Stay up-to-date with the Nicole Hanson Group with our NW Indiana real estate blog.

Aug. 12, 2020

Can You Buy a House Completely Online?

Can You Buy a House Completely Online?

More and more people are doing everything virtually these days including buying and selling real estate. The demand for digital tools and technology has increased exponentially over the last couple of months simply because were trying to stay safe and stays distant. But even before the pandemic, more and more people were moving towards online transactions including real estate. Everything is streaming nowadays including schools, work meetings, and even exercise classes so it naturally begs the question if you can buy a house completely online?

A recent report from Zillow found that both buyers and sellers are likely to purchase or sell a home completely online and 36% of Americans said the pandemic makes them even more likely to buy a home completely online and 30% said they would do the same even after the pandemic was over.

Are there pros and cons to buying a home online?

As with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to buying and selling real estate completely online. The benefit of course is convenience. You can go through virtual tours, open houses, and high-quality images that are gonna make the experience nearly as good as being there. But, nothing beats actually being there in person. We tend to go with our gut and get an emotional sense of the home and that's hard to do simply with online photos or videos. Even if the real estate agent completes an in-home tour wall you are on the other end of the phone, nothing beats actually standing in the home, looking around, observing details, and checking out the neighborhood.

So how do you buy a home online?

First of all you'll want to choose a real estate agent. We have agents that specialize in the Northwest Indiana real estate market from Hammond to Portage and everywhere in between. Whether you looking for Lake Michigan waterfront homes, a great investment property, your first home, or your 10th home, we have agents that specialize in this area and assist buyers only. Interview your agent, ask them questions, find out how many clients they like to work with on a regular basis so that you know they have your best interest at heart and have time for you.

You can find a mortgage lender online as well and complete the application process as well as final signing. Everything can be done online including zero contact mortgages.You can get preapproved online, run all your credit report, and even scan and email secure documents such as tax returns, W-2s, and bank statements.

Related: The Pandemic Has Actually Made Homes Cheaper in Northern Indiana

You can submit an online offer and even wire earnest money to an escrow account or title company.

The appraisal can happen without you being present and even home inspectors are taking virtual tours around the house with face time or zoom meetings. While we always recommend accompanying the inspector, in these interesting times, most inspectors are doing everything possible to keep their client safe and yet provide them with the most up-to-date and accurate information about the property.

Depending on the escrow company and lender you choose, some final signings can even be done remotely. Most need to be done within the presence of a notary but each lender is different and may have options for completely zero contact closing arrangement. If nothing else, this may be the only time you come face-to-face with another person.

If you're interested in learning more about how the Nicole Hansen Real Estate Group handles our buyers and sellers these days, don't hesitate to give us a call. We can ease your mind about how to buy and sell safely online, how to price your home, how to get in touch with the lender in our area, and how to close on the home of your dreams. We look forward to talking with you today.

More Tips for Home Buyers

Posted in Real Estate News
Aug. 7, 2020

Can I Use an FHA Loan to Fund a Foreclosure?

There are a lot of good deals to be had right now in the Northwest Indiana real estate market. From affordable homes in Dyer and Portage to investment jackpots in Hammond, and surrounding neighborhoods. However, if you don't have a lot of cash to spare, there may be a way to use an FHA loan to buy a foreclosure.Can I Use an FHA Loan to Fund a Foreclosure?

The primary function of the FHA or the Federal Housing Administration is to ensure loans against default if there made by approved lenders and meet the guidelines. These loans are intended to make it easier for homeowners to buy homes that they may not otherwise qualify for.

That guarantee can also offer a steady inventory of foreclosures when buyers can't meet certain obligations and have to give up their properties. FHA loans can be used by multiple types of residential homes and properties depending on the state of repair regardless of which lender currently owns them. However, there is one major catch, the homes need to be lived in by the borrower. You cannot use an FHA loan to buy an investment property that you're immediately going to rent out. You must live in the home for two years before turning it into an investment rental.

Related: 5 Requests buyer should never ask for

So what should you know about using an FHA loan to buy a foreclosure?

Not only must it be your primary residence but it must be inspected to ensure that it meets the minimum standards of livability. This means that it must be appraised and approved by an FHA appraiser.

You can, however, get at 203K rehabilitation loan with a 3.5% down payment where the lender finances both the purchase of the home and any repairs that need to be made.

Your credit score needs to be 580 or higher and 20% of the appraised value of your credit score between 500 and 579. This can be a tricky position when you're competing with investors that may have all cash. [Source]

It helps to have your financing, credit history, and any cash you do have ready to go and on hand in order to compete. Not all cash buyers win out on a foreclosure. Terms can be just as important as a cash offer. It also helps to have a real estate agent that understands the process and can help you navigate the sometimes confusing waters of buying a foreclosure and an FHA loan. For more information contact our office. We have experts that specialize specifically in FHA loans and foreclosures and short sales. With your investing for the future or looking for a great deal right now, trust Nicole Hansen Group for your next Northwest Indiana home purchase.

More: Are you a first time buyer? Start here


Posted in Buying a Home
July 16, 2020

What to Know About Living in a Co-op

A co-op property is different than traditional homeownership. Co-op is a building or community that is owned and controlled by members or group of individuals who all have equal membership. If you've been considering homeownership, a co-op might be a good option but here's what you should know about living in a co-op.

A housing cooperative is a building or community that's owned and controlled by members of the board or group of individuals that all have equal membership within the group. When you buy into the co-op, you purchase shares in the ownership of the entire community. This will entitle you to occupy a specific residence. There are different types of co-ops and membership so it's important to understand what you are getting into.

A market-rate co-op is the most common type where shareholders build equity as the value of the property increases. The shares are bought and sold based on supply and demand.

A limited-equity co-op provides a form of homeownership for those that may not be able to purchase a home in any other capacity. While the equity is being built up, the price at which the person can sell their shares is limited keeping the housing option affordable for future occupants.

A leasing co-op allows owners to make democratic decisions but most of these residents are considered tenants rather than partial owners. This can provide affordable housing options, especially for students giving them a right to vote on next year's rent, amenities, and the way things are handled.

How to finance a co-op purchase.

Rather than receiving a deed when you purchase typical property, you receive a membership certificate and occupancy agreement. Because you're not technically buying a piece of real estate or property like a condominium or single-family house, the loan is different from a traditional mortgage though you will pay it as if it were. However, unlike a mortgage, the co-op Corporation has the first lien on the property rather than the lender. This allows the co-op to maintain the rules for selling the shares to new buyers.

A co-op can also decline membership. The board has the ability to decline anyone that wishes to live there and common reasons are low sale price or plans for renovation that don't align with the rules of co-op. The screening process may also be more involved as most applicants have background checks and credit checks. These co-ops, however, are prohibited from discriminating against anyone so anyone that has the desire to be part of the co-op can do so as long as they follow the rules of the co-op.

So is a co-op right for you?

This is a different housing option that may work in certain situations but if you can own a home, chances are that is the better way to go. If you are vacillating on whether to join a co-op or buy a home, give us a call. We can help discuss the pros and cons to both and which will then affect you over time.

Posted in Buying a Home
July 8, 2020

The Pandemic Has Actually Made Homes Cheaper in Northern Indiana

It's no surprise that this pandemic has definitely wreaked havoc in most of our lives in some way but if you are a homebuyer, you might actually use this time to score a great bargain. In several places around the country, home prices have actually dropped making them more affordable than ever before. The Chicago area and Northwest Indiana is one of those places.The Pandemic Has Actually Made Homes Cheaper in Northern Indiana

"Between at the beginning of the pandemic and mid-May, a good share of new listings in the Chicago area saw asking prices fall to the tune of about 33%. The average discount was 26%." This is great news for those that have been renting for years as Chicago is typically one of the top 10 cities in the country that is cheaper to rent than it is to buy. But just outside the city and places like Dyer, St. John, Crown Point, and other surrounding cities and towns in Northwest Indiana, it is definitely cheaper to buy than to rent depending on the home. [Source]

In a similar article, renters are feeling much better about buying a home right now. There are plenty of homes on the market, not a lot of competition, and interest rates remain historically low. The share of consumers who agree that it's a good time to buy a home increased from 52% to 61% just over the last couple of months according to a survey by Fannie Mae.

In April, the housing market definitely plunged as the uncertainty of real estate was very tentative but now, the housing market has bounced back significantly in June and many of those homebuyers were previously renters. Most renters are optimistic about home buying right now and fewer Americans feel it's a bad time to buy. The share of renters who feel it's a good time to buy is its highest level in five years and current homeowners are also getting more optimistic about the sales market as well especially given the lack of housing supply.

Supply and demand definitely fuel the market and if there are more buyers, fewer homes, prices increase, a balanced market is favorable, and is a win-win for both buyers and sellers.

Americans are relatively optimistic about home prices but it's somewhat of a double-edged sword. The value of homes was already elevated going into the situation and affordability was weakened despite the low mortgage rates. Many economists feel that the mortgage rate will continue to increase slowly over the next year, which is another reason for buyers to get in now while rates are low and sellers are motivated. For more information on selling your Northwest Indiana home or looking for a home to buy, contact our office at any time.



Posted in Real Estate News
July 3, 2020

A Buyer's Guide for First Time Buyers

It’s no secret that when it comes to purchasing a home there are a lot of steps involved before you are handed the keys. Surprisingly, even though it is common knowledge that so many steps are involved, they often aren’t talked about until it is time to start buying which can leave the buyers overly stressed and unable to enjoy their home buying experience. There are essentially 10 simple steps that are a part of nearly every home purchase, and while in some cases there are a few less or a few more, when purchasing a home you can expect to work your way down this list.A Buyer's Guide for First Time Buyers

#1 How much can you afford? Determining your budget is crucial and of course, the first step in the home buying process. Always try to stay below your maximum budget to help with any hiccups that may arise down the road.

Related: 5 Requests Buyers Should Never Ask For

#2 Obtain Pre-approval. You will be unable to purchase a home without first obtaining a pre-approval letter from a financial institution, talk to friends or family to see if they have any recommendations within your area.

#3 The home search! This is more of putting down on paper what you are looking for than searching for the actual home. Discuss the size, location, style, school zones, etc. that you are looking for in a home so you have a clear list describing the home you want.

#4 Find your agent. It is always recommended to use an agent that has great ratings, however, oftentimes, your friends or family may have a great referral to an agent that they’ve used in the past. Use your connections to find a qualified agent you can trust.

#5 Time to tour homes! Provide your agent with your wish list you created in step #3 and then attend open houses and set up tours that your agent feels would fit your search criteria.

#6 Make an offer. Once you’ve found a house you want to make home, it’s time to submit your offer! Your agent will guide you through this and give you feedback and advice.

#7 Home Inspection. Upon acceptance, you will then be responsible to get a home inspection completed. This step is crucial and protects your investment.

#8 Appraisal. An appraisal is required and protects both the seller and buyer by providing both parties with the current homes value. This lets the buyer know they are paying a fair price, and the seller is made aware that they are getting the money their home is worth.

#9 Time to negotiate! Should the appraisal or home inspection show any unwanted problems or needed repairs, you can finalize your offer, change your offer, and settle on a final sale price.

#10 Closing. It’s now time to close! Congratulations, you just bought your first house!

There may be a lot of steps, however, with the right agent buying a house should be a relatively simple experience. There will be a lot of paperwork and you will need to provide documentation throughout the journey, but in the end, unlocking your front door for the first time will make the process worth it.

For more information on homes in Northwest Indiana or to find a buyer or listing agent for your home, contact our office today. We specialize in these communities and surrounding areas.


Portage | Chesterton |ValparaisoCrown PointGriffith | Dyer | Highland | Scherereville | Munster | St. John


More Information for Buyers:

What Comes with the House?

How to Be Your Mortgage Lender's Best Client

What is the Seller's Disclosure Form?


5 Hidden Costs to Buying a Home

What is Earnest Money?

Posted in Buying a Home
June 29, 2020

What a Seller's Disclosure Form?

When buying a property, there are several procedures and documents involved so you must know what you are getting into to avoid any disappointments. You may already be familiar with some of the terms that would be used but some others would be entirely foreign. For the sake of this article, we would be looking closely at the seller's disclosure form (otherwise known as a property disclosure statement) and all that it entails.What a Seller's Disclosure Form?

A seller's disclosure form, as the name suggests, is a form completed by the seller of the property to provide full information on what they know about the property. This is a prerequisite for purchasing a property in the United States and each state has a specific format for its disclosure form. The purpose of this is to give the buyer good knowledge of the exterior and interior parts of the property. Depending on which side you are—the buyer or seller—there are certain things you need to know about the contents of a seller's disclosure form.

● The seller is required to obtain a seller disclosure form which could either in the format provided by the state or a blank form. It is preferable to obtain a State-specific form as this provides more details on the terms and conditions involved. These forms are available online and can be downloaded, filled, and signed in e-format.

● The form should be filled by the seller first before being sent to the buyer. If the buyer views it and accepts the liabilities involved, he/she would, therefore, append his/her signature on the form.

● The form should contain all the defects and any other information regarding the property in question. To avoid leaving out any vital information, the seller should inspect the property themselves before filling the form.

● Other essential details to be provided on the form are the duration of ownership, utilities available, sewage disposal system, fire prevention measures, location of the property, potential hazards, fittings, and fixtures. Providing all these details would help the buyer decide whether or not they want to take the risk of purchasing such property and prepare for any mishaps that may occur in the future owing to the state and/or location of the property.

● The disclosure form could be attached to a purchase agreement document as long as one is involved.

If a seller is not completely honest while filling a disclosure form, there could be consequences. A buyer may receive full refunds if they discover more defects that were not included in the disclosure form after making payment. As a buyer, you should carefully go through the completed form before signing on it. Sellers are also expected to carry full surveys on the property and if possible, with the help of an inspection agent. This would largely prevent arguments and complaints that result after purchasing a property and give the buyer an idea of how much they have to spend on repairs and installations before or after moving into the house.

More Information for Buyers:

What Comes with the House?

How to Be Your Mortgage Lender's Best Client

We specialize in the following areas:

Portage | Chesterton Valparaiso Crown PointGriffith | Dyer | Highland | Scherereville | Munster | St. John

Posted in Buying a Home
June 25, 2020

5 Requests Buyers Should Never Ask For

5 Requests Buyers Should Never Ask For

Buying a home typically means having a home inspection somewhere along the line. We recommend all my buyers have a professional home inspection done before finalizing the sale of their property. This is a great way to learn as much is possible about the property and it gives the buyer an opportunity to ask for repairs or replacements should something be hazardous or in need of fixing. But, there are some things that probably don't need to be requested and it could be an insult to the seller and may actually lose the sale.

Here are five repair requests the buyers probably should never make.

#1. Anything under $100.

If minor things under $100 can easily be repaired after you live in the home, leave it off the report. This could mean replacing a light switch cover or outlet cover, a burned-out bulb, or anything that's a simple and inexpensive fix. Sure, the seller could do it just as easily as the buyer, but it's really not worth losing the sale over when it can be an easy replacement once the buyer moves in.

Related: How to Be Your Lender's Favorite Client

#2. Areas the buyer plans on remodeling anyway.

I spoke with too many buyers that have talked about remodeling or updating the property once they move in and they always try to get the seller to do it before closing. Unless it's a health hazard or safety issue, sellers are really not going to put new granite countertops in the kitchen just because the buyer has asked for it.

#3. Simple cosmetic issues.

Asking the seller to remove wallpaper, repair or cracked tile or at a fresh coat of paint to the back fence is really just cosmetic and does not affect the safety of the property. Sure, it would be nice to have everything completed and up to the buyer's standards, but it shouldn't break the bank or the sale.

#4. Settling cracks.

Homes settle over the years, that's no secret or surprise. But many buyers can ask for a complete real leveling of the house which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This is usually not a safety issue and foundations will naturally crack and shift over time. It's important to ask the home inspector about the safety issues that a settling and cracking foundation could present and chances are, it's not that big of an issue.

#5. Repairs to outside buildings.

Sheds, external garages, even dog houses are considered outbuildings and most buyers shouldn't concern themselves with repairs or replacements. Even though it might add a little bit of value to the property, outbuildings are not part of the main house. Talk to the home inspector because there could be some major issues such as a barn that looks like it's going to be falling down any moment or a garage that's in serious need of repair. There could be some safety or hazardous issues so buyers will need to ask the right questions to their inspector in order to know how to proceed.

Every property is different. It's important to discuss your concerns with your home inspector and your real estate agent. If you have any other questions about the home inspection process or buying and selling homes, specifically throughout the Northwest Indiana real estate area, please contact our office at any time.

We specialize in the following areas:

Portage | Chesterton Valparaiso Crown PointGriffith | Dyer | Highland | Scherereville | Munster | St. John


Posted in Buying a Home
June 24, 2020

How Long Does it Take to Sell a House?

How Long Does it Take to Sell a House?This is a question I get asked by almost every homeowner, "how long will it take to sell my house?" It's a valid question, for sure. But the answer is not so cut and dry. There are so many factors involved and many are simply out of the homeowner's hands. I recently spoke with an agent in another city where there are only 17 houses between $280K - $400K. That's it! And it's a big city too! You can imagine that those homes probably won't last long. So, in that market, listing it correctly should get the home sold in a matter of days or hours. Another agent said that within 30 minutes of listing a property they had two offers on the table. 

Is 30 minutes the norm? Absolutely not. This is very unusual. I've also talked to agents that have had homes sit on the market for months even though it's priced correctly but if there are just too many other homes in the competitive market, it may be very hard to sell.

The ebb and flow of the real estate market is not predictable no matter what economists say. Big real estate websites cannot possibly know the micro-markets that emerge from various pockets in a city or community. One street might be hopping while another dies on the vine. 

Here are some serious factors to help predict how fast your home will sell. 

The micro-markets of your particular neighborhood. The only way to really get a good idea of what your neighborhood is doing in the real estate market is to talk to your real estate agent or other homeowners that have either recently sold or bought in the area. If it's a hot market, you might consider pricing just a few thousand dollars over market value, however, if the home cannot appraise for this inflated price, you may find yourself lowering the sales price anyway. If the market is not doing so well, that could mean you have more competition, or you simply don't have a lot of buyers.

Related: How to Create the Perfect Backyard Oasis

Two Markets

There are two distinct markets; the buyers market and the seller's market. If it's a seller's market, there are very few properties on the market and a lot of sellers. Homes typically sell faster and for more money. If it's a buyers market, there are plenty of homes on the market, fewer buyers in the home prices tend to drop.

Condition and presentation. This is another factor when it comes to how fast your home will sell. If your home is in good condition, is presented well, staged properly, and all repairs or updates have been made, you can typically price it on the higher end of the market value, especially if it's a seller's market.

If it's a buyers market, you'll definitely want to do all of the upgrades and make the home as attractive to potential buyers as possible. You will also want to price the home lower than your closest competition. It doesn't have to be that much lower. If your closest competition is listed at $300,000, you could list it at $299,000 and sound much less expensive and much more attractive.

Flexibility and reasonability when it comes to negotiations. If it's impossible for buyers to see your home, they may pass it by. I seen a lot of buyers simply cancel showing appointments because either the seller has a very small timeframe in which to show the property, they keep putting off appointments, canceling or rescheduling. If you make it difficult for a buyer to even see your property, you're not going to have much chance of selling quickly.

Attractive incentives. There are incentives that sellers can do to make the home more appealing, which in turn should sell it quicker. Higher commission for the buyer's agent, a home warranty, a pre-inspection, etc. these are items that may make your home more attractive than your closest competition.

Related: Low Cost Ways to Boost  Your Curb Appeal

There are many factors involved in selling your house and how fast it will sell really depends on all of these items. Once an offer has been accepted, it's typically 30 to 45 days until closing. But homes can sit on the market anywhere from two minutes to over a year. You don't want to be on the latter end of that so understanding your market and pricing it correctly from the beginning is the best way to get your home sold fast.

For more details on your specific neighborhood or micro-market contact my office today. We specialize in the Northwest Indiana Homes and Real Estate

More: A Checklist for Getting Your Home Ready to Market

We specialize in the following areas:

Portage | Chesterton Valparaiso Crown PointGriffith | Dyer | Highland | Scherereville | Munster | St. John

Posted in Selling your Home
June 18, 2020

Sterling Creek - New Home Construction in Portage Indiana

Sterling Creek is one of Portage Indiana's newest home communities located just south of West US Highway six between North 500 W. and Willow Creek Rd. Easily accessible from Highway six or Willow Creek Rd., this new home community is built by Olthof Homes and features several new designs priced from $206,000. Sizes range from 1442 ft.² to 2740 ft.², three and four-bedroom floor plans with two and three bathrooms and two-car garages. There are both single and two-story designs to choose from with options for additional garages and more square footage. If you're looking for a brand-new home, get in on the ground floor by customizing your Sterling Creek home today.


More about the area.Sterling Creek - New Home Construction in Portage Indiana

Sterling Creek is located in portage Indiana, just minutes from Lake Michigan and about 35 to 40 minutes from downtown Chicago. It's close to local amenities and services such as shops, restaurants, multiple fast food options, a Petco, Walgreens, and many more amenities just a minute or two north along Highway six. This is an easy commute route to and from Chicago as well as from other neighboring communities such as Dyer, Liverpool, Lake Station, and Woodville. Just a couple of minutes North is the Robbinhurst Golf Club and Driving Range and Portage Imagination Glen Park.


Residents of Sterling Creek are part of the Portage Township School District Corporation and are served by the South Haven elementary school, the William Fegeley middle school, and the Portage high school. The high school and elementary school are .5 to 1.5 miles from Sterling Creek and the middle school is 2 1/2 miles away.


Olthof Homes has constructed properties throughout Northwest Indiana including places like St. John, Cedar Lake, Crown Point, Chesterton, and Valparaiso. This builder offers single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums, and duplex that have been well built and beautifully designed. They are currently the #1 NW. Indiana Home Builder.

For more information on homes for sale in Sterling Creek, Northwest Indiana's newest home development, browse available listings here or contact our office below at any time. We would love to help schedule a personal tour or virtual tour at any time.


Posted in Buying a Home
June 17, 2020

What's the Weather in NW Indiana

What's the Weather in NW Indiana

In Dyer Indiana, and NW Indiana, the summers are warm, humid, and wet; the winters are freezing and windy, and it is partly cloudy year-round. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 18°F to 84°F.

The best time of year to visit Dyer or Northwest Indiana for warm-weather activities is from mid-June to mid-September.

In Chicago, the summers are warm, humid, and wet; the winters are freezing and windy, and it is partly cloudy year-round. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 22°F to 83°F and is rarely below 5°F or above 91°F.

The Shores of Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan Temperatures During Summer

Summer is when the water seems most attractive. The hot air coupled with the cooling water makes for outstanding swimming. The ideal lake temperature for swimming is around 80-85 degrees, great fishing as some of the lake’s sport fish climb up to the warmer waters, and the weather is for enjoying the sun and getting a good tan.

Recent lake temperatures reported that Lake Michigan’s waters have an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius) with the temperatures cooler closer to the center of the lake. Temperatures close to the shore have been measured higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius and higher).

Lake Michigan Temperatures During Winter

Lake temperatures during winter where thin ice is one of the greater hazards of the lake, some of which is hard to identify especially for first-timers.

As of recent, the average temperatures in Lake Michigan during the winter season are 36-39 degrees. The temperature around the shores is lower and it gets slightly warmer as you go to the center of the lake. The shore temperature could go on the lower 30s (or sub-zero temperatures) and the center of the lake would be around 39 to 40.

 Swimming during the winter is illegal in Lake Michigan, unless it is from one of the open beaches, with a lifeguard on duty, or scuba diving off a boat.

Chicago is known for its architecture, nightlife, food, lakefront, museums, art, and a whole lot more. There are dozens of reasons for living in Illinois and being serious about winter since you will be spending much of the year living with freezing temperatures. Make sure to seize the opportunity by going skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. Plus if you move to Illinois you need to be serious about sports. Just about everyone is a fan of sports.

Also, you'll need to have your chains ready If you are driving anywhere in Northern Indiana and always have your bag of quarters ready. Over 250 miles of toll roads operate in 12 northern counties of Illinois.

But we love it all! And if you're moving to NW Indiana, check out these great towns on the shores of Lake Michigan. Close to Chicago but a world away! 

More: A Checklist for Getting Your Home Ready to Market

We specialize in the following areas:

Portage | Chesterton Valparaiso Crown PointGriffith | Dyer | Highland | Scherereville | Munster | St. John

Posted in Community News