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

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

10 Unique Multimillion Dollar Homes

"The specialty features of luxury homes are pretty commonplace: wine cellar, home gym, swimming pool and perhaps an equestrian stable. Yet for some of the most exclusive addresses, there are distinctive features that set them apart from the rest. "

Homes with Big Surprises

Illinois credit rating drops

"Standard & Poor's Ratings Services on Wednesday downgraded Illinois' credit rating by one notch to A from A-plus, citing the state's large budget imbalance and an $83 billion unfunded pension liability...

It also keeps Illinois as the second lowest-rated U.S. state after California, which is rated A-minus by S&P..."

Illinois Rating Downgraded

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jumbos are coming back in style

"By most measures, the housing market's recovery has been slow. But private-market "jumbo" mortgages—larger, higher-cost home loans that aren't guaranteed by the federal government—are making a much faster comeback."

In Mostly Tepid Housing Recovery, 'Jumbo' Home Loans Set Hot Pace
Wall Street Journal

Chicago-area home prices soar in June

Gains in the second quarter

Home prices in the second quarter gained across all headline composite indices measured in the latest Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller report.

"There were only six cities – Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York and San Diego – where the annual rates of change were still negative," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Boston's annual rate was flat. We seem to be witnessing exactly what we needed for a sustained recovery; monthly increases coupled with improving annual rates of change. The market may have finally turned around."

Housing Wire
S&P Case-Shiller: Home prices up across the board

Come to the Fair

The annual Art Fair on the Square from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and Monday returns to Market Square in Lake Forest.

"Art Fair on the Square is the Deer Path Art League's signature annual event and our gift to the community. The Art Fair, which attracts visitors from Chicago, Milwaukee and over 22 suburban communities, helps to fulfill the Art League’s mission to "spark, nurture and enhance creativity as well as raise community awareness and appreciation of the arts". The mission is as true today as it was in 1954."

Improvement in housing market

"...there is improvement across the board, with home prices nationally inching up over their levels a year ago for the first time since 2010, when sales were helped by a temporary tax credit for home buyers.

The data is contained in the S.&P./Case-Shiller Home Price Index, which tracks prices nationally and in 20 major cities. Both showed gains over the past year, from June to June — 1.2 percent nationally, and 0.5 percent in the 20 cities. Though prices were still depressed in a few of the cities compared with a year ago, every one of them showed price gains from May to June. The report is highly regarded because it tracks actual price differences as a home is sold and resold over time....

But economists warned of potential dangers that could still hold home buyers back. Consumer confidence unexpectedly dropped in August, the Conference Board reported Tuesday, largely because of diminished expectations for the future. The November election and the “fiscal cliff” of expiring tax breaks and looming spending cuts at the end of the year may also be muting home sales..."

Hard-Hit Cities Show a Housing Rebound
New York Times

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sinking feeling

"The number of U.S. homes worth less than what is owed on their mortgages has dropped over the second quarter, thanks mostly to rising property values. Yet millions of homeowners remain 'underwater,' including nearly half of those under the age of 40..."

Nearly half of younger homeowners are "underwater"
CBS News

Monday, August 27, 2012

Picture perfect

Good pictures are a crucial marketing tool for a home sale.
Get a Picture-Perfect Home Sale

Wall Street Journal

5 Things to Do when Preparing to Buy a Home

"Before you get approved for a home mortgage lenders want to be sure that you will be able to repay them. They will take a detailed look at your financial situation to determine if this is possible.   

... five easy things you can do to improve your chances of getting approved for a home mortgage...."
5 Things to Do when Preparing to Buy a Home

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Downsize In Style

"When moving from a large house to a smaller space, you have to make wise decorating decisions..."
Downsize in Style

Friday, August 24, 2012

Price to sell

"...Homebuyers usually have a better grasp of current market value in the area where they're looking to buy than do sellers who own and live there.

...Your home is worth what a buyer will pay for it given current market conditions. This may not be the same as your opinion of what your home will sell for, or what you hope it's worth. Relying on emotion rather than logic when selecting a list price can lead to disappointing results..."

Price your house to sell quickly
Inman News

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Replacing carpet?

"Q. The carpeting on our stairs is worn. Should we replace it before selling our home? And if so, with what?

....But you might not need to buy new carpeting. Today’s buyers prefer hardwood flooring... If the stairs are made from an attractive wood, and are in good condition, the preference would certainly be to leave the wood stairs exposed....”

Read on in New York Times
Market Ready

Market is improving...

Signs of recovery?

Signs of Housing Recovery
"Analysts are hailing the beginnings of a recovery in the nation’s housing market. But to beleaguered homeowners, it will not feel like much of one for many months to come.

The number of existing homes sold rose 2.3 percent in July from the previous month, according to figures released Wednesday. Volume was up more than 10 percent from a year ago."

New York Times 
Signs of Revival, Slight but Sure, for Home Sales

Monday, August 20, 2012

Government results

Interesting read in the
New York Times

President Obama’s response to the housing crisis was deliberately subdued, and some economists believe stronger action could have softened the economic impact.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"Just like the Wizard of Oz..."

"The housing market is improving because there are more buyers chasing fewer homes. Skeptics of a housing bottom, however, often point to a scary set of numbers: the “shadow inventory” of potential foreclosures—the millions of mortgages that are either in foreclosure or in default.

It’s true that home prices are unlikely to see brisk gains once they do hit bottom because it will take years to absorb this glut. But will this phantom inventory derail the incipient housing bottom?  Maybe not, say a number of housing analysts."

Shadow Inventory: It’s Not as Scary as It Looks 
Wall Street Journal

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Chicago's Food Scene

North Shore restauranteur, John des Rosiers, received kudos in Zagat:

It's a landlord's market!

"Reports from the housing front continue to show signs of stability. But the housing landscape is different from the boom years. Apartment construction is propping up the housing industry.

For the first seven months of 2012 versus the same 2011 period, housing starts involving five or more units are up 41.4% compared with a 20.7% gain for single-family homes."

Wall Street Journal
Housing's Fortune Depends on Apartment Living

Buying a house is a smart investment

"Investment opinions are like, um, noses: Everyone has one. Buy stocks, sell bonds? Go long steel and short copper? Buy sheep, sell deer?
It's pretty easy to see both sides of an investment argument. But it's hard to argue against buying a house now, assuming you can get a loan."

If you can pull it off, a house is a smart investment
USA Today

Housing starts retreat

"After hitting the highest level of activity seen in nearly four years in the prior month, construction of new houses retreated in July, the Commerce Department estimated Thursday.

Starts fell 1.1% in July to an annualized rate of 746,000 units. Starts had jumped a revised 6.8% in June to a 754,000 rate, the highest since October 2008."

July U.S. housing starts retreat after strong June

Friday, August 17, 2012

Winnetka Historical Society Log Cabin Open House

Come visit Winnetka's 1830's log house 1140 Willow Road this Sunday, August 19th from 1-4:00! 

This unique house allows visitors to explore life as a pioneer in the 1850's. The original portion of the house remains nearly the same as when it was built in 1837.

The 1917 addition showcases the Burnham family's creativity and artistic abilities. Costumed docents provide tours of the house and history of its occupants. Learn more at the Historical Society.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Homebuilder sentiment hits 5-year high

Homebuilder sentiment hits 5-year high

Trends in Kitchen Design

Kitchens are blending more into the rest of home interiors. A recent blog post from Home Design Find highlights some of the recent trends popping up in more kitchens this year:
1. Unmatched cabinets: Cabinet colors and materials are being mixed, such as darker colors for the base cabinets and lighter colors being used for upper cabinets to “provide a sense of openness,” according to the blog.
2. Downsized kitchen islands: While bigger used to be better with kitchen islands, more home owners are finding they can make do with a smaller kitchen island that doesn’t take up as much space.
3. Covert appliances: Dishwashers, refrigerators and ovens are being hidden behind cabinetry or made to match the cabinetry so much so that you can barely even spot them at first glance in the kitchen. Also going invisible in the kitchen, kitchen cabinet knobs, creating a more clean-panel look.
4. Smaller faucets: The big, “gooseneck” faucet was all the rage up until recently but now more home owners seem to be opting for lower profile faucets for a more subtle statement. Some of the faucets have even shrunk to bathroom scale, but they still feature the detachable spray nozzle.
“As kitchens have opened up and become more integrated into our homes, they have begun to feel less ‘kitchen-like,’” according to the Home Design Find blog. “The trend toward mixed cabinetry and integrated appliances, door pulls and sinks suggests we are looking for a space that flows seamlessly into the rest of our spaces.”


4 Kitchen Design Trends Cooking Up in 2012, National Association of Realtors

Habits of Illinois Homebuyers

In the first quarter this year, 21 percent of homebuyers reported having never previously owned a home. Nearly 7 out of 10 homebuyers are staying within their previous counties. WhyIBuy is a project of the Illinois Association of REALTORS® that aims to better understand the opinions and motivations of homebuyers across the state. Access first quarter 2012 homebuyer reports from

Monday, August 13, 2012

Meet Fred!

While this a bit off the beaten path from the North Shore, my friend and Chicagoland Gardening Senior Editor, Cathy Jean Maloney sent me this. She is involved in organizing am Olmsted festival in Riverside this week. I thought you gardeners out there might find it worth the trip.
The first-ever FRED (Frederick Law Olmsted in Riverside Education and Design) festival will be held in Riverside, Illinois on August 18. Come for an hour or stay for the day!

The FRED is for people who want to make their gardens or communities more beautiful, more green, more enjoyable! A $10 flat registration fee allows participants take up to four classes, and all of the tours and events of the day. Classes include:

- “Know Maintenance,” by Lurie Garden guru Roy Diblik
- “Curb Appeal” by Christy Webber Landscape designers
- “Tips for the Mature Garden and Gardener” by Karla Lynch of Gardens For People
- “Garden and Home Style” by popular presenter Tony LoBello of Mariani Landscapes
- “Trees and Shrubs in Design,” by Susan Jacobson, landscape architect for the Morton Arboretum.
Go to the Registration page at for class schedule, details, and to sign up.

Other events include a green parking lot tour, a “Garden Rx” booth staffed by landscape professionals, a silent auction for artist-designed planters, perennial swaps and “extreme build” garden tours.
A blue-ribbon panel of speakers is slated to discuss “Olmsted’s Design Lessons For Today.” This lively topic will explore how Olmsted’s naturalistic and community-focused designs are relevant for today’s communities. Speakers include Ed Uhlir, FAIA, Executive Director at Millennium Park Inc.; Ferhat Zarin AICP, Ginkgo Planning and Design Inc.; Beth White, Chicago Area Office Director for The Trust for Public Lands; and Randy Blankenhorn, Executive Director of Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).
Particularly relevant in recent weeks’ drought-and-rainstorm cycle is the tour of “extreme build” water gardens. Contractors will descend on several Riverside properties to install water-saving garden systems ranging from simple rain barrels to underground water storage and permeable hardscapes. The goal is to see how much storm water can be permanently diverted from the overtaxed storm management systems, while creating beautiful landscapes. The public is invited to view these gardens while the work is underway.
Riverside's first perennial divide and swap will coincide with the opening of the FRED. Bring your bagged and labeled perennial to the FRED registration area at 8:30 a.m. and pickup your exchange plant later that day. Divide and multiply! First forty people who come to the divide will get a FREE rosemary plant, while supplies last.
The Brookfield Zoo is also offering a free zoo pass for the first 100 registrants. Visit the Registration page at for more details and signups.

Happenings in the garden

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What's Your Architectural Personality?

"Architectural styles have personality all their own. Greek revival is stately and refined; ranch houses are rustic and welcoming and Spanish revival is eclectic and earthy. The house style you like can be a blueprint for your personality. Find out your architectural type by taking this quiz."


Thursday, August 9, 2012

What influences consumers to buy/rent?

"Even the deepest housing crisis since the Great Depression wasn’t enough to dampen Americans’ desire to own their homes.

A recent study by Fannie Mae came to that conclusion and tried to answer some major questions: What influences consumers’ current home ownership status? What would motivate people to buy versus rent in the future? And are we influenced by unconscious biases that lead us to make less than ideal choices, such as buying too much house, or others that might prevent a well-qualified renter from buying at all?"

New York Times

Eighth Annual Kite Festival

Come to the Kite Festival this weekend!
August 11 and 12, 2012
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Kite-Flying Performances and Kite-Making Workshops

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The 10 Best Restaurants in Chicago

The 10 Best Restaurants in Chicago
according to Zagat

Improving your real estate wealth

People often ask me: “What’s the best way to get rich on real estate?”

The overall answer is pretty simple:

Plan to own every property you buy for a  long time.

  • Drop the get rich quick schemes. Go for the get rich slowly, over a couple of decades plan — complete with a few clogged toilets, some roof leaks and nebby neighbors, but plenty of time to let inflation increase the value of your asset. 
  • You have to take a long-term view with property, and if you do, the chances of having significant wealth down the road are much higher.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Rewriting the American Dream?

"American homes have never been more affordable than they are today. Prices are down dramatically, mortgage rates are at record lows and desperate sellers are willing to make concessions.
Still about one third of Americans choose to rent, despite the fact that 85 percent say owning makes more sense financially than renting over the long term, according to a new Fannie Mae study."

Buy, Sell or Rent: Americans Rewrite the Dream

Year of Capitulation

"Even the rich aren’t immune to the pressures of the housing market.

Prices for homes priced at $1 million or more have fallen a 20 percent this year, according to RealtyTrac. The average sale price for top-tier real estate has fallen to just over $2 million,   from $2.5 million in 2011."

For Luxury Real-Estate, the "Year of Capitulation"

Finding that home

While the real estate market is showing signs of recovery, many potential sellers aren't selling. They want to wait until the market improves.  This Equifax article suggests five places to find a home in today's housing market.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Home features that add real value

"Question: We’re thinking of buying a new house and are wondering what features we can add that will add real value. Should we opt, say, for another full bath as opposed to a larger garage or a fireplace?"

Market Watch
Home features that add real value

Friday, August 3, 2012

Slow lending...

"One of the most frequent comments by Realtors® responding to the latest RCI survey was a concern over unreasonably tight credit conditions..."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Holding firm against principal reduction

"A federal regulator is blocking the government-owned mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from reducing the principal that homeowners owe on their mortgages in order to avoid foreclosures."


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Garden Folly Event

Lake Forest Preservation Foundation Hosts Garden Folly Wine Stroll
Friday, August 24th wine stroll from 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

To Learn More and order tickets