Illinois Real Estate Law Blog

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Collar County Tax Sales Coming Up!

If you live in one of the collar counties, it's that time of the year again.  Your property taxes are now past due.  The collar counties move quick.  Pay your taxes now or face the consequences.

Here's what could happen to you if you don't pay up by October 15 in DuPage County:  Your delinquent payment will be published in the newspaper at the end of October, and after October 31, you won't even be able to pay using a personal check.  You can still pay with a credit or debit card until November 12.  If you can't make the payment by then, then you still have until 4:30 on November 19 to pay using certified funds.  After that, it's too late.  The DuPage County tax sale begin on November 20.

What about if you live in Lake County and haven't paid your real estate taxes yet?  Well, you have until October 8 to pay online, or until October 15 to pay by mail or in the office.  Any payments must include the penalty, which is 7.5% on the first installment and 3% on the second installment.  If you don't pay by October 15, the failure to pay will be published on October 30 or 31.  You can still make a payment through October 31 via personal check, or through November 3 with certified funds or credit card.  If you miss those deadline too, you can still walk into the treasurer's office and pay with a credit card until November 14, but that's your last chance.  The tax sale begins on November 17.

Kane, Kendall, McHenry and Will will also have their tax sales in the next few months.  For more details, you can check any of the county websites!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Buyers Beware of Meth Homes

If you're in the market to buy a home, you probably already know there are many things you need to keep an eye out for; the list goes on and on and on.  Well, here's another one you may not have thought about just yet:  Was the house ever used to make meth?  And if it was, should you care?        

Well, yes, you should absolutely care.  Meth can get into various surfaces in a home, and cause all sorts of health problems for the home's occupants.  Many homes used to manufacture meth were re-wired, which means there might also be a serious electrical hazard.  And of course, meth remediation (yes, that's a thing) is expensive.

What should you look out for?  Well, the home may have a strong chemical smell.  There might be chemical stains on plumbing fixtures in the bathroom.  You might feel a burning sensation in your throat or in your eyes when you are walking through the home.  And if you find large amounts of empty cold medicine packaging, lighter fluids, batteries or paint thinner, that's another sign.  These things are used to manufacture meth. 

If you are concerned, but are still interested in a home, look online or call the local police department.  Your area may have a registry of homes used in the manufacture of drugs, or the police might know if the home you're interested in was involved in the drug trade.  Also, you can buy an inexpensive meth-testing kit to find out if meth was present.  You can also hire a professional inspector who tests for drugs. 

What if the house of your dreams was, in fact, a meth lab?  Well, if it's a deal, and you're willing to spend the money to properly remediate the house before you move in, maybe you can still make it work.  If not, look elsewhere.  You'll find the right home for you soon enough!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Double Digit Increase in Residential Constrution Spending in 2013

The National Association of Homebuilders recently reported that residential construction increased in 2013.  Overall, there was an 18.3% increase in residential construction spending over 2012.  Specifically, construction of single-family homes was up 20%, and remodeling was up 14%.  Multi-family saw the greatest increase, at nearly 35%.

Increased construction shows the economy is looking up!  Let's hope it stays that way.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Phase 1 Environmental Standards in Effect

In November of 2013, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) approved a new standard for Phase 1 environmental studies.  Here are some of the new requirements

1.   The environmental consultant must look into the possibility of hazardous vapors migrating onto the property.

2.  If neighboring properties are in public regulatory databases, the environmental consultant must conduct a review of those regulatory files.

3.  The environmental consultant must identify recognized environmental conditions even if they have been resolved.

When negotiating a contract where environmental studies will be required, keep in mind that the additional requirements may take additional time, so plan your due diligence accordingly.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Environmental Due Diligence: The Phase 1 and Phase 2

When buying commercial property, especially if it's vacant land and oftentimes even when it's not, you have to know the condition of the real estate, and that involves an environmental study.

The first step is to get the Phase 1.  The Phase 1 is an environmental study designed to identify harmful environmental conditions that are affecting or may affect the property.  It is essentially the first step in your environmental due diligence, and it can often determine whether or not you even proceed.  The person conducting the Phase 1 will typically make a site visit, look into public records, check out the area where the Property is located, and review maps and images of the Property.  Based on that, he will determine if the subject Property might have any environmental issues.  For example, it might be a problem if there is a gas station next door.  Or, from public records, he might figure out that while there is no gas station in the area now, there used to be a gas station next door, and there were gas tanks actually on the subject Property.  Or there might be a dry cleaner on or near the Property, either now or in the past, using harsh chemicals.  Or there might be some sort of automotive repair shop next door, which could be an issue.  All of the above examples have actually happened to my clients, but there are other plenty of other possibilities as well.  

Of course, you might luck out, and the Property will get a clean bill of health.  But, in the event your Phase 1 reveals some potential issues, it's time to move on to the next step: the Phase 2.

What's the Phase 2?  Well, it's another environmental study, this time more invasive.  The purpose of the Phase 2 is to either corroborate or deny the possibilities set forth in the Phase 1.  The Phase 2 often involves soil tests, groundwater sampling, and surface water sampling.  These items are then chemically analyzed to determine if there is, in fact, any environmental threat.  If there is, then the buyer and seller need to determine how to proceed.  Does the buyer still want the property?  Can the property be cleaned up to make it compliant?  How much will it cost?  How long will it take?  Who's going to pay for it?    

If all goes well, you will be able to inexpensively rule out environmental hazards.  But if it turns out that there are issues that would limit your use of the property, it's better to know now than after you close!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Buying Sketchy Loans?

According to a report released by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) last month, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have continued to buy questionable mortgages despite notice that there are issues with property appraisals.

Apparently at some point during the process of buying the loans, the FHFA evaluates them.  Between the summer of 2012 and early fall of 2013, the FHFA alerted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to appraisal issues on $107 billion in mortgage loans.  Despite that, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went ahead and bought those loans anyway.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What is a Senior Freeze?

If you qualify for a Senior Exemption on your real estate taxes, you might also qualify for a senior freeze.  A senior freeze is a great way to keep your taxes down, because it will essentially freeze the assessed value of your property to whatever the assessed value is the year you qualified.  You won't be subject to annual increases in the assessed valuation of the property, as long as you continue to qualify.
To qualify for the 2013 senior freeze:
1)  You must be born in 1948 or earlier.
2)  You must own the property you are applying for, and it must be your principal place of residence.  If you do not own it, but you have a lease that states that you are responsible for the payment of real estate taxes, that is sufficient.  But you must have owned the property or had a leasehold interest in the property on both the first day of 2012 and the first day of 2013. 
3)  You also must have been the responsible party for payment of both 2011 and 2012 property taxes.
4) In 2012, your total household annual income must be $55,000 or less.
If you qualify, act quickly!  Contact your local assessor's office for the senior freeze application!