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

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018


She tentatively let me into her home. While she had called me to come over, there was a fearfulness about letting a stranger into her space. I looked around – it was a lovely home. It really was. That said, it felt like it should be nestled in the Berkshires with other saltbox houses. It felt somehow out of place situated in a neighborhood of post-WWII colonials.

She had accumulated hundreds of things. They were everywhere: brass candlesticks; gorgeous earthenware; ceramic figurines, antique trivets, lovely watercolors, chairs and more chairs, quilts and woven cloths not to mention an attic full of dust-covered, unopened boxes.

She pronounced that she wanted to downsize to less than half of much space. She was considering continuing care facilities and was trying to figure out what to do before she moved. We talked about taking down wallpaper, updating fixtures, and all the other things sellers can do to prepare their house for the market.  

When I asked which things, she was going to bring with her, she became flustered and overwhelmed. I’m not sure she realized that things from a four-bedroom house rarely fit comfortably into a two-bedroom apartment. 

I had touched a nerve. As much as I tried to reassure her, I think she was genuinely surprised, that she was going to have make choices. But how does one choose from a lifetime of accumulated items?   It was like her things were a part of her being and letting go of a chair would be like amputating an arm.

Sadly, in my work, I have seen many families fight over things as the house gets dismantled. It's almost as if, things are what binds them to the person who is gone -- or worse, the person made the possession of these things somehow equivalent to their love.

I had an epiphany about things, when my mother died.  

One moment she was with us – the next moment she was gone. In her wake were so many things. And not one of her things could even begin to fill the void created by her death.  Mother was such a loving, powerful presence in our lives, that her things seemed so insignificant and meaningless.  They were such a poor substitute for the loss in our lives. 

Mother wasn’t protective of her things. I can remember the casualness of how we might rummage in her bedroom dresser for a hair clip or piece of jewelry to wear.  She never complained or made an issue out of it.   She wasn’t much of a collector or even anywhere close to being a hoarder.   Sometimes she would generously gift an admired item to the admirer.  

But Mother was sentimental and had a great eye for beautiful things. She had carefully saved all the baby shoes and handmade dresses my grandmother had stitched for me as a child. Her jewelry box contained bracelets and charms with mysterious initials on them. We reached into the back of her closet and pulled out a shoebox wrapped in string. With some fearful hesitation, we opened the box and were shocked to find a porcelain doll, we’d never seen before. 

In a basement closet, stored carefully in hanging bags were four outfits: her going away suit
Mom in her Girl Scout uniform at 
annual Kenilworth Pancake Breakfast
from her wedding; the bright green dress she had worn at my brother’s wedding, the soft pink dress she had worn at my sister’s wedding and her Girl Scout uniform from when she led the village Girl Scouts. 

I wanted to ask Mom so many questions. Why this doll? Why these dresses? All the things that were left behind meant something to her – but she was gone and took with her the code of what they all meant. What memory or place or person was intertwined with that thing? Were we supposed to get rid of these things -- things she had felt were important enough to keep?

the basement
My basement is now filled with things.  It's ironic, when I moved into this house I vowed I would put nothing in the basement.  That vow lasted about ten years...

Then my sister asked if she could store some furniture in the basement.  And thus the creeping began.  With my parents passing, I became the storage locker for the family “things.” It all crept up on me until now my basement is filled with the old photo albums, historic family pictures and scrapbooks, boxes of Dad's treasured genealogy research, generations of Christmas decorations, reels of home movies, Great-Grandmother Mean’s butterchurn and Great-Grandfather Woodbury’s handmade furniture, Mother and Dad's Sheraton chairs... 

I know some of the code – but not all of it. I know enough, that I feel responsible. These things -- they meant something to someone at some moment in time. Am I going to be the one who drops the ball?

My nieces and nephews don’t want these things. They want to live in a sustainable manner. I laugh. Don't they realize that sustainability would be "shopping" in my basement? 

I want less and yet I find it hard to part with my own things… a little key chain reminds me of the friend that gave it to me; the pottery statue of the Lady of Bath reminds me of my exploring Rye, while living as an expat in the UK; every little trinket box in my box collection has a story or a place or a person or a time in my life … Even as write this, in front of me on my desk are four paperweights. I use none of them, but parting with even one of them is a painful thought. I know the moment. I know the people. I know the place. I know the code. 

We spend our youth in acquisition and then as we approach the last few chapters of our life,  we have to think about divestiture.   
How do we end up with so much stuff – so many things? 

It’s a question that I have been asking myself lately.  I have no good answers. 

I realize this is an existential crisis that many of us are facing right now.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The (First) Price Is Right

When it comes to selling a home, the backbone of any successful marketing strategy is proper pricing. That’s because the highest volume of potential buyers see your home within days of it hitting the market. So if your home is perceived as overpriced right off the bat, you’ve already missed a huge opportunity.

In fact, Chicago homes that required one or more price changes sold on average for 90% of original asking price in 134 days last year, whereas homes that did not require a price change sold for 98% of original asking price in just 60 days.

The same is true for luxury homes in the city. Among homes priced at $1 million and above, those with one or more price changes sold on average for 88% of original asking price in 201 days, while those that were priced accurately sold for 96% of original asking price in 120 days.

As the numbers indicate, setting the right listing price is paramount to a faster, more lucrative sale.

If you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, you can ensure you land on the right listing price by asking a broker to prepare a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA).

This resource helps you accurately gauge pricing and market activity in relation to your home, and ultimately determine the appropriate list price – the first time!

Of course, pricing is just the beginning. In order to achieve the best possible results for our clients, we also leverage cutting-edge sales and marketing programs that give you a competitive advantage.

Source: @properties blog

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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

Hello May.   I feel like we've skipped spring this week and went straight to summer.    After such a longggg winter, it's nice to see the greenery appearing, albeit quickly!  

And how about real estate on the North Shore?  The first report shows units sold, the second presents the median prices.   Only Winnetka and Northfield saw a decline in sales this month.   The other communities had more sales.   Median prices are all over the place, so it's hard to see any kind of trend.

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. Inventory levels changed very little from February. So while we had more sales, we also had more listings come on the market. Evanston and Wilmette continue to have a shortage of inventory, while Lake Forest continues to have a bit of a surplus.  The other communities are fairly balanced. 

The highest sale this month was a Winnetka new construction home on the lake with 1.3 acres and approximately 19,000 square feet of living space.

There are currently 212 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of April, 6 houses closed in this price range:

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

Looks like things are moving well in the North Shore real estate market.

Have a beautiful spring!
Source: MRED (Midwest Real Estate Data) Multiple Listing Service

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Announcing a New Blog Just for Baby Boomers

Our Next Chapter event on April 21 was a success.   The top three things I learned that day...
  1. Consider a combination long-term care/life insurance.   It seemed like a very interesting product to have.  Read more at Ordering the Combo: Life Insurance with Long-Term Care Benefits
  2. When preparing ones' estate, have a plan for digital assets.  Read more at Estate planning for your digital assets
  3. Keep your property "sale ready."   Consider doing a home assessment checkup.  
To keep the dialogue going, I have set-up a separate blog for Baby Boomers on the move.   Check it out:
The Next Chapter

Also I am going to be sending out a periodic newsletter.   If you have any interest in subscribing click here.

Green Tips: How to get rid of unwanted mail

Sometimes when I pick up my mail, I stand over the recycle bin and dump items right into the container.   It feels great that the paper never made it inside my house.   I discovered Catalog Choice a few years ago and it has been a godsend. 

Here's a good article in the New York Times that provides tips to eliminate snail mail:  How to Cut Down on Unwanted Junk Mail

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Questions answered about REALTORS.

Despite what people think, REALTOR® is not a job title.   The terms broker, real estate and REALTOR® are often used interchangeably.   However, in Illinois there are more individuals with real estate broker licenses, than there are REALTORs®.

A REALTOR® is simply a member of the National Association of Realtors. (NAR). Every year the NAR releases a membership report. Here are some statistics from that report:

There are 1.22 million members nationwide.

63% of all members are women.

The median age of members is 53 years old.

82% own their primary residence.

Median years of experience for members is 10 years.

4% of members are under 30.

30% of members are over 60.

In 2016, the typical agent had 12 transactions, which is up from 11 transactions in 2015.

The median gross income is $42,500.

More than half of the members, who have less than two years of experience, earn around 10K a year.

51% of member agents are affiliated with independent firms.

People often ask me, how many licensed agents there are in along the North Shore? 

I did a lookup in MRED - our local multiple listing service.   Based on office location, these were the results:
Evanston - more than 500
Wilmette - 50
Kenilworth - 2
Winnetka - more than 500
Northfield - 39
Glencoe - 93
Highland Park -278
Highwood - 4
Lake Forest - 267
Lake Bluff - 63


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

What's your credit score?

Not too long ago, I was working with some folks who wanted to lease their property. Before a landlord accepts a tenant, they ask for two things - references and the potential tenant's FICO (or credit) score. As agents, we need to run the credit score with a third party that solicits the information from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. After the recent data breach incident with Equifax, citizens are pretty aware of the types of sensitive information that these agencies collect.

There are various ways of calculating credit scores. The FICO score (the name comes from the corporate name: Fair Isaac Corporation, who developed the score) is the most commonly used type of credit score in the US. 

FICO scores are also used by mortgage lenders to determine the possibility of whether a borrower is a good risk for lending. If you want to get any kind of financing (appliances, cars, etc.), this three-digit number is one of the most important numbers of your life. It signifies your creditworthiness and it can make or break your ability to get a loan. Credit scores generally range from 300 to 850, with higher credit scores being the best of all.

As of April 2017, 20.7 percent of Americans have a FICO score above 800, according to data from FICO. This makes a record high percentage of people with credit scores over 800 and correlates directly to lower delinquency rates.

Since payment history makes up 35 percent of the credit scoring calculation, there's a strong relationship between having a high credit score and a lower amount of late payments.

After we get a credit report, we need to share it with the landlord and then they make a determination, whether they want to rent the property to these particular tenants. A great score is anything over 750. A lousy score is anything less than 700. The highest score I've ever seen was 878 -- impressive. I won't tell you the lowest.  Let's just say, my landlord client had zero interest in renting to those particular people. 

With the recent financial collapse, people's credit scores took a hit and renting became really challenging for folks, who had lost their homes. Tenants were having to pay 6-12 months rent upfront in order to get the property.

That's actually what happened with this recent situation. The potential tenants had a credit score in the low 600s. My clients were unwilling to rent to, what appeared to be, wonderful tenants.  They just happened to have a poor FICO score. Eventually we were able to secure the lease -- but the tenants had to pay for the full year of rent up front. Ouch.

There are tremendous benefits of having a credit score over 800.

You're more likely to have your applications approved. I recently rented a car - my score is good and it was smooth sailing -- they were very excited to lease to me.

You'll qualify for lower interest rates. Your credit score helps determine the interest rate on loans. Having an 800 credit score will allow you to qualify for lower interest rates and save thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. This can be a significant difference with mortgage interest. 

Anyone who manages their credit properly can get an 800 credit score. Here are some tips from the experts:

Pay everything on time.

Maintain lower credit card balances. People with best credit scores use less than 10 percent of their credit limits.

Avoid too many credit checks. Each time you make an application that requires a credit check, a hard inquiry is placed on your credit report. These hard inquiries are 10 percent of your credit score.

Monitor your credit and act quickly to clear up errors. There are sources where you can request your score for free. After the Equifax debacle, I signed up for LifeLock -- they send me my credit score every month. But some other sites to consider:,,,, and If you see something wrong, get it fixed immediately.

Any negative information will eventually age off your credit report. It may take a while, but you too can get your score back over 800.

So what's your credit score -- it's a number to remember!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Hope you'll join us on April 21!

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.

Date: April 21 morning

Venue: Gorton Community Center

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

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

Hello April!  

As vacations end, the spring market takes off in full force!  Just since the first of April,  59 new listings have been entered into the MLS on the North Shore.  We're off with a bang!  

So how was the market in March?  I would have to say that it seems a bit slower than usual.  While there are exceptions, the number of units sold seemed to decrease in March.   That said, inventory levels seem to be improving.

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 lovely home rebuilt by the Poulton Group located on over an acre and a half on Onwentsia Road in Lake Forest.

There are currently 201 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of March, 9 homes closed in this price range:

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

Happy Spring!

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

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Green Tips: Energy Efficient Homes

Did you know that according to the most recent NAR home buyer trends, heating and cooling costs were the most important environmental features for recent
home buyers, with 84% finding these features at very least somewhat important.

When I work with buyers, among the first things they ask me ... "How much it cost to heat and cool this house?   We'd like to see the utility bills."

I know when I replaced my windows, my heating and cooling bills dropped dramatically -- it was amazing.    Here are some more ideas for creating an energy efficient home:

  • Clean or replace heater and air conditioner filters regularly. Keep outside vents free of leaves or debris that may clog vents.
  • When the heat is on, set your thermostat at as low a level as you feel comfortable. Use a programmable thermostat that adjusts to the time of day.   Check out ComEd's program.
  • Close doors to seldom used rooms and turn off heat or air conditioning in these areas.
  • Keep windows near your thermostat tightly closed.
  • Dust and vacuum radiator surfaces frequently. 
  • Keep draperies and shades open in sunny windows; close them at night.
  • Use kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans sparingly. 

Air Conditioning:

  • Service your air conditioner on a regular basis.
  • Clean or replace air conditioner filters regularly.
  • Set your air conditioner thermostat as high as you still feel reasonably comfortable.
  • If you have window air conditioners, turn them off when a room will be vacant for a few hours. 
  • Don't place lamps or TV sets near your air-conditioning thermostat. 


  • Use cold water rather than hot when running the garbage disposal.
  • Keep range top burners and reflectors clean so your stove operates at peak efficiency.
  • When using an oven or an electric burner, turn it off a little while before the cooking is done. 
  • When you have a choice, use the range top instead of the oven.
  • When replacing appliances, seek out energy efficient ones to purchase.