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

Contact Ann

call or text me: 847-691-1111 or email:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Next Chapter

Are you one of the 76.4 million babies that were born between 1946 and 1963? Are you thinking about the next chapter of your life and trying to make decisions about the future?

The Next Chapter is the event just for you!  Susan Kelsey and I are bringing this unique program of local experts together to help us
plan and answer some of these looming questions: Retire or keep working? Downsize or age in place? Trying to understand Social Security or Medicare? So many decisions – so many options.

Luncheon speaker is Sunny Morton, award-winning writer and popular genealogy speaker whose lectures share a unique brand of warmth, humor, expertise and industry knowledge. She is the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites and Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy.

Save the date - April 21 - Gorton Community Center

For more details, speaker bios, and to register for this complementary event go to:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

My Life in Real Estate -- Stranger things have happened!

Life as a real estate agent has its highs and lows ... and some really funny moments.   I thought I would share some of my memorable moments in real estate... and the lessons learned... 

The Dog
On one of my listings, my clients had a very tame and sweet little beagle.  With one of the showings, the owners needed to leave the dog in the house.  The family, who came to tour the house, brought their children with them.  One of the kids completely freaked over this sweet little dog.  Even the dog was scared at the screaming.  The couple had to leave and never saw the house!
Lesson to sellers: If you want to get your house sold, take your pets with you... no telling who the buyers are! 
The Weird Open House
One of my very first open houses was in February when there as snow on the ground.  A very strange man came into the house.  He gave me the creeps.  I was very happy when he left -- until I looked outside.  He had backed his car into the front yard and it was stuck in a snow drift.  I called my office looking for help -- they sent the police!
Lesson to buyers: Park your car on the street, if you're unfamiliar with a driveway. 
The Mother-in-Law 
I was conducting an accompanied showing.   The buyer was looking at the house while her mother-in-law was supposedly "watching the children."    One of the children started walking around the house with a banana.    The potential buyer asked her son, from where he got it.  Turns out that the mother-in-law just took if out of my client's refrigerator and gave it the little boy.  I was amazed at the cheekiness of it all -- as was the boy's mother!
Lesson to buyers: the owners are only selling their home, not their groceries!
The Garden Ornamental
One of the more difficult situations related to a contract between a buyer and seller.   The seller had very sentimental attachments to the house.  The buyer loved the property and was going to to either tear down the house or extensively remodel it.  That said, the buyer appreciated the history of the home and wanted to keep something... namely a garden ornamental.   We (the agents) discussed and agreed to it verbally and through texts, but never discussed it with either attorney.   The day of the close, the ornamental was gone.   The seller had taken it and "had no memory" of the discussion.  Without getting into specific details, it's suffice to say we came close to watching the deal fall apart at the closing table, just because of a simple little garden ornament. 
Lesson to agents: make sure that everything agreed to verbally and in texts makes it to the attorneys for written documentation before the close. 
The Refrigerator
I had these wonderful clients who did absolutely everything right.  Their house always looked perfect for showings and they priced it right.   We got it under contract relatively quickly.   My clients moved out and left for their summer house a few days before the close.  As I was doing the final walk-through of the house of the house, the buyer noticed a second refrigerator in the garage.   My clients had thought it was to stay with the house and left it behind.   For whatever reasons, the buyer was not accommodating it.   He wanted the refrigerator out of the garage BEFORE the close.   
As agents, this probably sounds pretty familiar.  We've been known to carry out miscellaneous wallpaper and paint cans, clothes and television sets, etc. after a walk through.  In the chaos of moving,  sellers sometimes leave things beyond.  But a refrigerator?   I had to figure out how to get rid of a refrigerator within a few hours.   I did it, but it was down to the wire. 
Lesson to everyone: make sure it's clear what stays with or leaves the property. 
Visiting new homes can be moments for true embarrassment -- at least for me.   Off the top of my head, I can remember, at least, four times that I have fallen while showing a home.   I fell off a front porch one time, because there was no railing.   I ended up in the emergency room for fear of cracking my skull (turned out I have a hard head).   I've fallen flat on my face in a driveway, because of hidden ice as well as numerous other occasions of humiliation.   
Lesson to me.  When you're at an unfamiliar home,  stop talking and start paying attention!

Every agent has their stories - some are hilarious.  I remember one agent telling me how she was touring a house and naked man stepped out of the shower at the moment at the buyers stepped into his bathroom.   It happens.   
I'd love to hear your strange moments in real estate!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Check the pockets!

I was with a neighborhood group recently. As is often the case, someone asked me about a particular house that had recently sold. Their comment was, "That house sold so quickly! It was there and then it was gone!" My response was, "Well it was exempt for several months, so it probably didn't go as quickly as you thought." It was then she asked me, "What's an exempt listing?"

A pocket listing or exempt or private listing is a real estate industry term used which refers to a property where a broker holds a signed listing agreement or contract with the seller, but it is private and no public marketing has taken place. It has never been advertised. If has been entered in the multiple listing service (MLS), it's in the private section which is only available to be seen by other members of the MLS.

The primary reason a listing is exempt, is that the sellers are not ready for the house to be photographed or advertised. They are getting the house ready -- making repairs, etc. A second reason has to do with timing. Perhaps the sellers are building or remodeling a new home -- they are willing to show their existing house to pre-qualified, "real buyers", but that's about it. They'll put it in the MLS when they are really reading to move.

Another reason houses never come on the market is a seller's need for privacy or security. Often the listings of the homes of celebrities or public figures are kept private. The sellers don't want curiosity seekers wandering through their homes. They want to make sure that only motivated, financially qualified buyers see their home.
There are also some marketing strategies associated with exempt listings. Pocket listings can be very appealing to buyers who seek exclusive opportunities. It really is in the best interest of a buyer to be working with a local agent, who knows what exempt listings are available and not visible to the public... these buyers have an advantage on seeing the homes ahead of the pack.

Many full-time agents have knowledge of pocket listings in their own office or in other offices of their own company. There are some companies which list property as pocket listings for a short time before entering it into their MLS sometimes with the implicit idea of getting "both sides of the deal"  i.e., shopping the listing within their own firm. 

A real estate company which is not a member of any MLS may have pocket listings, but may still be willing to cooperate with other real estate professionals in the sale of their listings.
So buyers, don't shortchange yourself by only looking at real estate sites -- there may be a whole other group of homes for sale that only an agent can share with you.  Be sure to check the pockets!

Friday, March 2, 2018

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

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the winds blow cold: 
when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.   
~ Charles Dickens

And so it's March!   Typically the market starts to accelerate during March; more listings come on; buyers come out of hibernation and we start to see lots of sales.  One can certainly hope!

So how was the market in February?

The market varies from community to community.  The first report shows units sold, the second presents the median prices.

The months of inventory on the first chart is a better way of measuring progress. Anything less than 6 months is considered a sellers' market -- anything more than 8 months is considered a buyers' market. With the exception of Lake Forest, the North Shore is either balanced or a buyers' market.  Despite the higher inventory in Lake Forest the trend is good and sales are on the rise.  

In the next chart, I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale this month was a Howard VanDoren Shaw, lakefront home on 2.3 acres in Glencoe. 

There are currently 178 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of February, 2 homes closed in this price range:

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

Wishing you a pleasant March!

Source: MRED (Midwest Real Estate Data) Multiple Listing Service

Thursday, February 22, 2018

It's the little things

Many years ago there was advertisement in the Wall Street Journal for some company (which I can't remember).   My mother loved the ad so much, that she wrote in and got a copy of it for framing.   I still have it on my desk and look at from time to time - particularly when I'm having a bad day!  I was able to scan it for this post:

At the time I was living in the city, so I particularly liked "an empty parking space."

When I look at this framed list, it reminds me to be grateful for all the little things, that make our lives special.

Just like with our lives, it's the details that can make a home special and stand out from the others.

We don't sell our homes the way we live in them.   I know I sometimes forget to hang up my coat or put away mail, but then I'm not selling my house.  Some things are really obvious - drawers closed; things organized nicely, beds made, dishes washed and put away. 

But there are other details that are actually more revealing and more influential than you think.  For example, when a doorbell doesn't work or there are dripping faucets or mouse droppings in the basement or hinges that look loose, etc., it makes a buyer wonder.  How well has this house really been maintained?  What are the bigger issues that I can't see?

Here are some basic areas to consider when selling your house -- take care of these things upfront -- BEFORE the buyers ever come through the door or at very least, before the buyer has an inspection on the house.   Be preemptive:
  1. Roof and gutters -- before you list the house, have the roof inspected.   Replace missing shingles.  If moss is growing on the roof, get it cleared off.   Clean the gutters and downspouts.  Make sure water isn't pooling anywhere around the house.  While you're at it, have the chimney inspected and any necessary tuckpointing done ahead of time. 
  2. Wash the windows -- this is so important.   Dirty windows imply that the house is dirty.   Clean windows show the owners take care of their house plus they allow for more light to come into the rooms!
  3. Exterior appearance -- check the sidewalks and exterior -- repair front stoops; clean the flower beds -- mulch if needed.  Trim trees and shrubs: haul away any dead limbs.   The exterior is so important -- it's the first thing that buyers see.  Make sure the grounds have no miscellaneous trash or the mailbox is overstuffed -- actually make sure the mailbox looks clean and freshly painted.   Power wash the lawn furniture -- make sure everything looks fresh and nice. 
  4. Service the HVAC.   I can't tell you how foul it looks during an inspection,  when the inspector pulls out a dirty furnace filter.   It looks like the system hasn't been serviced in years.   And another thing: if the house is vacant, make sure the air is set to the appropriate temperature.  It's not very welcoming for buyers to walk into a very cold or very hot house.   
  5. Look around for seasonal things to consider.   Have you reset the digitals clocks around the house to reflect daylight savings time?   Has the patio furniture been stored for the winter or brought out for the summer?  Has the Christmas wreath been removed from the front door?
As I've said before, before you put your home on the market, walk into it like you are seeing it for the very first time.  Pretend you are the buyers... what do you see that you don't like.   You know the issues -- address them upfront!   

It's the little things... 

Details make the difference!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Year of the Dog

So it's the Year of the Dog -- based on Chinese zodiac.   I rather like this sign: my mother was born in the year of the dog and she actually possessed most of the positive qualities attributed to this sign:  honesty, friendliness, faithfulness, loyalty, intelligence, straightforwardness, venerable and have a strong sense of responsibility.

It's my year of the dog as well...  I just got a new puppy.   Meet Monty.

If you love dogs as much as I do, you know that there are both plusses and minuses to having this animal in your life... particularly if you are trying to maintain a home.  Both my Lewie and Monty love me like I am the only person on this earth.   They give me a great reason to get up early in the morning.   Their presence is warm and loving... BUT...they are dogs and as such they are pretty messy, too. 

Some thoughts... particularly if you are planning on selling your house. 

Fresh Start: Get That Dog Odor Out of Your Home
Smell - and dogs can smell.  When something smells “off,” buyers often walk out the door. Consider professionally cleaning all the furniture or rugs where your pets have slept and keep those spots off limits until the house is under contract. If your dog has rolled in muck or whatever, get him bathed and smelling sweet again soon, so he doesn’t bring that odor into the house. While you’re marketing your house, vacuum frequently, open windows, and let that fresh air in. 

Muck and mud -- in this weather, dogs track in so much mud.   I struggle with this myself.  Try to keep your pets contained in areas where you can clean up easily.  

Scratches and stains  - dogs leave stains and scratch floors leaving things amiss.   There are a number of pet cleaning products, which can eliminate the stains. Make sure nothing looks unsightly. If you can't eliminate the stains then consider removing the rug or replacing it.  Buff the hardwood floors to make them look a little more presentable. 

Animal paraphernalia -- when you have showings put things away: dog beds, food and water dishes, toys, etc.    

We love our pets -- but not everyone does.  Some people are allergic; some are fearful; some simply don't like animals... go figure?

If you were born in the year of the dog, (1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006) hope you have a good year!

Check out these photos in the Wall Street Journal!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

30 online resources as you move to Chicago's North Shore

Moving to the Chicago area?   Trying to figure out where to live?  Thinking about the North Shore?

Well if you are, this post is for you!

While I've been blessed and had opportunities to live in various states in the US and places in Europe...that said... as a Native of the North Shore, I keep coming home!   And by home, I mean the area located along the SW shore of Lake Michigan -- Chicago to Lake Bluff!

I love Chicago -- and I'm not alone.  TimeOut surveyed 15,000 people in 32 cities—from Austin to Hong Kong to Tel Aviv—and asked in-depth questions about dining, neighborhoods, affordability, happiness, etc.  Each city was then scored.  Chicago has captured the No. 1 spot for two years in row.

So here are some of my thoughts on online resources to explore as you consider making the move to the Windy City's North Shore!
  1. Geoffrey Baer Tours Chicago's North Shore
  2. Homeward Bound, North Shore
  3. Chicago's North Shore Communities
  4. Do you know this place?
  5. Understanding Illinois Property Taxes
  6. Schools on the North Shore
  7. Metra
  8. Edens Expressway, US41
  9. Neighborhoods and Market Reports
  10. Cook County and Lake County Forest Preserves
  11. Chicago Botanic Garden
  12. North Shore Center for the Performing Arts
  13. Writer's Theatre
  14. Ravinia Festival
  15. Old Orchard
  16. Central Street Evanston
  17. Plaza del Lago
  18. Market Square
  19. Northwestern University
  20. Walker Bros. The Original Pancake House
  21. Homers
  22. Sweets
  23. Three Tarts Bakery and Cafe
  24. Foodstuffs
  25. 13 Chicago Locations From John Hughes Movie
  26. Bahá’í Temple
  27. The History of New Trier Township
  28. Lake County History
  29. So you want to live in Lake Bluff
  30. Landmark Renaissance Theatre 

Any other ideas out there? 

where you live!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

How's the Market? As of February 1, 2018

And now it's February.  January was an incredibly busy month – at least for me.  I’m enjoying my new office and learning the ins and outs of a different brokerage.   @properties has so many fantastic tools and aids to support their agents – I continue to be thrilled with my move.  

And how about real estate on the North Shore?

The first report shows units sold, the second presents the median prices.

The months of inventory on the first chart is a better way of measuring progress. Anything less than 6 months is considered a sellers' market -- anything more than 8 months is considered a buyers' market. With the exception of Lake Forest, the North Shore looks pretty good, although Evanston and Wilmette appear to have a shortage of inventory.   Some of this is seasonal.  Often sellers take their homes off the market during the winter months, thus lowering the inventory levels.   We should probably see inventory levels begin to rise after the SuperBowl coming up. 

In the next chart, I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale this month was classic lake front home with over on over two acres in Winnetka.  It sold for $10,000,000!  There is discussion about the house being torn down.  Amazing.

There are currently 156 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of January, 11 houses closed in this price range:
Sold This Month
# for Sale
Highland Park
Lake Forest
Lake Bluff

It feels like we’re off to a good start for 2018.  Let’s keep it going!

Source: MRED (Midwest Real Estate Data) Multiple Listing Service

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Green Tips - Looking for zero-waste tips

According to As You Sow, food packaging is a primary culprit in creating vast amounts of waste. Nearly half of the solid waste stream is comprised of packaging and paper goods.

Zero-waste meals are both a great way to save natural resources as well as money.

1. Pack a Lunch from Home
One of the best ways to achieve significant waste reduction is by packing a lunch for yourself and your kids.

2. Use Reusable Food Containers
Individual portions of food products while convenient, contain more packaging and are more expensive. When possible shop for bulk.   Re-package them yourself smaller, reusable packages. Use reusable containers and bags for sandwiches, soups, yogurt, salads and entrees.   Bring back that trusty lunchbox and Thermos!

3. Source Locally Produced Foods
Some foods are transported hundreds or even thousands of miles across the globe to arrive in our lunchboxes.  To save energy and to support local farmers, source as much food from local farms as possible. Frequent your farmers market, join a CSA farm, start a backyard garden and look for locally grown foods at the grocery store.

4. Make Your Own Snacks and Condiments
Back in the old days, people made virtually everything themselves from scratch. Energy bars, nut milks, smoothies, hummus and salad dressings are easy to make, often reducing packaging.

5. Prevent Food Waste
A zero-waste lunch also means preventing wasted food. Pack realistic quantities, so there is less waste.

6. Avoid Getting Carryout Food with Excessive Packaging
For example, skip the disposable silverware, bag and napkins by using your own reusable ones, and forgo the condiment packets if you won’t use them.

7. Find a Recycling and Compost Bin
Whenever possible, make sure to recycle the packaging and compost the food.

Source -

Thursday, January 18, 2018

8 things to consider about your front door

I was looking for inspiration for a post and saw an interesting picture of a wall of doors.   For some reason the quote, "The eye is the window to the soul" popped into my memory.   Sounded like Shakespeare to me, so I was surprised to to find out it was actually Proverbs 30:17. 

I'm digressing.  

Why the quote?  Just as the eye is the window to the soul, the front door is the window to the soul of the home.  A front door is incredibly revealing and tells us a lot about who and what are inside.  When I am out touring to look at homes, I always pay close attention to the entry. 

Some things to consider...

1. Where is the front door?
Have you ever been to a house and you're not sure where the front door is?   The driveway leads to the garage, but there is no sidewalk.   Or perhaps, there are two doors
in front and it's unclear which one to enter.   I think the front entry needs to be clear to everyone.  It gives the house a presence.  
2. What color is the front door?
The color of the door tells me something about the residents of the house.   A muted color gets lost.   I love to see doors with a contrasting color.  It makes the door stand out.  
3. How easy is it to lock and unlock the front door?
So many of us enter the house through the backdoor or through the garage, that we rarely pay much attention to our front doors.   One of the little frustrations for agents -- and this happens more than you think -- sellers have the lost the keys to their front door, or the lock gets stuck or the door doesn't open easily.  From time to time, check out your front door.  Use a little WD-40 or put in new locks.  
4. What does the hardware look like on the front door?
The front door is one of the first impressions buyers observe about a house.   Does the hardware match the house?  A contemporary house needs contemporary hardware!  Is the hardware in good shape, clean and in good working order?   I've been to homes where the door knob is actually falling off! 
5. What's around the front door?
Is it clean or are there cobwebs?   Is it well lit with sparkling light fixtures?  Is there any staging like flowers or a bench?  Is it inviting?   Does the doorbell work and is it clearly seen?  
6. Is the front door well lit at night?

Is the light strong enough to see the stairs, etc.   Is the pathway marked, clear and approachable?
7. How safe are the stairs and railings up to the front door?
Again, this is something I have personally experienced.   I've actually fallen at a couple of homes -- the stairs were uneven, steep or in disrepair.   One house didn't have a railing and I slipped on the ice and fell down the stairs.   It's really important for homeowners to make sure that any steps or stairs leading to a front door are safe and easy to navigate.  It's a huge turnoff for buyers when they see that they need to fix the front stoop -- even before they have seen the inside of the house!
8. Does the door match the house?
Maybe this is a personal pet peeve, but I really don't like it when the doors don't match the style of the house.   A Tudor-styled home just shouldn't have a contemporary door.  It's like wearing sneakers with a ballgown!
I keep a Pinterest Board on Doors - it always provides me with some inspiration.

Buying or selling?  What does the front door tell you?