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McHenry County Real Estate Blog

The Rick O’Connor Group


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 12

Realty Executives Cornerstone joins AIW

by The Rick O’Connor Group

       At the beginning of March, two local real estate professionals from Realty Executives Cornerstone became members of the American Warrior Initiative Real Estate Professionals team. Rick O’Connor (Managing Broker/Owner) and Victoria Suthers (REO Manager/Broker) participated in a Real Estate Professionals educational Boot Camp seminar in Lisle on February 21st. Per the AWI website, their group’s mission is as follows: “To educate, encourage, and inspire Americans to give back to our military. A key part of this initiative is the education platform for real estate agents and mortgage professionals.” Real Estate professionals with the AWI designation are specially equipped to assist not only veterans, but also active duty members of the military in their various real estate needs.

           The team at Realty Executives Cornerstone joins an elite group of professionals, led by Sean Parnell and Louise Thaxton, in striving to better serve our military personnel in the necessity of housing. AWI was founded in 2012 and has reached over 20,000 real estate and mortgage professionals during the last six years who share the passion for bringing more attention to this under-filled need in the real estate sector. This includes extensive knowledge of the variety of financing options and professionals to refer military families to as well as knowing what opportunities may be available for grants and other such benefits available to those who have served and continue to serve our country. On the February 21st training date, the real estate group that attended training was able to present $3,000 they raised to one veteran for their new service dog, which left very few in attendance with dry eyes.

        The AWI seminars travel across the country to bring awareness to the cause as well as generate further interest in those who wish to help those who serve and protect our great nation. In addition to the boot camps, AWI also works with providing opportunities to give back to military professionals who have been wounded during their service. Such opportunities include service animals, mortgage-free housing, grants for business ventures as well as home renovations and much more! Both Rick and Victoria, along with the rest of the staff in the office, are looking forward to taking what AWI has presented and what they have learned and applying it toward assisting the men and women in our area who have been brave enough to serve this country.

       Rick is very passionate about his efforts in this endeavor. “As it states in John 15:14 of the Bible: ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends.’ This is exactly what the brave service men and women who protect our country have done and do for us daily. For this reason alone it is important we not only show them our support verbally, but through our actions as well. AWI is an organization that will allow us to help bless them as they consider purchasing a home in our area. We here at Realty Executives Cornerstone have the utmost appreciation for these current and veteran service men and women and are thankful to have the opportunity to educate and serve them in a way that will benefit their lives," explained Rick.



by The Rick O’Connor Group

            Rick O'Connor and his team at Realty Executives Cornerstone / The Rick O'Connor Group have teamed up with Matterport, a cutting edge camera technology/program, to provide 3-dimensional virtual tours for homes listed within their brokerage.  While these tours are not utilized on all the listed properties, Rick's team is identifying which homes have the most potential benefit from the use of the technology and implementing the tours for those specific listings. This technology allows  the end user to view the home as though they're actually walking  through the home themselves. The use of such technology, paired with photos taken from drones to give a full aerial view of the property, is helping facilitate the sales of homes in the area.

            The tours can only be created using Matterport's specially designed camera. According to Matterport's website, their tours have seamless hosting, meaning there is no lag or delay when trying to view. There is no down time for things to load. They use their own player called 3D Showcase to display footage on not only PC or mobile devices, but also Samsung VR (Virtual Reality headsets) as well as Google Cardboard and Daydream technologies.

            Rick O'Connor's first use of the technology can be seen here: The viewer can navigate through the home utilizing all different angles in whatever order they like. There is no pre-determined order which the home must be viewed, and the tour technology will even allow you to step through closed doors into different rooms and have views of the yard from inside as well.

            By using this technology to view the home online, it will allow prospective buyers a better insight before physically visiting the home. This will not only give them a better comprehension of the layout, but it can help eliminate time from showings for both the buyer and the broker as well. Being able to virtually view the entire property can also answer a lot of questions for prospective buyers. By utilizing a full spectrum of technology to bring virtual viewing to new levels is allowing more information to be received by end users in  a quicker and more immediate fashion.

FAQ for Buyers!

by The Rick O’Connor Group

Real Estate is a necessary part of our daily lives. We all need  somewhere to live. In this day and age, with so many people relying less on professional help to start their search and more on the internet, it is important to know what lies ahead. Being informed helps provide buyers with the best potential to buy a property which suits their needs. First, buyers should know that, generally speaking, using a licensed Broker/Realtor comes at NO COST to them. Real Estate Professionals are paid out of the proceeds of the sale of the property. That means the amount you pay for the home is already inclusive of the Realtor fee(s). Many people do not realize such and avoid quality advice as a result.

 Below are a few key definitions most relevant to buyers in the purchase of a property.

The first step in searching for a home is to be prequalified for a mortgage. Buyers should meet with their lender prior to looking at properties to know what they're able to afford, as well as what type of loan they're looking to pursue. Rates vary from lender to lender, and also from person to person depending on numerous factors including credit rating. A typical fixed rate 30 year mortgage interest rate in February 2017 is approximately. 4.16% according to Freddie Mac. Another important piece of information to know before meeting with a lender is the amount you are prepared to have as a down payment. If you have less than 20% of the purchase price to put down, you will need to have PMI, or private mortgage insurance. Your lender will be able to explain that to you. The following are common types of mortgages that you can consider when preparing for a real estate purchase.

Conventional Mortgages are the most commonly used loans. These loans are NOT backed by the government.  Conventional mortgages can vary in their lengths as well.

 FHA mortgages are backed by the Federal Housing Administration. These loans are commonly used among those with little to no funds for down payments. FHA loans are subject to more stringent guidelines in terms of property condition than conventional loans.

VA Loans are backed by the Department of Veterans affairs and only available to veterans or their current spouses.

 203K Rehab Loans are most commonly used on distressed properties. These loans budget for the borrower to complete extensive repairs on the property that will, upon completion, become their primary residence.

There are other types of loans but these are the most commonly used today.


There are three major classifications when it comes to the type of sale of a particular property. Those are Traditional, Short Sale, and Foreclosure/REO/Bank Owned.

 A Traditional sale is an owner to owner transaction. The current owner of the home is selling the property and have listed it for an amount they feel comfortable with. In traditional sales, buyers typically have the most leeway to negotiate not only the price, but other relevant terms of the sale.

A Short Sale is the sale of a home by an owner in conjunction with the company holding their mortgage to a new owner for a price lower than what is currently owed on the property. The term short refers to the amount of proceeds received by the existing lender. Buyers can receive a great deal on a property in these sales, but need to be patient as the process of purchasing the property in question takes longer than other types of sales.  Short sales typically take a minimum of 90 days, or 3 months, to close.

A Foreclosure/REO(Real Estate Owned)/Bank Owned sale is one where the buyer deals directly with a bank or lending company that has legal possession of the property. The purchase of a property owned by a bank or lending company can be substantially lower than other types of properties, however the room for negotiation on home conditions is typically much lower than with a traditional sale. A lot of these properties are sold AS IS, meaning the bank or lending company will not  make any repairs to the property requested by a buyer.

If you're prepared to start looking into purchasing a home, we are happy to help. Our team of expert Realtors are waiting for your call and happy to help put your family into a property suited for YOUR particular needs. Call our office for any and all questions you may have today at 815-477-3000! We can also refer you to a number of lender options if you're unsure where to start.

Welcome Donna Palmer to the REC Family!

by The Rick O’Connor Group

The Rick O'Connor Group and Realty Executives Cornerstone are thrilled to announce the addition of our newest office member and Broker, Donna Palmer. Prior to joining Realty Executives Cornerstone, Donna worked with RE/MAX Plaza in McHenry for 10 years. "Joining the profession in a turbulent market (2006) offer me a very clear view of  what people need in an agent," Palmer explains. "In my experience, they are looking for someone who is honest, trustworthy, caring, and willing to listen to their needs. I strive to fit that profile," she added. Prior to working in real estate, Donna had 20 years of  administrative and managerial experience.
        A graduate of McHenry East Campus High School, Donna is a lifelong McHenry County resident. Palmer is one of six children. Still living in McHenry with her boyfriend Scott, Donna is proud to have raised two children, Hanna and Vaughn, both of whom are now grown adults, in the McHenry area. Palmer prides herself on being a 'hands-on' learner. She has continued to educate herself through numerous courses since her time at McHenry East and continues to learn and grow through experience.
        When not selling real estate or spending time learning, Donna enjoys traveling, boating, and home decorating. "I am creative and I love to stage homes," she explains. She also loves music and is most passionate about her family and friends. Her passion for residential real estate is a source of pride and will certainly help her as she works to further her career here at Realty Executives Cornerstone. We know Donna is going to be a great asset to our brokerage and the Realty Executives family. "We have worked with Donna over the last 10 years and we love her professionalism her enthusiasm and her heart and are very excited and very honored to have her now as part of their Realty Executives Cornerstone family. We expect her to continue making a positive and encouraging effect on numerous people's and families lives," said Rick O'Connor, Managing Broker and Owner.


Looking ahead at 2017 Market Conditions

by The Rick O’Connor Group

The McHenry County real estate market thrived in 2016. We compiled  data regarding single family detached and attached homes for 2016 and  2015 from Midwest Real Estate Data to review McHenry County's housing  market changes over the last two years. Compared to 2015, prices were  up over 5.1% The average sold price of single family homes in 2016 was $221,975, where it was $210,653 as compared to 2015. Attached single family homes saw a 8.47% price increase with a 2016 average sales price of $138,806 compared to $127,054 in 2015. 4,594 single family homes sold in 2016, accounting for a total sales volume of  $1,019,752,485. The number of single family home sales showed an 11.43% increase over the prior year, while attached single family homes sales increased by 5.6%. In both 2016 and 2015, the price point with the most sales in McHenry County was between $150,000 - $199,999. 913 single family homes sold in that price point during 2015, compared to 1,022 homes in 2016; a 10.67% increase. The average time on the market for single family properties in that price point declined by 21.15% to 82 days as well.

With values showing a continued increase over the last few years, we are taking a look at the forecast what to expect in 2017. Sitting down with Rick O'Connor, Managing Broker and Owner here at Realty Executives Cornerstone, we asked what he's expecting for McHenry County real estate in 2017. "For the most part, I think the market is going to hold stable in 2017," Rick explains. "Consumer confidence is up. With the projected economic forecast, the new presidency and regime, I suspect a slight increase in overall sales. If there is any increase in value, I expect it will be minimal. 2 to 3% in total compared to 2016," he added. "A lot of the change will be dependent on interest rates. I expect they will go up to 5%. The unknown is whether they will reach 6% or not. If the interest rates reach 6%, the finances may be a deterrent for potential buyers. Those figures will play into whether or not we will continue to see a rise in ownership rates versus rental rates as well." When asked if the market warranted an increase in rental cost, Rick was confident that things would remain stable. I do not expect to see the cost of rent increase for properties in 2017 compared to 2016," he explained.

What other changes might we see in 2017? Well, we should see less investors in the market for new acquisitions. "The number of investors in the marketplace, which is shrinking because there are less homes to buy and fix up. They are not available as frequently or as often as they have been before," Rick stated.  If you're looking to sell in 2017, you should be focused on getting your home ready to market NOW. My advice for sellers is that we are expecting a strong Spring market. Don?t wait until March/April/May to be ready to list your home. You don't want to wait too long. And don't overspend. Values may be up, but stick to simple repairs, general maintenance, fresh paint and carpet along with simple staging and de-cluttering the property. As a seller, you want your home to appear as light, bright, and spacious as possible," he explains. This is becoming more of a seller's market again.  If you've been considering selling your home, now would be the time."

As far as purchasing a home, patience is key. "Buyers are in a bit of a Catch 22. Right now, inventory is limited. Therefore choices are limited. More homes are going to become available in the spring. The question is when will interest rates start to creep up. Be prepared to spend 3 to 4 months as a buyer before finding and closing on the right property to suit your needs," Rick added.

In looking at McHenry County compared to the surrounding areas, things are on par. "In comparison to Cook, Kane, and Lake Counties, the real estate market is fairly level. McHenry County is in line with homes in those areas. The numbers are not dramatically different, but there are different price points. Lake and Kane Counties are generally seen as more White Collar Counties.  McHenry County is known as more of a Blue Collar County. Our pricing is more in line with the housing prices and job market based on that," said Rick. Overall, we expect things to continue in a positive direction for the local real estate market this year. If you're buying, be patient but diligent to get the right home at the right price. As a seller, list now while inventory is down to get the best return on investment. As always, if you or your family need help in your real estate journey, please don't hesitate to contact our office for advice! 


by The Rick O’Connor Group


Realty Executives Cornerstone Holds Food Drive

 Charitable giving an integral part of the brand internationally and by brokerage

CRYSTAL LAKE, ILLINOIS NOVEMBER 17, 2016 – More families will be able to eat this holiday season thanks to the Realty Executives International Canned Food Drive, held throughout the end of 2016. This is an international effort across the entire Realty Executives system, including at Realty Executives Cornerstone. 

The international real estate franchise company has developed a food drive campaign that Realty Executives franchises can employ around the world. Here at our office, we are accepting donations until December 18th to help our community! This effort is aimed to improve the lives of those in need in communities/neighborhoods near a wide variety of Realty Executives offices.

“We’re in the business of finding homes for families. But a house is not a home without food on the table,” said Rich Rector, president of Realty Executives International. “It’s important that Realty Executives offices do our part to make the holidays a brighter place for people struggling to feed their families this holiday season.”


by The Rick O’Connor Group

    The Rick O'Connor Group and Realty Executives Cornerstone proudly  
present the newest member of our office, Kevin Kalbach. Kevin has come  
to Realty Executives to re-enter the real estate world after having  
been removed from it for 15 years. Prior to deciding that his path was  
leading him back to this realm, Kevin worked as a career firefighter  
and 911 operator after studying fire science in college. Having
retired from that line of work, he still feels compelled to work in a  
field that helps people. "I still want to serve and help people in  
some way," Kalbach explained. "What better way than helping  
individuals and families find a place to live where they can call home  
with a lifetime of memories, dreams, and hope."

    Kevin grew up in Northlake. He received his fire science degree from  
Triton College and has spent the last several decades building a life  
with his family. The Kalbach household has been in the McHenry County  
area for several years. Currently residing in McHenry itself, Kevin's  
youngest of four children is still in school in the area and acts as a  
member of Chapel Youth Group, a part of The Chapel Church. His two  
oldest sons are active Marines. "I am very passionate about serving  
those who are/have served us," he added.

    Outside of his family and work, Kevin also enjoys his faith,  
volunteering, and water activities such as swimming, boating, and  
fishing. Kevin is very invested in his relationship with God. "In my  
journey, I want people to experience the love, passion, and compassion  
I have for them and their loved ones," he expounded. He also cites one  
of his hobbies as flying Quatrefoil kites. "Quatrefoil kites are huge,
like parachutes, and are a real adrenaline rush to fly," he explained.  
When he's not seeking thrills, he's also interested in woodworking  
which he says is quite relaxing.

    "Immediately after selling my home with Rick O'Connor, I realized I
wanted to work with Realty Executives Cornerstone," Kevin stated.  
"Rick O'Connor was a true pleasure to work with. He was very  
knowledgeable, passionate, and compassionate to those he comes in  
contact with," he added. We welcome Kevin into our Realty Executives  
family with excitement and encouragement. With Kevin's ambition and  
our knowledge, we hope to jump start his re-entry into the field and
help him excel more than ever before. "Kevin has been a great client  
and friend and brother in Christ. When he decided to become a licensed  
Broker, knowing his heart and willingness to serve, I knew he would be  
a great fit for our office. Here is the beauty of  Kevin and the  
energy he has already brought to our office: 2 transactions in his  
first two weeks! That speaks volumes to his commitment to serve and be  
a resource center for residents of McHenry and Lake Counties!" added  

Welcome New Executive Todd Couture to the Cornerstone Family!

by The Rick O’Connor Group

The Rick O'Connor Group and Realty Executives Cornerstone are proud to announce that we now have a new Executive joining our team. Todd Couture has become the newest member of our bustling agency as of April 2015. A graduate of ISU, Todd is an Illinois native with strong ties to the McHenry County community as a whole. He was born and raised in Woodstock, where his parents still live, and his father, Fred Spitzer recently retired from a position with the Woodstock Police Department. Todd, his wife Jennifer who works as a nurse practitioner, and their nearly 9 month old daughter, Mika, now live in Huntley.

Todd, who studied economics and English while in school, has proven his ability to adapt in a small business environment and is looking forward to tackling the real estate realm. He has a strong background in sales and is hoping to apply that in this booming industry. Todd expects to use his existing business knowledge, paired with the real estate experience of our office, to launch his career as a broker at full-speed during the spring market.

Beyond work, Todd enjoys spending time with his family and keeping up with community events. He founded two social media pages on Facebook and Twitter called Huntley 360. Todd says the goal of these pages is "informing Huntley and the surrounding areas about what is happening: from sports, kids in the community, places to go, and community updates to home values and market information." Growing up with five siblings, Todd has an excellent understanding of the importance of a sense of community and intends to try to convey that in his real estate endeavor.

"I chose Realty Executives because of Rick O'Connor," Couture explained. "Seeing his success over 30+ years intrigued me. I know if I can be mentored by defining what success is on all levels of Rick's experience, I want to be a part of that," he stated. We are very excited to add Todd to our Realty Executives family and know he will find success in this industry. When asked what drives him, Todd explained "my passion is about relationships in the community. I want to help build the community as a whole." 

"We are all very excited to have Todd join our team of Executives,"  explained Rick O'Connor, Owner and Managing Broker of Realty  Executives Cornerstone. "He has already demonstrated a strong desire   to be a study of the marketplace and to become one of the area's top   real estate professionals. He will make a great addition to our  Cornerstone family." Welcome aboard Todd Couture!


by The Rick O’Connor Group

Congratulations to Realty Executives Cornerstone team members on their outstanding achievements in the industry for 2014.


Larry Lang, team buyer's agent, was awarded GOLD for his sales in 2014.

Team High, comprised of Mitch and Tara High, brokers out of our Algonquin office, were awarded SILVER for their sales in 2014!

Yolanda LaLuz, also based out of our Algonquin office, received SILVER for her sales level as well! 

Rick O'Connor, Managing Broker/Owner, was named to the Realty Executives International Circle of Excellent for 2014 for his outstanding level of support, growth, and dedication to his Executives and their business! 


by The Rick O’Connor Group

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 12




Contact Information

Photo of The Rick O’Connor Group Real Estate
The Rick O’Connor Group
Realty Executives Cornerstone
7115 Virginia Rd.
Crystal Lake IL 60014
Cell: 815-790-7200
Fax: 815-459-1112