Monthly Archives: May 2004

Smooth Murabaha Closing

I recently helped an Islamic client complete a “Murabaha” closing. Islam prohibits payment of interest. This makes it difficult (if not impossible) to buy a property using a mortgage.

Devon Bank has a Murabaha program that works quite well. At closing the Buyer assigns the contract to the bank, the seller deeds the property the bank and the bank immediately transfers the house to my Buyer for the original purchase price plus the bank’s “profit.”

There is no reference to interest payments in the loan documents and all of the bank’s profit (interest) is rolled into the loan agreement. The bank sent a representative to the closing to help us all out and it closed easily.

One potential pitfall: There are two deeds in a Murabaha closing. One from Seller to Bank and a second one from Bank to Buyer. If you are closing in a town that has a transfer tax make sure you get an exempt stamp for the second deed.

Ding Dong the Exemption Postcard is Dead

I just received a letter from the Cook County Assessor telling me that I did NOT need to fill out a homeowner’s exemption packet this year. For years, the county insisted on annually mailing postcards (and in recent years a packet) to every homeowner in the county. Homeowners were forced to sign and return the card in order to qualify for the homeowner’s exempetion for real estate taxes (reducing taxes about $400.00). Needless to say many people overlooked the cards or they were lost in the mail

The county has wisely dispensed with the yearly application. Now you only need to apply for the exemption if you just bought your property.

This change came out of left field. I called the assessor on April 16 and was told the packets were late and would be mailed soon. No one will miss filling out what was really an unnecessary form.

Which multiple listing service is for me?

When you list your home for sale with a real estate agent, the agent inputs data on your house in a multiple listing service web site available solely by other real estate agents (not the general public).

There are two multiple listing services in the Chicago area: MLSNI (the big one) and MAP (the small one– is an acronym for Mt. Prospect, Arlington Heights and Palatine). Some real estate companies have recently dropped MLSNI in favor of the smaller MAP. Several Coldwell Banker offices on the north shore have pulled out of MLSNI and now use MAP exclusively. The reasons for this are cloudy at best (and you probably don’t care anyway). MLSNI does have a public web site that is very good and shows most of what’s on the market. MAP does not have a public site, but relays listings through to the Tribune and

What does this mean to you? If you list your home for sale, make sure your real estate agent puts the listing in BOTH MLSNI and MAP. You pay a lot to list your home and you should get maximum exposure.

Bad Combo: Will and Safe Deposit Box

I recently had a rather unpleasant experience with a bank in trying to get an original will out of the bank’s safe deposit box. The client’s mother had just passed away and he knew that her will was locked in the safe deposit box. My client was not a signer on the safe deposit box. The box was in his deceased Mom’s own name.

Rule #1: Always put one or two trusted heirs/relatives on your safe deposit box so they can get access to it.
We met and I told my client that we could get access to the safe deposit box because he was an “interested person” as defined in the act (mainly he was “interested” in not being hassled to death by the bank). (The Safety Deposit Box Opening Act is an Illinois law that allows this.)

The law says that if an affidavit is produced saying that an original will may be in the safe deposit box, the bank will send the will directly to the clerk of court for filing. The bank will not allow access to any other things in the box. I put together an affidavit and my client drove to the bank. After 5 or 6 phone calls the bank refused to accept the form. They wanted the affidavit on their form.

Rule #2: Banks are hyper and follow routines set up by someone 50 years ago. Ask them first if they require their own form to be used (even if it reads the same as your form).

We got the will from the safe deposit box and can now open the probate estate.

Rule #3: Never lock an original will in a safe deposit box. Keep it at home and give copies to relatives/heirs with the location of the original marked on the copy.

Better yet sign a living trust, instead of a will. This will bypass the need to hunt down the original will like it was the treasure of the Sierra Madres.

Scan Away

scannerFor the last five years I used a Canon flatbed scanner that was slow, but reliable. I read some reviews online and decided to upgrade to a faster sheet fed scanner. I narrowed it down to the Fujitsu Snapscan and the Visioneer 450

I picked the Visioneer for about $600 and bought it on It scans directly into PDF format which is essential for me because I use PDF to store documents and to send letters and other things faxed to me on to clients by email.

My only complaint (this may have more to do with my fax machine than the scanner): When I receive documents on my fax it curls them a little at the top. The scanner jammed alot at first when I tried to scan them in top first. The solution was to scan them bottom first, where they were flatter, and I haven’t had a jam up since.

This scanner is a must have. It saves a lot of time (scans 20 pages per minute) and helps us keep documents flowing out to clients and is an incredible aid in the never-ending attempt to stay organized.