Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring Clean Your Finances Before Buying a North Shore Home!

Last week I talked about five key tips you’ll want to keep in mind when buying a home in Chicago’s North Shore. It can be a very exciting time, especially with spring’s vibrant North Shore Real Estate market! There are many beautiful homes from which to choose and with ideal home prices and low mortgage rates, it’s a great time for the North Shore home buyer.

While you take on your spring cleaning this season, why not take the time to clean up your finances as well? If you are considering buying a North Shore home this season, having your budget, credit and other financials in order will help ensure a smooth home buying process.

Recently, financial writer Gabriela Islas of Quicken Loans pointed out six things you’ll want to do to clean up your finances. I thought these were worth sharing with you and feel these are imperative to do prior to buying a North Shore home.

1. Check your credit report and fix any errors- 
By law, consumers have the right to a free annual credit report. Sites like will allow you to get a free credit report, no string attached! Take advantage of getting a free credit report, but always be sure to check out its accuracy. Many times, there are errors or may contain outdated information, which could affect your score negatively. If you do find a mistake, make sure you contact the corresponding credit bureau in order to dispute the errors.

2. Review your budget- 
It’s helpful to make time to sit down and check your monthly budget. If you are saving to buy a house, for example, periodically reviewing your budget will help you get rid of unnecessary expenses allowing you to save more.

3. Review your monthly withholdings - There is no reason for you to give an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam! By reviewing your monthly withholdings you may be able to put more money in your pocket or savings account every month. Of course, consult with your tax advisor before making any changes to your withholdings in order to avoid owing money to the IRS at the end of the year.

4. Review your financial emergency plan - Planning for unexpected events can give you peace of mind. A good rule of thumb is to have six months worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund. Think about your monthly expenses (like rent or mortgage payments, utilities, car payments, insurance, credit card payments, etc.) and figure out how much you would need to have in a savings account in order to pay for these items for six months. Don’t get discouraged if it takes time to build up your emergency fund, ANY amount is better than no savings at all. Also, make sure that if you become incapacitated, there is someone you trust to handle your finances.

5. Sign up for paperless statements - Signing up for paperless statements and paying your bills online will help keep your mail under control while saving trees at the same time. A lot of banks and credit unions offer online bill pay services for free. Take advantage of this and join the “green” movement.

6. Consolidate accounts- 
When you’re budgeting, sometimes it’s helpful to separate accounts. For example, if you are trying to save for a special purchase or an emergency fund, you may have your employer deposit a portion of your paycheck directly into your savings account. But having many accounts can make keeping track of them difficult. When that becomes the case, it’s time to consolidate your accounts. Before making this decision, check with your financial institution to make sure there aren’t any penalties or fees for canceling an account.

Whether you plan on buying a home this spring or not, making sure you have these things in order and taking the time to “spring clean” your finances each year is imperative in case something unexpected arises.

If you are in the beginning stages of hunting for your new North Shore home and have questions regarding the North Shore Real Estate market, or would like to view the homes currently available in the North Shore, please let me know! I’d be happy to answer your questions and help you find a home in Chicago’s North Shore that fits your needs and lifestyle.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Janie Bress
Your North Shore Real Estate Expert

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