Keeping up with Chicago's North Shore Real Estate Market!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Are we there yet?

Watching the market can become a fulltime preoccupation with real estate agents. It's essential to understand a local market conditions both for pricing a prospective listing and for helping buyers make offers. We've got all sort of indicators and reporting that helps us figure out whether the market is Hot or Not.  While the reports are useful and informative, there are other signs to watch... here are a few others:

Market Time - It's been my observation that market time is really a great cue to whether the housing market is doing well or not. In general, if a home is priced correctly it should go under contract in less than 90 days -- in a slow market. In a hot market, it usually is under contract in than 10 days. Buyers move very quickly in a hot market, because they know the property might not be there, if they don't. When the market tanked and nothing was moving, market times -- even on fairly priced homes -- become prolonged. But then I had a listing a few years ago: two offers on the property for full asking price the day BEFORE we listed it in the computer... clearly a hot market.

Scarcity of great homes - I remember in the boom years how certain houses were just not there (e.g., reasonably priced homes in East Lake Forest).   I remember working with buyers in 2004 and it was incredibly difficult to find nice properties - at all.   This happens when a market is hot.

Multiple Offers - you know the market is heating up when many homes are receiving multiple offers.   I remember a few years when it seemed like every deal I was working on had multiple agents involved... Multiple offers are incredibly stressful, because someone always loses.  That is pretty clear sign that the market is getting warm. 

Surprising Sales - While unusual, sometimes properties sell for higher prices than you expect.  There is no rhyme nor reason for it -- but if you look at the market as a reflection of the economy at large, maybe things are improving... a new company has come into the area and has added new buyers with different income levels.   Maybe it's a sign of a healthier market -- or maybe it's an anomaly.   In either case, it's something to watch.   

Inventory Trends -- If you read my monthly reports, you know that I believe watching inventory levels and understanding the months supply of property is the best way of telling the health of a market.   When the inventory of available properties increases, prices go down   and market time tends to increase .   The reverse is true when inventory levels go down.   When pricing your home, try to understand the inventory levels in the key price point.   For example, say you have house that has a estimated market value of $775K - $825K.   
Inventory levels in your market:
$700K-$750K - 4 months supply
$750K - $800K - 8 months supply
$800K - $950K - 12 months supply

Given that scenario, I would be inclined to price my own home around $775K... see if I can't get someone to stretch into that price range, where there is a shortage of supply -- I definitely wouldn't price my house over $800K when there is already a surplus of available homes.

So are we there yet?   Is the market hot?  Look for the signs -- they are certainly there!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

How's the Market as of October 1, 2018

October is on the way and you can certainly feel it in the air.   There is something so refreshing about autumn after a hot summer. 

So how was the market in September? These next charts show units sold and the median prices.

September was a bit of a slow month in many of the communities.   The median prices went both up and down... the number of units sold decreased as well.  The months of inventory is the best way to determine the health of a housing market.  Anything less than 6 months is considered a sellers' market -- anything more than 8 months is considered a buyers' market. The level of inventory has not deviated much over the last few months.  There continues to be a shortage of inventory in Wilmette and Evanston with a surplus in Kenilworth and Lake Forest.

In the next chart, I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale this month was an new construction, 6100 SF home on wide half-acre property in East Glencoe.

There are currently 169 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of October, 10 houses closed in this price range:

Sold this Month
# for Sale
Highland Park
Lake Forest
Lake Bluff

It's good to see the inventory of high end listings come down by double-digits! 

Here's wishing you a beautiful October.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Green Tips - recycle the box

If you're like me, you love Amazon Prime. I find that I use it more and more for basic things like laundry detergent and paper towels! Call me lazy, but I love it.

That said, my garage is starting to be overloaded with empty boxes. I can't quite put them in the landfill -- after all I might need them... right?

Sound familiar?

I just learned about a new service that will enable you to reuse the boxes and do something good for others.  Use the boxes to make donations. Through the Give Back Box program, you can select the charity of your choice to send your unwanted household items using your used boxes.

Such a great way to keep keep waste out of landfills while helping out others.

Check it out... I am.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My favorite websites for home and garden

As you all know the Internet is a wealth of information -- I use Google daily and am always amazed at what is out there. People sometimes ask me - which real estate website do you recommend? I wrote a blog post about it a while back -- my "go to" site for searching homes is I find it's the most accurate and reliable if you want to know what is listed with real estate agents. ( allows individuals to list their own homes, so there will be homes in Zillow that are not listed with a broker.)

But I have other favorites that I'd like to share:

Houzz is wonderful. It's a platform for home remodeling and design, bringing homeowners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community. (

Two others I recommend are:
House & Home (
This Old House (

Image result for garden sign
The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK's leading gardening charity whose purpose is to promote horticulture and gardening. While aimed at gardeners in the UK,  the site offers blogs and forums, articles, and an amazing database of plants that any gardener can take advantage of.

The Chicago Botanic Garden has something equivalent.    If you check on Horticulture tab, there is both plant and gardening information for the home gardener.

When in doubt, I find the UoI extension website a fabulous resource for plant information:

For further ideas, check out my page, Information and Resources.  Even more websites are listed there.  I have some great boards for home and garden on Pinterest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Remembering the Goodness

It's Tuesday.   I can never forget that other September Tuesday.  The sky was crystal clear and gloriously beautiful - it was a perfect day.  In a matter of minutes, our lives were turned upside down by those horrific events.   We saw in living color the cruelty and worst of mankind. 

But we also saw the best: the heroic actions of so many first responders and the passengers on Flight 93; the immense generosity of so many people and the world coming together in sympathetic kindness for a brief moment.

In these days of political wrangling, yelling and positioning -- I want to remember the goodness of those few horrific days.  It's hard to believe it has been 17 years since that tragic day.   I like to remember the unity of the nation in the weeks after 9/11 and pray that at some point that sentiment returns to our daily interactions with each other. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

5 Real Estate Pricing Myths

When it comes to selling homes, the price is very often the “hot topic” whether you are the seller or buyer. The process involved in determining the appropriate listing price isn’t always what one might think, though.

In fact, it ultimately comes down to a position within the existing competition. Let’s take a moment to delve into some common misconceptions about pricing…

Overpricing isn’t a big deal since you can always lower the list price
No homeowner wants to leave money on the table. But starting with an unrealistic or overly-ambitious asking price isn’t the way to achieve the highest possible sales price for your home.

In fact, overpriced homes tend to linger on the market, making them harder to sell. And yes, you can always lower the list price but you should keep in mind that the largest pool of buyers sees your home within days of it hitting the market – and if you keep reducing the price, they may assume there’s something wrong with the property. Buyers also factor in market time when determining their offer price and what they perceive to be fair market value.

To generate maximum exposure and interest, it’s essential to price your home accurately during that critical “New Listing” period.

Your home is worth the amount you paid (or more)
Every market is different and trends vary block by block. The market shifts constantly which can lead to upward and downward price trends.  However, just because a high-level report shows an increase in pricing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that trickles down to every property.

While all homeowners wish to make a profit, it’s important to be mindful of pricing trends in your hyper-local market. In sum, what you paid for the home and the period of time you owned it do not necessarily impact the list price. As mentioned above, it actually comes down to how you are positioned (price-wise) amongst the current competition.

Your neighbor just sold their home for $X, so you can sell yours for $X too
Like we said, trends vary block by block – but even homes on the same block vary in price. Every home is unique, and beyond location, you’ll need to consider other property attributes such as features, condition, and other criteria that affect the price. Maybe one home has a finished basement and the other doesn’t, or one has 4 bedrooms and the other has 3 – these are all factors that go into pricing a home.

A lack of inventory means you can be aggressive with pricing
In the Chicagoland area, there is a lot of talk about a lack of inventory. But that’s the macro view. Supply and demand vary by location, product type, and price. If homes in your submarket are flying off the shelf, you might be able to be more aggressive in your pricing strategy, but if you live in an area that doesn’t see a lot of activity, a more conservative pricing strategy will serve you better.

Renovation costs should be added to the price
While renovations can help add value to your home and may help your home sell faster, you shouldn’t automatically assume that you will recoup all the costs for home improvement projects (i.e. kitchen and bath remodels or a new deck). The National Association of REALTORS 2017 Remodeling Impact Report shows that sellers see a 64% return for every dollar spent on improvements, on average.

At the end of the day, setting the right listing price right out of the gate is crucial when it comes to generating interest and top dollar for your home. So, if you’re a seller, how can you be sure to do that?

Here at @properties, we have an exclusive, digital tool called the interactive Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), which helps us estimate the current value of your home based on factors like market activity and comparable properties. Here’s why a CMA helps sell your home.

For more information on pricing or to receive your own CMA, click here.

Source: @properties blog

Sunday, September 2, 2018

How's the Market as of September 1, 2018?

Labor Day Weekend - somehow that always feels to me like the beginning of a new year.   New season -- hopefully a new market too -- Fall is often a busy time in real estate. 

So how was the market in August? These next charts show units sold and the median prices.

The months of inventory is the best way to determine the health of a housing market.  Anything less than 6 months is considered a sellers' market -- anything more than 8 months is considered a buyers' market. The level of inventory has not deviated much over the last few months.  There continues to be a shortage of inventory in Wilmette and Evanston with a surplus in Kenilworth and Lake Forest.

In the next chart, I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale this month was an exceptional Kenilworth, 1.3 acre lakefront contemporary home that was built in 2009.

There are currently 188 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of August, 17 houses closed in this price range:

Sold this Month
# for Sale
Highland Park
Lake Forest
Lake Bluff

And so our Fall market begins with September. One can hope that everything picks up and there is a robust fall market! That said, sometimes we see this slowdown when there is a national election like this year. Time will tell.

 Have a beautiful September!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Thought for the day...

As I have been "decluttering" my office, I came across something from Wendy Bergseth. Whether she wrote herself, or simply chose to share someone else's words -- I can her voice in this text. Such good thoughts to think about these days....

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Green Tips - Staying Green in Fall

As the leaves change color and kids go back to school, there are several ways we can all do our part to make the daily routine and seasonal chores more eco-friendly. 
  1. Host a Swap Party. Reusing instead of buying new is a great way to save money and to take a more environmentally friendly approach to school shopping. This also a great idea for your own clothes and kids’ school supplies!  (My niece who lives in Washington DC is in a mother's group that regularly swaps childrens' clothes with each other -- her boys always look fantastic!)
  2. Navigate Safe and Sustainable Travel to School. Start a carpool to cut down on the number of cars going to school, or consider finding a safe bike route that families can ride together on for the trek. 
  3. Pack Lunch the Reusable Way. Reusable lunchboxes and utensils will cut down on waste in a big way. Many lunch containers now offer smaller containers (check out stainless steel options) within the box itself, perfect for snacks, sandwiches, and any other treats you pack for your kids at school.
  4. Compost Yard Waste and Leaves. Burning leaves is not an opton and filling up yard waste bins adds up to major space taken at the landfill. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to contribute to, or start, a fantastic composting system with those excess leaves. Your gardening will benefit greatly from the nutrient rich result of composting yard waste.
  5. Clean Indoors with Green Products. 5 billion: the number of pounds of chemicals that the institutional cleaning industry uses each year. Cut back on that staggering figure and keep your house healthier all in one by choosing products that are nontoxic, biodegradable, and are made from renewable sources. If you not sure of what brand to buy, make your own cleaning solvents from apple cider vinegar and baking soda and a little warm water to wipe grime away from almost any surface.

Source: Piedmont Environmental Alliance

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Fact or Myth? 5 home buying myths...

Not too long ago, I got a phone call from one of my buyers. They were in panic -- the preliminary closing document had come back and more funds were expected than they had budgeted for at the close. They had only thought only a certain amount would be due. (It turned out that everything was OK, but there was moment of distress... they were misunderstanding the closing statement.) 

That said, one myth that I have seen is a naive thought that the buyers only need to come up with the down payment amount when they want to purchase a home. Here is that myth and some other ones debunked.

Myth #1: The only money needed for purchasing a home, is the down payment.
If only that were true! When I moved to Lake Forest, it felt like I was writing checks every day... just for starters, the home inspection cost over $500!    Various municipalities require the purchase of transfer stamps -- for example in Wilmette -- the cost of the transfer tax is $3/$1000. That would mean a home buyer would have an upfront fee of $3,000 on a $1M home. There are loan fees, processing fees, etc. When purchasing a home, I suggest buyers assume at least 2-4% of the purchase price for miscellaneous expenses upfront as well as closing costs.

Myth #2: Home inspections are a waste of money.
Even on a little condo, I recommend a home inspection... you never really know what is happening with a property: there might be a heating problem, mold in the attic, a sluggish dishwasher... who knows what else? That's not to say, that some inspectors go overboard making buyers feel like they are buying a lemon. A balanced inspection of the home can enable buyers to have a more informed opinion about the property they are buying.  A home inspection is rarely is a waste of money. 

Myth #3: The selling price should be 95% of asking price.
Maybe this is just my market, but I can't ignore how many people actually believe this. I can remember my first sale -- another agent told me that the initial starting position would be 90% of asking and we would meet in the middle at 95%. If that was true, then why is there a negotiation at all? At the time I thought that was a strange way of looking at it... I still do.  
The selling price almost always turns out to be fair market value. FMV is what a buyer will pay and a seller will accept. FMV's ebb and flow based on the market... there is no fixed % that buyers will pay. Today, there is so much information available about property values, that buyers KNOW or have a pretty good idea what the fair price should be for a home. Therefore, homes that are priced competitively often sell for more than 95% -- sometimes 97%, 98% and even over 100% of asking price. Homes that are overpriced can sell for as low as 80% of asking. That 95% number is just an AVERAGE... certainly not a fact.

Myth #4: I don't need to worry about the schools, since my kids are grown (or I don't have kids).
You may love the house and it may be in your price range, but that's only half of it. The neighborhood/village/town you choose really matters. Quality of the schools drive up/down property values -- good schools make a difference in the value of your home long term. While evaluating homes absolutely consider the schools as well as the walkability, commute time, and any other quality of life features. This is going to be your long term home -- not just your house.

Myth #5 Homes are a good investment.
One survey showed that buyers believed home values appreciate by 7 percent a year. Historically, home values in a normal market appreciate by 2 to 5 percent in a year. So no, homes are not a particularly good investment. If you want to make money, then invest in the stock market... not the housing market. I believe one should enjoy their home; update it for their pleasure and when it comes to sell, be realistic about market conditions. I love this Knight Kiplinger's quote:

"I regard my home as a place to live, not as an investment. It is not a substitute for retirement savings."
Fact or Myth? There are many other myths about purchasing a home. These only a few... what other myths do you think need to be dispelled?