condition.

One more item to add to your seller's kit of items needed to sell your home: another entryway rug. I have to ask prospective buyers as many as three times to remove their shoes sometimes, and in order to get the message across, I use this approach:

1. Have the seller post a very friendly note inside the front door asking people to remove their shoes.

2. The note reminds me to ask visitors to remove their shoes.

3. Have an entry rug blocking the way into the home with at least one pair of shoes right-smack in the middle of the way into the home.

Yes, sometimes buyers need to be beaten over the head THREE times before they get the message that I do indeed mean them, too, and that they don't have some sort of Shoe VIP status alleviating them from taking their shoes off.

Oh, and if you're a buyer reading this? Don't wear religious socks when you go home shopping. You know - Holy.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ten Principles of Economics, Translated

Mankiw's Ten Principles of Economics, Translated. As an Economics major, this strikes me as absolutely hilarious.

Thank you to Greg Swan at The Bloodhound Blog for finding this.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Outdoor Art in Downtown Chicago

Your guides play host to a wide variety of international visitors as we are members of an international travel club called The Hospitality Club as well as hosting relocating job transferees in our capacity as Realtors.

One fantastic aspect of Chicago is its ever-growing collection of world-renowned outdoor art. I think this guide is a bit limited but if you were to try to view all the art described in this article it would surely take longer than a full day. Readers that notice any omissions are welcome to post a comment.

You can't go wrong by simply starting out with a walk through Millennium Park. You'll first be drawn to the large bean shaped "Cloud Gate" sitting on top of the concessions along Michigan Avenue. By combining distorted images of spectators and their surroundings, the piece encourages us "to consider how we as individuals face a culture, with all the superficiality, speed and visual reflection and really make it ours." says Jonathan Fineberg, a professor of art history at the University of Illinois. Most people I saw were simply making funny faces and silly poses.

Continue south through the park and visit the other insanely popular pop-art piece: The Crown Fountain - aka "Sptting Faces." This is interactive art at its best combining a variety of traits that make patrons completely comfortable interacting with the setting. It's a fountain that pays tribute to city residents who are encouraged to step into the shallow water and falling sprays while looking at themselves larger-than-life.

Leaving Millennium Park and continuing south, you seemlessly cross into Grant Park. More formal than Millennium Park, pathways follow the straight and narrow and gardens are more like you'd find in European Palace grounds. All paths lead to Buckingham Fountain in the center of the park, a memorial surrounded by fencing to keep people out. How proper.

On the south end of Grant Park is the newest installation - Polish Artist Magdelena Abakanowics' "Angora." Walking through the installation of 106 headless figures provokes a flood of associations. Among them: war, nature, democracy and isolation. Their juxtaposition helps viewers reflect on the connection among them.

Walk out along the path and roadway towards the Adler Planetarium and you'll find Denise Milan and Ary Perez' "Americas." The multi-colored granite blocks, which can be rearranged in a variety of designs, encourages a sense of community by drawing those who sit in the installation into a circle.

You'll backtrack a bit, but it's worth the trip to head into the downtown area to get a look at some of Chicago's older sculpture located inside the urban canyonscape. At the State of Illinois Building - Clark Street at Randolph - a series of white concrete morphing shapes is titled "Monument with Standing Beast." Kids love it. A former city deputy budget director said "They should have a voter referrendum on whether to take this thing and throw it in the bottom of Lake Michigan. It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen in my life."

In Daley Plaza - at Washington and Dearborn - you'll find the untitled sculpture by Pablo Picasso. It's a landmark and a masterpiece that residents have come to associate with the City. Is it a giraffe? A lion? A monkey?

Two blocks south on Dearborn in Federal Center Plaza, you'll find Alexander Calder's "Flamingo." Paul Gapp, Chicago Trib's architecture critic said "The kindest thing that can be said about 'Flamingo' is that it is vandal-proof and appears to frighten away pigeons." Nice.

On West Madison at Clinton, in front of the Harold Washington Social Security Center, is Claes Oldenburg's "Batcolumn." This 10 story baseball bat is oddly out of place both in relation to its location in the financial district and it's placement outside the Social Security Administration. Gotta use those Federal Matching grants somehow. I wonder who the artist is related to in City Hall?

This last suggestion is hard to walk to, but with a morbid twist. Between the Ohio and Ontario feeder ramps onto the Kennedy Expressway at Orleans Street is "The Flame of the Millennium" sculpture. You really only get a quick glimpse of this sculpture as you whiz by at 50 mph on your way in or out of River North. As a side-note, horrified Friday-morning commuters watched a man apparently douse himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire along the Kennedy near the 25-foot-tall sculpture in late 2006.

Today's date in history...

Two interesting events happened on March 7 that I thought brought an interesting perspective to the Real Estate biz.

In 1854 - Charles Miller patents 1st US sewing machine to stitch buttonholes. Can you imagine the state of the Real Estate industry (or its players) if the buttonhole hadn't been invented? What would agents, financiers and attorneys be wearing today if not for this invention.

Even better, in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. I remember selling real estate back when we didn't have mobile phones of any kind, and voice mail was just catching on. At my first real estate brokerage a Real Live Secretary answered the phone and took messages for you that you would read off scraps of paper when you went back to the office. I still have real estate colleagues in other parts of the country that still print their home phone numbers on their marketing materials.

Today's standard of service is to have a mobile device that is capable of handling calls, voice mails, instant messges and email. A laptop won't do as contemporaries of mine now consider email a form of instant communication. If I want to keep up with my clients I had better have my email delivered to a handheld device and respond quickly to questions.

For you Real Estate Wheeler-Dealers, in 1933, the game of Monopoly was invented. I've been playing my own small potatoes version here in Chicago since the early 1990's. No Boardwalk or Park Avenue in my collection, but still something to cash in on someday.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Stock Market Tumble is Great for Me

I don't pretend to understand the complated interplay between the markets that cause mortgage interest rates to come down. I know that there is not a direct connection between the stock market and mortgage rates, I do know that when the stock market declines, mortgage rates follow - after a bit of a lag.

Dan at the Mortgage Reports has a great explanation of the relationship.

Mind you, I don't have money in the stock market other than from way-back-when I worked for a company that had a retirement plan. My 401-k is invested in a simple Index Fund - because anything else is a complete mystery to me. The last time I put my own money in the stock market was during the height of the tech-boom. I timed it perfectly so I bought at the most fevered, and then it all crashed.

So I stick with what I know. And in the next week or so I am eagerly awaiting mortage rates to dip down to 6.0% or maybe even into the high fives. I have clients just under contract waiting for the dip, and I'll be looking for investment condo's actively. This could be a great Spring!