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

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

5 Updates to Consider Before You Sell Your Home

One common theme among today’s homebuyers is that many are looking for a home that’s move-in ready. If you’re planning to sell, here are a few updates that can help give your home an updated look and make it more attractive to buyers:

Paint Your Home 
A fresh coat of paint can instantly enhance the appearance of your home and is one of the most cost-effective things you can do. Start by focusing on high-traffic areas like main hallways, kitchens and bathrooms. In terms of color, go for something more neutral to ensure your home appeals to largest number of potential buyers.

Light grey or light beige tones are popular among brokers and stagers when they work with sellers to neutralize and update the look of homes. “Greige,” a tone that can give the appearance of either light grey or beige, is a great choice.

Kitchen Improvements for Your Home
You don’t have to completely gut your kitchen to give it a move-in ready look. For a minor remodel, consider refacing or repainting outdated cabinets and drawers or installing new hardware with a modern design. Cabinets are one of the first things people notice when they walk into a kitchen, and this is a simple way to change their appearance without replacing them entirely.

While everyone has different preferences, converting cabinets to white tends to yield the most positive reaction.

You can also give your kitchen a facelift by upgrading the light fixtures and appliances, replacing the countertops, or adding a new backsplash.

Bathroom Modifications for Your Home
While plumbing and electrical upgrades can be costly, smaller bathroom upgrades can still make an impact.

If a quick makeover is in order, consider new paint or shelving. Other common upgrades include replacing the vanity, tile, light fixtures and countertops.

Flooring for Your Home 
Hardwood floors top many buyers’ wish lists due to their appearance and durability. If you already have hardwood floors, refinishing them can quickly elevate the look and feel of your home. Homeowners who want to replace their carpeting have a variety of options, from real hardwood to less expensive alternatives like laminate or engineered wood flooring.

Exterior Improvements for Your Home 
Curb appeal can have a significant impact on how many buyers will be enticed to take a closer look at your home. Attractive landscaping enhances curb appeal and makes a lasting first impression on potential buyers. After all, it’s the first thing buyers will see in person and probably in photos, too.

According to Remodeling’s 2018 Cost vs. Value Report, other updates to the exterior of the home such as replacing garage doors and front entry doors can offer the greatest return on investment.

It is important to start the conversation with your broker before you are ready to list your home so you can get their advice and ensure that you are making the best first impression when entering the market.

source: @properties blog

Thursday, November 1, 2018

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

November already?   Where did the year go?   

It was a quiet October, with some very interesting high end sales.   The ultra-luxury market looks a lot stronger than it did a few years ago.    With a few exceptions the number of sales slowed down a bit.    There was an interesting article in Crain's this week, which points this out.  Home price growth slowed in Chicago...

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

The months of inventory is the best way to determine the health of the 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.   The rest of the North Shore is in great shape with a balanced market. 

In the next chart, I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale this month was in east Glencoe: a mid-century modern, one story home on 1.5 acres on the lake.   

There are currently 170 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of October, 9 houses closed in this price range:

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

Nice month for high-end sales!

As the holiday season begins, I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 25, 2018


I find it interesting to walk my neighborhood these days.  Many of the lawns are staged with fake tombstones and ghostly figures.   Halloween brings out such interesting decorations.  

Which leads me to talk about one of the more interesting aspects of real estate: the use of land for cemeteries. In Lake Forest and Calvary Cemetery, just south of Evanston -- prime real estate is being used to house our ancestors.  If I'm really honest, I've always wanted lakefront property -- maybe in death I'll have it!

My dad loved to visit cemeteries -- he loved genealogy and he found cemeteries very informative.   On our vacations, we often detoured out of our way in order to tromp through some cemetery to find tombstones from some distant relative.   My mother was just as curious.  I suppose that sounds odd to some people, but that was the way it was in our family.
Austrian cemetery
European cemeteries are amazing to visit.  They are frequented often by relatives, so there are an abundance of flowers, gardens and mementos.  I was told once, that due to the shortage of land, plots are reused -- so the occupants tend to be the fairly recently departed.  

With Halloween coming, I find autumn a wonderful time of year to walk through a beautiful cemetery and appreciate not only the scenery, but also the tombstones, and sometimes even the final resting places of famous historical figures.   Graceland in Chicago is an amazing place -- as is the Lake Forest Cemetery.  

Some people find them frightening, while others purposely seek out graveyards.  My grandmother's cousin(?), Lilburn Kingsbury, was an authority on Missouri cemeteries - his records remain a goldmine for local historians.

Here are 20 cemeteries worth seeing -- I think I've seen three of them.    And in honor of those departed souls who wanted to get the last word, I enjoyed reading 50+ Brilliant Tombstones By People Whose Sense Of Humor Will Live Forever.

Here's one interesting story in the New York Times: Family Cemeteries Bind Generations, for Remembrance and Tax Reasons

As you can tell, I'm not one of those people who finds cemeteries disturbing -- in fact, I enjoy seeing them from time to time.   I even went on a school outing to visit the historical and gorgeous Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston.

But what about buying a home near a cemetery?   How does it affect property values?

Well, there are pros and cons.  


You are guaranteed quiet neighbors.  You never to worry about all-night parties or loud construction going on nextdoor. You will enjoy unobstructed and sometimes even beautiful natural views.  Some cemeteries have extraordinary gardens and monuments and many are on the list of National Historic Places. 


I've had buyers who are fearful or superstitious so they find the idea of living near a cemetery a deal breaker.  Then there are buyers who seek out a feng shui lifestyle, which means living near a cemetery is a nonstarter.   Re-sale of your home needs to be a consideration. 

Yes, the neighbors are quiet, but a cemetery is sometimes a problem for some buyers. In fact, the National Association of Realtors found that the presence of a cemetery nearby drags down property prices by 12 percent.
But an analysis of sales by another real estate firm came to the opposite conclusion. It discovered homes closer to cemeteries fetched more money per square foot than those farther away. 
Who knows?   It really comes down to personal preference I suppose.   

What do you think?  Would you buy a property next to a cemetery?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Housing Horoscope: Is Your Dream Home Written in the Stars?

Bungalow or high-rise? Loft or Queen Anne? Vintage walk-up or new construction? With so many housing choices in Chicago, we thought it would be fun to match up home styles with horoscopes. Of course, you’ll want to consult a Realtor before you start your search. But let’s just imagine what your sign might say about your ideal home sweet home.

Bold, assertive, independent Aries appreciate simplicity, value and practical comfort. Aries would be right at home in a mid-century single-family home with clean lines and bold design. A mid-century home suits their disdain for chaos and makes a strong statement with its open design.
This classic, patient, warm hearted earth sign would be right at home in a classic Chicago two- or three-flat. The iconic Chicago homes, the majority built between 1900-1920, once made up a quarter of the city’s housing stock. A Taurus would appreciate the practicality of owning a two-flat, allowing them to live in one unit and rent the other for extra income.
Fun-loving, versatile and social Geminis might be right at home in a mixed-use development. The latest in condo developments offers a mix of residential, commercial and cultural areas providing Geminis plenty of opportunities for a change of scenery, dinner with old friends or coffee with new neighbors.
Emotional, imaginative, and cautious, Cancers aren’t looking for something flashy. Chicago’s courtyard buildings built in the early 1900s suit Cancers’ traditional, classic style. The spacious U-shaped buildings offer protected green space, plenty of light and privacy as each condo building has its own front entry and stairwell leading to no more than six units.
Generous, creative, enthusiastic, regal, majestic lions who love to roar are the perfect match for a Queen Anne or Victorian home. Leos will be right at home as the center of attention in a beautiful painted lady in all its splendor – from dramatic entrances and wraparound porches to colorful detail.
Modest, meticulous, practical, perfectionists, Virgos appreciate quality over quantity and classic over trendy. Naturally, they’re a great fit for a classic Chicago bungalow. The modest 1.5-story brick single-family homes were mostly built in the early 20th century. They can be found across the city and in a stunning display in the city’s “bungalow belt”.
Diplomatic, easygoing, sociable Libras appreciate simple beauty. Libras will find the calm elegance they adore in a Greystone. The stately homes with limestone facades come in all sizes from multi-unit buildings to spacious single-family homes with backyard space and gracious garage-top decks for entertaining
Passionate, compulsive, resourceful Scorpios with a need for action and an eye for detail will find plenty of options amid the city’s luxury mid-rise and high-rise condo buildings, offering breathtaking views and every amenity — from pools and meditation rooms to community spaces and dog runs. Styles range from new sleek and shiny high-rises to neo-classical vintage apartment buildings.
Freedom-loving, optimistic, excitement-seeking Sagittarians could be a perfect fit for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD). The latest in condo communities designed to eliminate the hassle of cars and parking offers easy access – usually a short walk – to public transportation, work, dining, and shopping. TODs offer the flexibility Sagittarians crave to go wherever their free spirit takes them.
Practical, ambitious, disciplined, Capricorns are natural-born leaders. Goal-oriented Capricorns will appreciate a new construction single-family home that suits their sophisticated style and practicality, offering both form and function with professional kitchens, custom closets and backyard space the earth sign will appreciate.
Inventive, independent, humanitarian, creative and cool Aquarians are a great match for Adaptive Reuse homes that fit their unconventional flare. In addition to converted industrial spaces, there are reimagined schools (chalkboards included) and historic churches finding a second life repurposed as luxury condos and stunning homes. They’re not for everyone, which is exactly the point.
Imaginative, sensitive, compassionate, kind and social, open-minded Pisceans will appreciate a great loft space offering a great canvas to make it their own. Whether converted from a 1900s warehouse or industrial space or newer construction designed for loft living with exposed brick and wide open spaces, the city offers many options just waiting for a little imagination to make them home.

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