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Saturday, October 18, 2014

My life in real estate: Lessons learned from Dad

If my blogging has seemed lacking these past couple of months, bear with me… it’s been a difficult time. My darling father, Phil Jones, recently passed away.  

In early August, Dad fell while trying to transfer to his trusty "Amigo" (his scooter). As a result of the fall, he tore his rotator cuff and injured further what was already a badly degenerative hip. Thus began our stress filled journey of emergency rooms, hospitals, surgery, skilled nursing, Medicare and finally hospice.  In spite of his debilitating pain, my dad remained steadfast in his courage and consideration for others. I will never forget how amazing he was throughout this ordeal. 

As you might suspect, I’ve been thinking a lot about Dad these days. He really did live a good and long life. We joyfully celebrated his 90th birthday in May; surrounded by family and many friends -- both old and young and from near and far. But despite my gratitude for his long life, I am a bit heartbroken that my dad is gone. He was my go-to guy for information and counsel. He was always a steady presence in our lives -- a wise and trusted advisor as well as a beloved father.

As I think about Dad, I realize how much I have learned from him and apply to how I work, conduct my real estate business, and how I interact with clients and other agents. So in his honor, I hope you’ll indulge me as I take this time to share some of the lessons he taught me along the way.

There are two words that can define how you achieve success: work and goal. People sometimes thought that my dad was a lucky man. I don't really believe, that people who achieve success are lucky. I think they're well prepared and therefore are ready, when great opportunities come their way. My dad was one of the most accomplished people I've ever known. In his quiet way, he was very driven without the fanfare of so many successful people. He achieved success through setting goals and working to achieve the goals. He knew in high school he wanted to be a doctor, so even during his freshman year in college, he took advanced pre-med courses. This enabled him to skip college and go straight to medical school when WWII broke out. He was prepared. As he taught us, work without goals is merely labor. And goals without working for them, are simply pipe dreams.  (Or to quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "A goal without a plan is just a wish.")  I've considered Dad's advice through the years and think he's right. Most successful people I know are goal oriented and work hard. 

Most people have good intentions. I think this is one of the most important lessons Dad taught me. He communicated that one shouldn't assume that people are malevolent. Most people mean well and simply make mistakes -- they're human. Forgive and accept them. Dad lived his life that way. He overlooked all the crazy things my sibs and I did and never judged us -- just forgave and accepted us. I try to remember that concept in this business of real estate when dealing with others -- it's not always easy, but it's a great guiding principle. 

Listening is far more instructive than talking. My dad was the best listener I've ever known. People gravitated to him because he listened to them. As a result Dad always knew the right directions to get to places; the nuances of situations and the back story to just about anyone's life. When others might get angry and start yelling, Dad would get quiet and start listening. He was amazing that way. I find that when I use his strategy, real estate negotiations go more smoothly and deals come together in a more effective manner.

Showing up is what it's about. One thing I can say about my dad, is that he always showed up.  He never committed to something he couldn't deliver on; when he said he was going arrive at 4:00, he would be there at 3:55. When he said he would help me with something -- he was there,  ready to help.  I've never known another person in the world, who was as reliable as my dad. I suppose for a child (whether young or old) there is something very grounding in knowing that you can count on your parents. He taught me responsibility for keeping ones' word and the importance of "showing up."

You are responsible for your own life. From a very early age, Dad rarely would take a position on what we should do... he would say something like, "It's your decision." I asked him once about it and he said, "It's your life, your decisions, and ultimately your responsibility." So often people blame others for their own mistakes:  "So and so told me to do..."   It seems like more and more people won't take ownership for their own bad decisions or behavior. I think it's become somewhat endemic in our culture to blame others. You often see it in real estate, which is unfortunate.

There is never a reason to be rude or unkind.  Watching Dad these last two months was quite impressive.  With every nurse or helper,  he was kind, polite and always said, "Thank you."  As a result, most of the health care workers were wonderful with him.  It was so instructive to see how kindness and consideration can be infectious and get results.  He was amazing.    

I’m sure there are so many other things that I’ve left out. Dad was special and they really don't make them like that anymore. To quote a sentiment spoken at his memorial service:

"We know we will never see you in the flesh again but know this; we are keeping the best part of you, your spirit. That spirit will continue to influence me and, hopefully, all of us, in the same quiet, dignified way that it did during your long and wonderful life...

In closing, I want to thank God for this great man. He was my mentor, my hero, my friend, and my... father.  I will revere and honor him for as long as I am alive."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I was surprised to see...

This popped up on my Facebook account this morning -- I answered this questionnaire a long time ago, so I was surprised to read it this morning!

Agent Snapshot: Ann Jones, Broker, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Koenig Rubloff Realty Group, Lake Forest

- See more at:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I was recently talking with a friend.  Her mother-in-law was selling her condo in another state, which shall remain nameless.  Suffice to say, it's a state in which real estate is generally sold without attorneys.  That is, real estate agents work directly with title companies and do many of the legal functions that agents in Illinois (by IL law) can't perform.

Don't know the specific details of this transaction,  but apparently their real estate agent failed to mention that there was a home sale contingency.   His explanation was, "Well, you signed the contract.  Didn't you read it?"

This condo is now sitting on the market waiting -- under contract -- waiting for the buyer's property to sell.  The worst part of this contingency, was that there was no end-date on it.... an ugly situation!

Contingencies -- they can be a real bug-a-boo when buying or selling properties.

In our market, about 99.9999% of the time, offers have a home inspection contingency and an attorney review contingency.  I think both of these contingencies are fantastic protections - particularly for the buyer.  But in the above mentioned situation -- an attorney review contingency would probably have protected the seller. 

Attorney Review Contingency
This type of review is pretty standard on the North Shore.  After an offer is signed by all parties, the buyers and sellers can have their respective attorneys review the contract.  If there is something that the attorneys disagree on (except for sales price!), either party can cancel the contract.   It's a safeguard for both the buyers and the sellers.  

Inspection Contingency
An inspection contingency gives the buyers 10 days to get the property inspected by a licensed inspector.     If they see a health and/or safety issue they can get out of the deal if they so desire.  For example, I had a client who inspected a house this spring.  They felt that the foundation was insecure... clearly a safety issue.  They advised their attorney that they didn't want to move forward... contract was null and void without any penalties.   It also allows the buyers to make sure that the seller has provided full disclosure about the property.

While these are pretty standard contingencies, there are others that sellers need to really consider seriously before they contractually agree to them.  

Home Sale Contingency 
A home sale contingency favors the buyer and can be a real disadvantage to the seller.  What it means is this: The contract for the sale of this property is contingent on the buyer being able to sell their own home.   For the seller it means they are taking their property off the market and waiting for the buyer to get their home sold.  Typically when sellers agree to this they put in a lot of caveats such as the buyer's home has to under contract in 30 days or sellers reserves the right to continue marketing the property.  

Home Close Contingency
A home close contingency is generally a little safer for the seller than a home sale contingency.  It means the deal is contingent on the buyer closing on their property as planned.   For a seller to agree to this contingency, the buyers' house generally has to be already under contract.

Mortgage Contingency
With a mortgage contingency, the contract allows a limited amount of time for the buyers to be approved for a mortgage in order to buy the property. If the buyers aren't approved within the time frame, then the contract can be voided.  Again, it's in the seller's best interest to set a limited time frame for this be in effect.  

It usually all works out and people are able to sell and buy at the same time.  There are often questions about logistics because sometimes one person needs to move out of a home while another is moving in.   Sometimes there can even be a domino effect that involves multiple properties --  if one sale falls through it may impact two or three other sales.

Unless my clients can afford to own two homes, I encourage them to get their house sold before they begin making offers on other properties.  Contingencies can weaken their bargaining power.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Do you know this place?

One of my favorite memories of summer as a kid, was when my mother would pack a picnic dinner and we'd drive north to Highland Park to hear a concert at Ravinia. My dad would take the train from the city to meet us after work.

A blanket would be spread out. Mother usually made chicken and deviled eggs and fruit... maybe some cookies. After dinner, my brother and I would run around like banshees -- with my dad always pointing out the kids that would be sitting politely reading on the next blanket. As dusk would fall, we'd all lie down on the blanket to listen to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) play. I usually fell asleep. All seemed so right with the world.

Ravinia was and continues to be one of the special places on the North Shore.

In 1904, the A.C. Frost Company created Ravinia as an amusement park as a way to get riders to use the struggling Chicago and Milwaukee Electric Railroad. The amusement park had a baseball diamond, electric fountain and refectory or casino building with dining rooms and a dance floor. The prairie-style Martin Theatre (then called Ravinia Theatre) is the only building on the grounds that dates back to that original construction. When the park's survival became jeopardized by the railroad's bankruptcy, local residents formed a corporation in 1911 to purchase and operate the park. Music was a confirmed summer activity from then on, except for a brief hiatus during the Depression.

Ravinia Festival is the oldest outdoor music festival in North America and is known for presenting world-class music. It is the summer home for the CSO. The festival attracts about 600,000 listeners to some 120 to 150 events that span all genres from classical music to jazz to music theater over each three-month summer season.

Over the years, the festival has hosted such diverse artists like Louis Armstrong, The Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, Dave Brubeck, Pablo Casals, Van Cliburn, Joe Cocker, Aaron Copland, Ella Fitzgerald, George Gershwin, and Frank Zappa.

The Festival includes symphony concerts, often with guest soloists, as well as opera, jazz, blues, folk, and rock performances, plus ballet, drama, and educational programs which take place year-round.

Ravinia is located on a 36 acres of park and lawn. Folks who live in the neighbor get to enjoy the music that is being played in the open pavilion. This wonderful setting allows for open seating and picnicking, where families and other attendees can choose to use as much (or little) space as they need, with a powerful sound system broadcasting the live performance throughout the park.

In the summer, the North Shore Metra commuter railroad makes special stops before and after concerts. Visitors get dropped off and picked up right at the front gate!

Our little blanket and picnic dinners of the 1950s have been replaced today, with tables, lawn chairs, coolers full of food, blankets, candles, and lawn accessories in tow. Ravinia is one of the few concert venues in the country to allow full meals to be brought in and consumed at concerts, even allowing alcoholic beverages and bottles of wine.

Just as when I was young, making the trip to Ravinia continues to be a special evening of fun!

Check out the schedule for the rest of the summer at

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top 10 Sales on the North Shore in 2014 YTD

80 N Green Bay, Lake Forest
Year Built - 1925
Original List Price - 6,825,000
List Price - $6,625,000
Sold Price - $5,750,000
Days on Market - 879 days
Days on Market at the Final List Price - 448 days
Sale/List Ratio - 87% of asking price

20 Fox Lane, Winnetka
Year Built - 1936
List Price - $6,700,000
Sold Price - $5,500,000
Days on Market -142
Sale/List Ratio  - 82%

Year Built - 2013
List Price - $5,375,000
Sold Price - $5,200,000
Total Days on Market - 168
Sale/List Ratio - 97%

Year Built - 2013
Original List Price - $4,275,000
List Price - $4,749,000
Sold Price - $4,250,000
Days on Market - 580
Days on Market at the Final List Price - 305
Sale/List Ratio - 89% of asking

Year Built - 2006
List Price - $4,295,000
Sold Price - $4,150,000
Total Days on Market - 6
Sale/List Ratio - 97% of asking

Year Built - 1927
Original List Price - $5,499,000
List Price - $4,319,000
Sold Price - $3,900,000
Total Days on Market - 725
Total Days on Market at Final List Price - 293
Sale/List Ratio - 90%

Year Built - 1917
Original List Price - $4,999,000
List Price - $4,290,000
Sold Price - $3,800,000
Total Days on Market - 367
Total Days on Market at Final List price - 1
Sale/List Ratio - 89%

Year Built - 2009
Original List Price - $4,475,000
List Price - $3,975,000 
Sold Price - $3,650,000
Total Days on Market - 845
Days on Market at Final List Price - 182
Sale/List Ratio - 92%

Year Built - 2006
List Price - $3,749,000
Sold Price - $3,600,000
Total Days on Market - 5
Sale/List Ratio - 96%

Year Built - Land
Original List Price - $4,350,000
List Price - $3,995,000
Sold Price - $3,600,000
Total Days on Market - 425
Days on Market at Final List Price - 149
Sale/List Ratio - 90%

So how is the inventory of high end houses?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Learn about rain gardens et al

While we certainly love and need rain, sometimes it can cause problems: erosion, flooding, water pollution, unstable ravines, beach closures, etc. Hear and question  experts about the problems, and learn some useful, practical, and attractive solutions.
On Monday, June 30, 7:00 pm, at Elawa Farm, three speakers will explain the problems and provide some solutions...
See more... at Rain, Rain, Go this Way

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

5 often heard and quite ridiculous statements about buying and selling real estate

I've now been in real estate for over 10 years.  It's been an interesting ride -- with the ups and downs of the housing market.  

Consistently, though, there are several statements that I hear with some regularity.  While I've learned to stifle a laugh when I hear them, they continue to amuse me.  Here they are: 

1. "I'm not going to give my house away." 
I'm actually a little irritated when a seller says this to me.   In what universe, is the purchase of a million dollar home considered a give-away?    
Walking out the door and handing over the keys - now that is "giving away the house." 
What the seller wants, needs or would like to get, does not always equate to Fair Market Value.  This fact became painfully clear during the last few years when property values were declining.  A home is not worth some zestimate on
A home is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it and what a seller is willing to accept.   

 2. "This offer is an insult."
I always have to smile when a seller says this to me.  Of all the over 1500 homes for sale on the North Shore, this buyer picked your home as the one they want to buy!!!   
They liked your home so much, that they took the time to write an offer.   
How insulting can that possibly be?  
When a buyer drives up to your home and won't even come inside to look at it (which, by the way, I've had clients do) --- now that's an insult.
An offer is never an insult -- an offer is a starting point for negotiations.   You don't have to like the offer.  But I strongly recommend that you start with gratitude, when someone likes your home enough to buy it.

3. "We need to set the price high, so there is plenty of room to negotiate."
Houses sell for Fair Market Value. Period. 
When a property is special or one of kind AND the right buyer shows up, the house might sell for a little bit more.   
Also sometimes a seller gets lucky and gets a better price than FMV.  BUT, more often than not, a home sells for the fair price.  
Leaving room to negotiate is not nearly as effective as strategically pricing a home in such a way as to bring in several motivated buyers.  I find when a home is priced correctly, it sells within a month for about 95% of asking.  (see The Sweet Spot)
I've seen houses sell in one day for asking price or even over asking.  While it's counter intuitive, pricing a house at close to market value, usually nets the best return. 
Buyers recognize value and act accordingly.
4. "The house sold quickly.  I must have set the price too low."
You priced the house perfectly.  The buyers recognized the value of the home and acted accordingly. (see Selling your home quickly.)
It's been my experience, that the longer the house sits on the market, the lower the offers become.  Buyers start to ask the question, "What's wrong with this house?  Why hasn't it sold?"   
A quick sale is a wonderful thing.  

5. "Real estate agents make too much money, after all how hard can it be to sell real estate?"
I confess.  Before I became a broker, I was just as guilty of making this statement as others do.   I couldn't have been more wrong.
Outside of gambling, I can't think many professions where people work for countless hours and spend countless dollars of their own money without any certainty of compensation.  (see My life in real estate: making a living.)
Case in point,  I worked with one client for over 10 YEARS before they actually purchased or sold a home.  We're talking hundreds of hours and who knows how much wear and tear on my car, etc.  before I earned any revenue from the transactions.    
I have to concede, some clients and transactions are straightforward and less time consuming.  But, by and large, this seven-day week job requires tremendous effort and commitment to achieve any level of success or a reasonable income.
So much of what a realtor does is behind the scenes and invisible to the public.   If you're interested in what we do, here's a pretty comprehensive list compiled by one real estate board.  184 Tasks Agents Do For You
So the next time, you hear one of these statements... 

Think about it and maybe you too will see how ridiculous these statements are!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Strengthen the communities... Buy Local -- North Shore's Farmer's Markets

As Spring turns into summer, the local farmer's markets are beginning to starting up again.   Smart phone app, Farmstand,
makes it easy to discover the best of local farmers markets.  This app is great because it is geographically enabled to locate the closest farmers' markets -- helps when you're on the road!

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold.  Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.  Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to the various middlemen (distributors, shippers, etc.).  By buying locally produced products, one helps preserve the environment, and strengthens the community by investing food dollars closer to home.  (source: LocalHarvest)

So buy local!  
There are some great Farmer's Markets to be visited on the North Shore.

There are several Farmers' Markets in operation in Evanston in the spring, summer and fall. If you're interested in supporting the markets, visit Friends of Evanston Markets.

Wilmette French Market
Village Center adjecent to the Metra Northline parking lot
Opening Saturday, April 26
8am -1:00 pm

The 2014 Wilmette French Market is open for business. The market will run every Saturday (8 am – 1 pm) through November 1st. Expect to find a variety of traditional farmer’s market goods, like fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheeses, meats and breads from local and regional vendors.

Northfield Farmers Market
6 Happ Road, across from New Trier's Northfield Campus
Starting Saturday, May 24
7:30am -12:30 pm

The Northfield Farmers’ Market is a community tradition that has served the North Shore for over 35 years. Shoppers enjoy a relaxing Saturday morning, visit with friends and neighbors and bring home some of the most luscious, fresh-picked fruits and vegetables your family has ever tasted.  The Northfield Farmers’ Market will open for the season on May 24, 2014 and will run through October 18, 2014.  The market is operated by the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce.

Glencoe Farmers Market
Metra Commuter Parking Lot on the NE Corner of Green Bay and Park
Saturdays, June - October
8am -1:00 pm

Shop the Glencoe Farmers Market on Saturdays.   Fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods, flowers and more! Shop the Glencoe Farmers Market: Saturdays from 8am-1pm.

Chicago Botanic Gardens Farmers Market
Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe at the Esplanade
Starting Sunday, May 4 - October 19
9am -3:00 pm
The 2014 Farmers Market will be held the first and third Sundays of the month from May 4 through October 19.  (check the website -- a couple times over the summer they will not be having the market).   Admission to the market is free to Garden visitors and will be held rain or shine. Standard parking fees apply. As always, Garden members park free. Visitors may purchase a special market bag from the Garden Shop to carry their purchases home.

Ravinia Farmers Market
Dean Avenue (Between St. John's & Roger Williams Ave - 475 Roger Williams), Highland Park
Starting Wednesdays -- runs June 4 - October 29th
7am -1:00 pm

Highwood's Evening Gourmet Farmers Market
Highwood City Hall, 17 Highwood Avenue
Wednesdays, June 11th - August 27th
4pm -9:00 pm

Highwood brings together the most unique vendors from around the Midwest to sell, cook and serve the freshest foods and local wares. This feast of local produce, gourmet cheeses, homemade pastas, baked goods, breads and pastries, and a variety of Italian, Mexican, French, and Irish delicacies, offers something for everyone. With its Evening Concert Series and live cooking demo's in the Gourmet Chef's Corner, this energetic farmers market has become a tradition for friends and family looking for great food, spirits and entertainment. Additionally the North Shore Flea joins the market and features the hottest trends in vintage today, from furniture, décor, jewelry, vintage bikes and so much more. 

Lake Forest Farmers Market
East Lake Forest Metra Train Station parking lot
671 N. Western Avenue
Lake Forest, IL  60045
Opening Saturday, June 21 
8am -1:00 pm

The 2014 City of Lake Forest Farmers Market will open June 21, 2013 and run through October 11, 2014.   Every Saturday, from 8 am - 1:00 pm, you will find local produce featuring seasonal fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy products and more sold directly off the trucks. 

Elawa Farms
Middlefork Road, off of Waukegan in Lake Forest
Open May 16th through October 31st
Wednesday 8:00 am to 1:00 pm
Friday 8:00 am to 1:00 pm
Saturday 8:00 am to 1:00 pm

The garden market features freshly harvested garden produce and products made thereof such as soups, salad dressings, pestos and baked goods. The garden itself is a public garden and can be respectfully visited anytime.  Please stay on the paths and refrain from picking the produce unless given permission to do so.  This is a beautiful place to shop!

Lake Bluff Farmers Market
on the Village Green
June 13 - October 10
7am - 12 pm

Start your weekends at the Lake Bluff Farmers Market. Scheduled every Friday,  residents and downtown visitors will again have the opportunity to enjoy fresh fruits, vegetables, summer blossoms, and delicious baked goods.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Happenings in Winnetka

Wednesdays in the WoodsWednesdays_in_the_Woods.1_-_size_reduced
Enjoy the Farmers’ Market and Summer Concert Series
Hubbard Woods Park – 939 Green Bay Road
Join the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce and the Winnetka Park District for an evening of family fun at Hubbard Woods Park!  Enjoy shopping from a delicious selection of fresh produce, appetizing food items, and other products at the Farmers' Market.
Arrive early to visit open Hubbard Woods Design District merchants serving beverages, and shop the Farmers' Market for your picnic dinner! Bring a blanket and enjoy listening to one of the bands for the Summer Concert Series!
Farmers' Market starts at 4:00 PM
Concerts play from 7:00 - 8:30 PM
June 11 - Basement Jacks (KWBA Day)
June 18 - Hillbilly Rockstars (AYSO Day)
June 25 - Spoken Four (Winnetka Park District Day Camp Day)
July 9   - New Invaders (Winnetka Park District Partner Appreciation Day)
July 16 - Class of 68 (Green Wave Football & Cheerleading Day)
July 23 - 3rd Sunday String Band (Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce Day)
July 30 - Saturday June Band (Winnetka Hockey Club Day)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memories of Memorial Day

The other Girl Scout troop: Troop 6 - 1964?
I have so many memories of Memorial Day.  Growing up in Kenilworth the Memorial Day parade and service was always a big deal.  Even little ones would be in the parade with their tricycles decorated.  

My Girl Scout Troop 5 always gathered at in front of our house to line up in the parade... it was strategically located.  

Our dads would be wearing their WWII uniforms and marching proudly.  There was always such a diverse set of uniforms: officers and enlisted men -- Army and Navy.   It was so strange to see them out of their business suits and in this attire.   So many of our dads had served as citizen soldiers.  I knew that among my parents' generation, just about everyone had lost a loved one or friend in that cataclysmic war.   But they really didn't want to talk about it.  The parade and day really meant so much to them -- they took it personally. 

There was always a band from Great Lakes -- they were amazing.  When I was really young, they had all sorts of groups like baton twirlers in the parade.   By the time I was 10, most of those programs didn't exist any more at Joseph Sears, so it was mainly just the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts.  Then and still today, the parade is held the weekend before, so that everyone can see and participate in the ceremonies.  It always seems like there are more participants than observers. 

Mom in her Girl Scout uniform
Memorial Day was very important to my mother.   We often went to her small town in Missouri over this long weekend.  At some point, we would go to the cemetery and meet others who were there as well.  It was a rather social event with people reminiscing about various folks.  Sometimes the stories were quite amusing.  

I think people in the South really embrace Memorial Day... so many were lost during the Civil War -- it was after that war, when this remembrance day began.  Long after no family member was living in her hometown, Mother would like to go back to visit her parents' graves. 

I am thinking about my amazing mother this weekend.  It's the holiday that reminds me the most of her.   Hope your Memorial Day is filled with loving memories as well. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rocking the Ages Part 6 - final thoughts

For those of you, who have been following my blog in the recent weeks, you have seen the series of articles ("Rocking the Ages") about marketing to different generations.  

I took the title for this series from the research project, Rocking the Ages: The Yankelovich Report of Generational Marketing.  The ideas presented in the report were, at the time, considered a different way of thinking about marketing.  Up until then,  marketing strategies were often based on demographic ages (i.e., children, teenagers, young adults, midlife adults and seniors).  What this study showed was that buying patterns were less influenced by age and more influenced by generation: Baby Boomers, Generation X, etc.   

"There are events that define a generation called 'markers.'  Think of markers as the key set of collective experiences that shape a generation's values and attitudes.  These set the tone for a generation, give it direction, provide it with whatever sense of cohesion it has…"

For those born between 1925-1945, their lives were shaped by the Great Depression and the cataclysmic World War II.  For those born between 1945 - 1965, their lives were shaped by unprecedented peace and property, etc.

"Markers help us see why the past is not prologue.  You make a mistake if you assume that just because your customers are turning a certain age they will behave in the same ways as those that turned that age before them… the habits acquired and formed early in life continue to shape behavior. 

… a common mistake … is 'generational myopia,' or the shortsighted application of the values and attitudes of your own generation to the next…. Each generation is shaped by different markets: you must walk with them in their shoes, not walk on them in your shoes

Generational marketing won't explain everything, but it will explain a lot."
Rocking the Ages: The Yankelovich Report of Generational Marketing

If you are planning to sell your home in the next few years, I encourage you to think long and hard about which generational cohort will more than likely be interested in buying your home.  While there are no hard and fast rules about generational behavior, there definitely are patterns that a seller should understand if they are going to be effectively marketing their home to the right buyers.  

To summarize some of the highlights of the recent National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends survey. 
  • The Millennials comprises the largest share of home buyers at 31%, followed by Gen X at 30%, and both Trailing Boomers (16%) and Older Boomers (14%) at 30%. The Silent Generation has the smallest share of home buyers at 9%. 
  • The Millennials has the largest share of first-time buyers at 76%. The share of first-time buyers declines as age increases. Among the Silent Generation only 2% of buyers are first-time buyers. 
  • Among all generations of home buyers the first step in the home buying process is looking online for properties for sale. 
  • The Millennials are the most likely among generations to also look online for information about the home buying process, while the Silent Generation is most likely to contact a real estate agent. 
  • More than half of the Millennials and Gen X buyers used a mobile device during their home search. Among those who did, 26% of Millennials and 22% of Gen X buyers found the home they ultimately purchased via a mobile device. 
  • Among the generations, Gen X (29%) is the largest group who are recent home sellers followed by both Older Boomers (22%) and Younger Boomers (21%). 
Understanding the motivations and "generational markers" that drive your potential buyers can be the winning difference in selling a home!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Rocking the Ages Part 5 - Marketing your home to the Silent Generation

The 50 million people born in the US between 1925-1945 or the Silent Generation, "made it the smallest generation in the last 100 years. In 1951, a Time Magazine article was written in which the children of the generation were described as 'unimaginative', 'withdrawn', 'unadventurous', and 'cautious'. Time Magazine used the name 'Silent Generation' to refer to these individuals, and the name has stuck.

However, describing this generation as the Silent Generation is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, many revolutionary leaders in the civil rights movement came from this group, along with a wide assortment of artists and writers who fundamentally changed the arts in America. The Beat Poets, for example, were members, as were Martin Luther King, Gloria Steinem, and many other notable advocates for change in the 20th century.

The Silent Generation children grew up in conditions complicated by war and economic downturn. From 1929 until 1939, America suffered during the world economic crisis of the Great Depression. Many American citizens lost their homes, possessions, and were starving on the streets. It was estimated that over 24% of Americans were unemployed.

The Silent Generation has been described as being highly ambitious and having a need for achievement, power, and status. It has been suggested that the economic suffering and loss of status during the Great Depression led to the Silent Generation's ambitions to rise above these losses."

Some recent facts about his generation:

  • Research collected between 2010 and 2013 found that the Silent Generation is the happiest generation in America, followed by Boomers (born 1946 to 1964), Generation X (born 1965 to 1980) and Millennials (born 1980 and 2000).
  • It has been hypothesized that the small numbers of the Silent Generation will have a negative effect on the assisted-living industry.
Source: Educational Portal

According to the National Association of Realtor’s Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, the Silent Generation are:
  • 9% of recent home buyers and 16% of recent home sellers
  • Most likely to be repeat buyer—98%
  • 18% purchased a multi-generational home. Most common reasons: health/caretaking of aging parents (27%), children over 18 moving back into home (23%), and cost savings (21%)
  • Biggest neighborhood influencers: convenient to friends and family, convenient to shopping, affordability, design of neighborhood, and convenient to health facilities
  • Smallest share who finance their home purchase—55%
  • Moving 38 miles from previous home
  • Most common reason to sell home: want to move closer to friends and family, home is too large, and retirement
  • Typically downsizing square footage and price of home 
I've worked with a number of people in the so-called Silent Generation. It can be challenging to move at this stage in life, because it often requires downsizing significantly while, at the same time, marketing an older and often more dated home to the GenXers. 

My Silent clients have been pretty amazing. The moves have been demanding and the transitions challenging… and yet they have made the move with great resilience, determination and spirit. I think it says something for the times, in which they were raised… you just did what you had to do and didn't complain. 

Some of this generation skips buying a new property and instead moves directly to places like The Glen or Lake Forest Place. But many still want their independence and are not ready for retirement communities. My experience has been that they are primarily looking for apartments. If they are looking for a house or townhouse, it's usually something that is maintenance free or it's a one-story house.  

How do you market your home to the Silents?

Marketing to this generation is really quite easy.  

Silents just want to make sure that the space is there for the pieces of furniture the they want to move and keep.  In general, they don't feel the need for high-end gourmet kitchens or luxury bathrooms -- they just want to make sure that everything is in good working order, clean and well constructed.

Because they have saved and are relatively thrifty, Silents make great buyers.  They rarely get mortgages, so most deals are in cash.  Also, they infrequently make demands from the inspection, so the properties close without many complications or glitches.   

I would recommend to a seller of a property that might appeal to a Silent, to do a pre-listing inspection of the property and make repairs early. Make sure the unit is professionally cleaned and everything is in good working order. 

My experience has also been with this generation, that they don't really search out properties themselves.  They rely very heavily on their agents to get them the information. This is the one generational cohort that probably needs to see print materials with photographs and descriptions.  While some look at properties on the Internet, most review print materials.  As a seller of a Silent type of property, make sure the collateral information is relevant and informational. 

If you are a Silent and are selling your property, I encourage you to hire a professional stager and organizer.  (For example, I highly recommend a team like The Organizing Girls.)  They can make the transition so much easier.  They are superb at helping with downsizing and they know how to stage a home so that it appeals to the next generation.  

* * * * 

The remaining cohort, the Greatest Generation (those born before 1925) were not profiled by the National Association of Realtors.   However, I do have first hand experiences working with this cohort!  If you didn't get a chance, read my series called, Moving.  In it I share my personal experiences of helping my dad move from a cottage at Lake Forest Place to an apartment.  I learned a lot of lessons during that transition, that you might find helpful.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Where to go for an online real estate search

Clients often ask me which is the best website for looking up properties. I find my clients go to a lot of sources from Redfin to Trulia.  Some of these sites are better than others.  I think most of them have much of the same data.

If I were to pick one national site, I would probably pick This is the website associated with the National Association of Realtors, so one can assume that any realtor who is a member of the NAR would have their listings on this website.   I find that with some of these other websites that the information is dated and obsolete.
According to Inman News, Zillow, Trulia and captured more than a third of all visits to real estate sites from desktop computers in April for the first time.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

How's the Market as of May 3, 2014

Finally, even after having snow in April – I really believe that we are going to be seeing a pretty spring.  It has been a long hard winter, and I can finally feel the real estate market starting to wake up!

So, how is the market?

There are a couple of numbers that I like to study, when determining how the market is performing. First, I consider the absolute number of units sold on a month-on-month and year-on-year basis. Are we selling more or less properties than last month? And are we selling more homes than last year this time?

Below are a series of charts that can help illustrate this. These charts list the absolute number of units sold. Indicated are April of 2013, March of 2014, and April of 2014.  In this way, one can tell both the month-to-month trend and also see what has been the most recent historic level for a particular month.

In general, while closed sales in April were down from both April of 2013 and March of 2014, I can’t say that I am particularly surprised. Properties usually close 30-90 days after the contract is written, so sometimes these numbers tend to reflect more historic activity.  Clearly this winter we have seen a bit of decline in the number of sales.   If the trend continues in May, June and July, I will be a little more concerned. 

Considering the number of units in isolation doesn’t provide the complete picture. Also needed is knowing how many new listings came on the market. Are the inventory levels dropping to a more balanced market? The following chart shows the number of properties that went under contract during April versus the number of units that were new to the market this last month.

As might be expected, more units came on the market then went under contract.  This is usually what happens in the spring.  The good news is, that there isn't a significant increase between new and sold as there had been during the housing crisis.   Sales are just about keeping pace with new inventory coming on.

The numbers that most Realtors like to follow are the inventory levels.  Inventory is measured in months.    What "month's inventory" means is this: if sales were keeping pace with new properties coming on the market, how many months would it take to sell the outstanding inventory?   It's a better way of interpreting the unit count, because it reflects how quickly certain price points are moving or stagnating.

A healthy balanced market is around 6-10 months of inventory.  An unbalanced seller’s market is about 0-8 months of inventory.  And a buyers’ market is considered anything over 8 months of inventory. 

Across the board things are in pretty good shape.  In Kenilworth, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff inventory levels are a little high, but nothing dramatic. We see some shortages and sellers' markets in Wilmette and Evanston. 

Keep in mind, these charts only present the numbers in aggregate. Various price points have higher or lower levels of inventory.   

High end inventory remains pretty high.  It's still a great time to buy one of those dream houses on the north shore!

In summary, the market is back to normal -- yeah!  It's been a long time coming.  

There were moments during April when it felt like it did in 2005 at the peak of the market.  With the exception of high-end home, it's exciting to know that we have cleared out much of the overhang of inventory.  

With the great weather on our way, one can hope that May will be the best month yet!