What do you know about Rantoul?

If you are like me and are not from there, your knowledge of Rantoul may be limited to, “Oh, that’s at the 250 exit off of I-57, right?” or “That’s that town that had the Chanute Air Force base; its closure really hurt Rantoul’s economy.”  I had a rare opportunity to meet with some of the leaders of the Village of Rantoul recently, and what a great experience it was!

History timeline of Chanute
History timeline of Chanute

Things started off with a tour of the Chanute Air Museum.  I had no idea that a place this interesting was so close to Champaign-Urbana.  I highly recommend that you visit there; it’s a great rainy-day destination!  We started off down the hall, past the silver timeline, outlining the important events in the base’s history.  We passed through a “historic street” of vintage memorabilia, past some WWI-era inspired rooms (we got the “nutshell” tour, apparently) :), then entered into the large indoor hangar area with the historic planes.

Replica of the Wright Brothers' aircraft
Replica of the Wright Brothers’ aircraft

What a place!  From a replica of the Wright Brothers’ plane, to some of the Air Force’s more modern high-speed aircraft, I was reminded of the human desire to achieve what seems impossible and how impressive these engineering feats were at times before the Internet and the modern world we live in today.

Older planes
Older planes

After our tour, we listened to several talks: by the mayor, by a local resident and real estate broker, and by a local appraiser.  Here is approximately what they said:

Mayor:  Rantoul is experiencing a “Renaissance”.  He thinks that Rantoul will outpace every other local town in growth.  Rantoul has had growth in manufacturing, research, hi-tech, etc.; all those industries are expanding and many of those company executives are having trouble finding suitable homes.  He has a plan for new retail amenities, especially in the downtown area, where a “New downtown with proposed restaurants” is in the works.  He acknowledged that the housing market suffered greatly as a result of Chanute closing.  He feels that Rantoul has organically grown to where it’s a part of a regional/global community with diverse industries and praised Rantoul’s diverse population.  The school system is quite unique.  Rantoul is a great places to live, and great places to live are great places to learn.

Huge facility
Huge facility

I had hoped that there would be a Q&A session, as I was curious as to what Rantoul is doing to attract businesses, but there wasn’t one.

Real Estate Broker:  84% of houses have sold under $100k.  Over 2,000 housing units became available after the base closed.  For homes up to 1,200sf, the average sale price is $63,000.  There hasn’t been much new construction.  Presently, there are 76 active listings; 80% of those are under $100k.  Some business have left and this has resulted in recent foreclosures.  A bit over 2% of the homes are currently for sale.  50% of the properties are rental-owned (including apartment buildings).  As far as demolition, the city tore down a 120-unit complex and 26 single-families, which had been bought by the village and demolished.  A 30-unit mobile home park, another 10-unit building next year, and another 11-unit after that are in the works.  Those vacant lots are starting to go on the market (42 currently for sale).  Future plans include a retirement community on the West side of town and new addition to the Lincoln’s Challenge program.  Rantoul has at least 10 parks, 3-4 ponds/lakes, a campground with 95 sites, and is home to the U of I Football training camp.

Appraiser:  The Rantoul recession has lasted 20 years and he feels that the groundwork has been laid for a resurgence.  The market in Rantoul today is a “balanced” one.  Days-on-market are stable (around 95) and average prices are steady or slightly increasing. Indian Hills subdivision is similar to Cherry Hills in Champaign and he’s discovered that the home values in Rantoul are at least 15-30% less than most of these other neighborhoods and markets.  He thinks that the worst is over.

View of high school from the school bus :)
View of high school from the school bus 🙂

Then, it was time for lunch!  A school bus took us from the museum to the Rantoul Township High School, where one of the gyms had tables and chairs set up.  Butcher Boy Burgers, a local eatery, catered this event.  The pulled pork was fabulous; I highly recommend it!  It was so good that I didn’t even think to take a photo. 🙂  Our lunch was followed by presentations from the superintendents of the high school and of the elementary schools, then with a tour of the school.  Here is what the superintendents had to say:

Cool things from shop class
Cool things from shop class

High School Superintendent Scott Amerio:  Their priority is to assist students in their ability to discover their life goals and provide staff with resources to assist them.  At RTHS, this goals looks like this: Honors courses, AP courses, and dual-credit courses.  There are also students who want to make a good living through being a contractor, doctor, plumber, etc.  Our students don’t have to choose a track; i.e. have a student in AP, as well as a shop class.  Or, a student may go to Parkland for automotive classes.  Test scores are not where they want them to be.  They won’t attempt to raise those test score goals if it is at the expense of taking their eyes off their goals for their students.  Safety: 13 students were suspended for fighting in 2014 as a result of 6 or 7 incidents (since it takes at least 2 people to have a fight).  Drugs: Acknowledged that there are drugs, so they’re very vigilant about following leads through social media, rumors, etc.  Remember that it’s a small percentage of the students.  Focus on the rest of the student body and staff, and community, who he’s proud of.  He’s proud of the kids who do a lot of volunteering for their community and for their peers.  Students made the podium he’s speaking at.

Woodworking studio
Woodworking studio

Another option is St. Malachi school, a pre-k through 8th grade school for parents who want a Catholic/Christian school.  The superintendent chose that school for both of his kids because they also instill the same type of faith and values that he does at home.  The high school’s current enrollment is about 750 students; the school can accommodate 1,200.

A 3D printer for the drafting students!
A 3D printer for the drafting students!

Elementary Schools  Superintendent Michelle Ramage:  There are 6 pre-K through 8th grade school buildings which service 1,650 students.  High school and elementary schools are 2 separate districts because Rantoul Township High School is a feeder school from other surrounding communities.  Achievement scores are not acceptable (70% of students are not achieving).  They know that this is a problem.  Almost 20% of students speak another language.  They have a strong bi-lingual program and are moving to a dual-language program where all students learn a foreign language in elementary school.  Their goal is a 16-17 class size for K-3rd grade.  RCS is a “green district” through energy-efficiency buildings, A/C, etc.  They are a work in progress, have a lot of new staff, and are proud of their leadership, who are looking forward to change.

The "Cafetorium" - Cafeteria/Auditorium
The “Cafetorium” – Cafeteria/Auditorium

My overall thoughts:  I was very impressed with the services at the high school.  I had about 2,000 students in my high school in Chicagoland and, short of having a swimming pool and in-house automotive classes, RTHS had all of the amenities of a much larger school.

Planting and dividing
Planting and dividing

Their horticulture program, as well as the other “hands-on” programs, along with the business class offerings, seem to offer a lot of options for both college- and tech school- bound students.  I personally believe that it is not the job of a school to teach values, morals, ethics, and love for other people; those things are taught in the home.  For things that a school is responsible for, Rantoul seems to really be on the ball with a top-notch facility and staff who want their students to succeed.

A 2003 replica of the original high school's facade
A 2003 replica of the original high school’s facade

Let me know if you’d like to learn more about Rantoul!  It really is a much less expensive place to live and it is very close to Champaign-Urbana.  Or, for more information about Rantoul from their website, visit: http://www.village.rantoul.il.us/

Where did I go?

I have not kept up with my posts and I am sorry.  Over the last few years, I have been exploring the various methods of advertising my business, coupled with what I actually enjoy doing.  I have gone back to the “basics” of what I enjoy: sharing some of my daily, and exceptional, experiences in real estate.  This way, we can navigate the waters of a real estate transaction, being as informed as possible, together.

Back in 2005 when I purchased my first home, I had no idea what I was really doing.  I looked at one house and bought it.  All I thought I needed to know was where to show up and how much money I needed to bring to the closing.  🙂  My agent at the time did not inform me that perhaps we should look at a few more homes, or that, even though it was a new home, I should seriously consider a home inspection.

I also didn’t think that anything could postpone the closing, so I had no problems with scheduling the curb-side delivery of a refrigerator to my new house the afternoon of the closing day.  Looking back, I know that I was extremely fortunate in how things worked out!  Perhaps it was my military mindset at the time, but I had made my plans and everything worked as it was supposed to.

This perfect execution is not always the case, no matter how hard everyone who is involved in the transaction works.  Things can happen that could postpone the closing, or, in rare cases, completely make a deal fall apart at the last minute.  I hope that you find the information in this blog to be useful to you (or to a friend) in your next real estate sale or purchase.  Come back for content often, or just subscribe!



Future Plans for the City of Urbana

As your real estate agent, one of my tasks is to be your area expert.  If you are looking to buy a home, purchasing in a location that suits your needs best is often just as important as the home itself.  If you are thinking about selling, I can use my knowledge of the area to market your home in a more comprehensive way to appeal to more buyers.

City Sign from the City of Urbana website

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to meet with several of Urbana’s city officials to discuss the City’s future plans for schools, parks, roads, commercial expansion, and other items of interest.  We spent about 2 hours going through Urbana and discussing the various points of interest we passed.  I have narrowed down the highlights for you so that it won’t take you two hours to learn what I learned.  I will start with some of the recent news-worthy items:

The Olympian Drive expansion – The projected start date for the expansion will be in 2013, with a plan to extend Olympian Drive from Duncan Rd in Champaign to Lincoln Rd in Urbana, with a bridge over the railroad tracks just West of Lincoln Ave.  At this point, the project is estimated to cost $20 million, with most of it ($18M) coming from state and federal funding, and Champaign/Urbana contributing $1M each.  The long-term plan is to extend Olympian Drive all the way East to Cunningham Avenue.  If 2013 is too long to wait, the next road improvement project is to re-construct Airport Road East of Cunningham Ave.  This project is scheduled to begin this summer, and the road improvements will service the Landis Farm and Somerset subdivisions (almost as far east as Brownfield Road).

Menards store on High Cross Road – You’ve seen the Menards signs for years, but no signs of development.  A few years ago, Menards purchased about 300 acres of land along High Cross, with the intent to build a Menards store and 500 residential homes (with Menards materials – genius!).  With the economic slow-down, however, the plans have been put on hold indefinitely, although the land has already been purchased.  Supposedly, Menards has purchased land in other areas of the Midwest also and is now trying to determine which of the areas they will pursue first.  Urbana is “doing what they can” to try to be at the top of that list.

Recent Pool Referendum – The people have spoken, and Urbana will be constructing a brand-new family aquatic center on Broadway Avenue, just North of Crystal Lake Park.  The referendum’s promise is for the facility to open in 2013.  The plan is to have an area with various pools and points of interest to appeal to a multi-generational clientele.  For instance, if grandparents want to take their grandchildren to the pool, there will be something for everyone to do.  At this point, the design and engineered is being prepared in order to start getting bids for the project.

The Historic Lincoln Hotel – If you’ve been through downtown Urbana recently, you’ve probably seen/heard the construction around this building.  The building has been purchased and will be renamed to the Urbana Landmark Hotel.  The building is currently being re-roofed and should partially open later this year.  The owner’s intent is to fully open to the public in 2012 as a full-service hotel, with “historical flavor and a high level of service”.

The old Denny’s building at 119 N. Race – The city does not own the building, but has given permission to the owners to utilize city funds to demolish it.  The footprint of the old building will be a parking lot and a green area.  The Courier Cafe might want to expand into this new area with outdoor seating, but at this time there are no plans for re-development.

If you have any specific questions about Urbana, please let me know!  I might have answers readily available for the following topics, in no particular order:

– UCBB (Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband) $20M grant

– Plans for school improvements throughout Urbana

– New offerings at the Urbana Free Library

– How some of the various projects around downtown Urbana will be financed

– The Lincoln exhibit at the County Courthouse

– Boneyard Creek $7M transformation plan

– Campus improvements, like the Gregory Place complex and Goodwin Avenue

– Future of the Windsor Swim Club (across from Meadowbrook Park)

– Urbana High School future athletic facility

– The Urbana U-Cycle recycling program

– The Urbana Landscape Recycling Center and its available services

– Sewer back-up assistance from the City of Urbana

– Carle Hospital expansion plans

– 5 Points development at Cunningham/University

– Plan for Weaver Park

– Beautification plan for North Cunningham Avenue

– Future expansion of bike paths

If you don’t see the topic that you’re looking for, just ask me!  The aforementioned items are just the things that I learned more about yesterday.  Over the years, I’ve accumulated a wealth of knowledge about the local area.  It was great to have an opportunity to get a quick update, though, so that I can have the most recent information for you.

How many additional pictures are there of a home? Now you know!

For some time now, as a service to my clients, I have been providing additional pictures of some of the homes for sale in Champaign county.

Until recently, for homes with additional pictures, there has been a tab at the top of the home information page that said ‘More Pictures’. (You can see this for yourself by going to my Featured Listings page and choosing one of the homes there)

While this was useful, I decided I could make it better. Now, for any given home with additional pictures, I actually tell you on the tab how many additional pictures that there are. So, instead of just saying ‘More Pictures’, the tab will now say ’24 More Pictures’, or ’19 More Pictures’. This might seem like a small thing, but little touches like this can really draw you into a home listing and encourage you to discover more about the home.

This is just one more way that I’m distinguishing myself from other Realtors around. Contact me. I’d love to have you as client.

Why does your calculator want me to put 20% down?!

I offer a popular mortgage calculator on my website at www.AroundCU.com/calc that you can use to determine what your mortgage payments will be on a home that you are interested in. You can also get to this mortgage calculator by clicking on the ‘Mortgage Calc’ link in the tabs at the top of any home’s information.

From looking at how clients use my website, one thing that I have noticed over and over again is that people quickly change the percentage of down payment on their dream home from 20% to something smaller. Usually 0%. Alas, for the average homebuyer in today’s economy it just isn’t realistic to make that drastic of a change. I’m not choosing 20% as a starting point because I am evilly wanting you to see a lower monthly payment. Read on, dear client, to find out the motive.
Continue reading Why does your calculator want me to put 20% down?!

What will $29,950 buy you in Champaign? How about a foreclosed home with a scary shower??

If you have thought about purchasing a foreclosure home because of the allure of getting an amazing deal, remember that in our area, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet a client at one of the least expensive homes available in Champaign right now, a two-story foreclosure with a basement, priced at $29,950 (there are several homes priced even lower).  I was the first to arrive, so I thought I’d go inside and take a look around before meeting my client.  This home is not for most people, so keep this in mind when you look at the photos.  Remember also that this home is less than $30,000, a rare find anywhere. read more and view photos

Hardee’s ‘Making it Happen’ Tour comes to Champaign!

I like Hardee’s. I’m especially fond of their biscuits, so I come to Hardee’s for breakfast quite often (a few times a week). A few weeks ago, the manager on duty extended an invitation to me to come to Hardee’s on Monday, August 17th, to partake in their 2nd Annual “Making it Happen” tour. Today was the last day of the tour, which visited the last 8 of 66 Hardee’s restaurants in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. At each location, the tour donated money to hometown charity groups, organizations and individuals. This year, a total of $25,000 was given to individuals and small groups where it has the most direct impact on lives, enabling them to continue ‘making it happen’. read more and view photo

Avoiding Real Estate Pitfalls Prior to Closing

Whether you are considering selling or buying your home, it is common to go through times of stress and through times of joy.  Regardless of how stressful things may be, when a home goes pending (a contract has been accepted), it is fair to expect that things will go normally, and in complete accordance with the dates and criteria set forth in the contract.  After all, when everything is written out in black and white, there is no room for mistakes, right? Continue reading Avoiding Real Estate Pitfalls Prior to Closing