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

Contact Ann

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

Rocking the Ages Part 2 - Marketing your home to the Millennials

"They are called, among other things, 'millennials.' There are about 80 million of them, born between 1980 and 1995, and they're rapidly taking over from the baby boomers...

They were raised by doting parents who told them they are special, played in little leagues with no winners or losers, or all winners. They are laden with trophies just for participating and ... the millennials have the upper hand, because they are tech savvy, with every gadget imaginable almost becoming an extension of their bodies. They multitask, talk, walk, listen and type, and text. And their priorities are simple: they come first... Some of them are the greatest generation. They're more hardworking. They have these tools to get things done. They are enormously clever and resourceful... "  

The "Millennials" Are Coming
Morely Safer, 60 Minutes (2007)

Millennials or Generation Y are also called the Internet Generation, because they were the first generation to grow up with the Internet being a "normal" and essential part of their lives.   They are the first generation born into a world that has been run by Boomers.  This is also a generation, where parents became increasingly involved in child rearing (AKA, "helicopter parents").

According to the National Association of Realtor’s Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, the Millennials are:
  • Largest share of home buyers at 31% and smallest share of home sellers at 12%
  • 76% are first-time buyers
  • Buying primarily for desire to own a home
  • 19% live in urban areas—largest share amongst the generations
  • Biggest neighborhood influencers: quality of neighborhood and convenience to job
  • Commuting costs are very important to 37% of Millennial buyers
  • Plan to live in home 10 years
  • 74% say biggest benefit from an agent is helping them understand the process
  • 20% had a difficult time saving for a downpayment among them 56% said student loan debt delayed saving
  • 17% had to stall home sale because their home was worth less than their mortgage
  • Most likely to think their home is a good financial investment: 87% 
They use the Internet and their mobile phones to study the tax records, the recent sales; they've analyzed price per square foot and have a robust understanding about market values -- often much better than most sellers do.  They see the realtor as a conduit to the process -- not necessarily the source of information.   Because of their resourcefulness, they don't necessarily remain loyal to any particular agent and move between agents looking for the one that can provide them with the most information.  

There are positives and negatives to this style.  The positive is that they are more aware and knowledgeable.   Personally, I love to work with Millennials... they are more tech savvy and informed than any other generational group, with whom I have worked.  They want detailed facts and appreciate the information I provide for them.   They also do their homework.  They don't waste time touring properties -- they choose properties right from the Internet and then hand you a list of what they want to see.  

That said -- they have high standards and can be very exacting in what they want.   On more than one occasion, I've had to nudge these clients to see properties that may not be on "their list" -- in other words, there is a degree of inflexibility.  In our market, I have found that few of the Millennials have any interest in buying a "fixer-upper."  They want the house done to perfection are are unwilling to make compromises.  

“Millennials ... expect to walk into homes that are straight out of HGTV and look like they’re falling out of a magazine page, with modern colors and furniture styles,” real estate columnist and talk show host Ilyce Glink says. “Homes that don’t look like that may sell, but their owners could get hurt on price.”

So how do you market a property to a Millennial buyer?

First and foremost, once listed in the MLS, your home needs to have an exceptional Internet presence. The Millennials rarely look at print ads or even read newspapers.  They have set up automatic notifications about properties that get sent directly to their phones, when a new property is listed.   As a seller you should understand and make sure your Realtor has a robust Internet strategy and is aware of all the latest apps and tools.  Don't worry about print ads -- worry if the photographs on the Internet are anything short of exquisite.   (Good article in the New York Times a few years ago: Making Every Pixel Count.)

So how do you make your house more marketable to a Millennial?

Millennials are just starting to make the move to the North Shore. 

Do you have one of those wonderful old houses on the North Shore? I grew up in one -- built around 1910 with hardwood floors, unfinished basement with a laundry area, gracious living room, formal dining room, smaller bathrooms, detached two car garage, etc. 

There are so many wonderful family homes like this on the North Shore -- but selling one of these houses to the next generation can be a real challenge. My experience has been that they gravitate to newer construction;  that they are looking for more with features like:
  • 3 car attached garages
  • mud rooms
  • luxury bathrooms
  • gourmet kitchen with high end appliances
  • finished and recreational basements
As much as it may pain you, putting some money into that old house before you list it will help you in the long run.   You’ll likely get a better sale's price and a faster sale.  If you were to spend $20,000 in preparing the house, you might make an extra $40,000 to $50,000, when you sell.   For a Millennial to buy an old house, they need to connect with it emotionally -- in other words, you need to hook them in.  

If you plan to sell within the next few years, there are a few things you can – and probably should – do to make your house more appealing to members of the Millennial (and GenXer) generations.

Some tips for making house more marketable:
  • REPAIR - hire a licensed home inspector to perform a pre-listing inspection.  Their report provides you with a punch list of things that are wrong with the house. Fix everything -- make sure the house is in perfect condition.  (I've seen Millennial buyers make offers on multiple properties and pay for multiple inspections, only to walk away if they think the house had too many -- and, in some cases, trivial--issues.)
  • DE-CLUTTER - when it comes to selling a house, less is more.  Begin the process of moving; sell, donate or dump anything you don't plan to move with you.  
  • NEUTRALIZE the decorating.    
I asked a favorite decorator, Kelley Rubin, for her suggestions  on making a home more marketable to the Millennials and the Gen Xers. As an interior designer for over 20 years (and a Gen Xer herself), Kelley has a great eye and wonderful style for making a home more marketable to these buyers.
  • How can a seller neutralize the decorating?
"Remove all the older wallpaper and freshen up the rooms with new colors for the walls.  It can go a long way in making an older home feel new again. 
"I recommend the use of more beiges or grays in warmer tones for the living room, family room, hallways and common spaces.  It is great if you have accent molding, trim or doors that you can paint in a brighter white to add contrast to any wall color that you choose.  
"I like to see powder rooms or dining rooms painted in more dramatic colors and like to use some of Benjamin Moore's Historical colors when choosing paints for those spaces because of their timeless look and sophisticated feel. 
Another nice way of updating an older home and making it feel more modern is painting out older oak woodwork that tends to feel 1980ish with the same white or cream paint that you choose for your trim.  This can include wood paneled walls as well.  It really helps to lighten the space up and make it feel new again.   
Airy colors in lighter blues or greens always feel fresh and work well in basements, bathrooms and bedrooms.  They make the rooms feel bigger and again with a bright white paint on the ceilings and trim, the colors really pop and brighten up the space."
  •  How should sellers address the floors?
"If you have old, worn carpet over hardware floors, tear the carpet out and expose the beautiful hardwoods underneath.  If you decide to change the existing carpets in bedrooms or on stairs, go for a nice neutral beige in a Berber style in 100% wool or 100% nylon.  This is an update which looks expensive and classic, compared to the 1970's shag that many of us grew up with that really dates a space."
  • FINISHES -- there are also simple things that can be done like changing out cabinet knobs and doorknobs with more current finishes.  
  • STAGE -- hire a professional stager to help with this process.  It's all about merchandising your home.  (Give Kelley a call at (510) 882-3300 and she can give you some pointers on staging as well as helping you with selecting paint colors and other finishes!)
Property condition is amazingly important with this generational cohort.  To get more tips, read my previous blog posting on this subject.  

One other interesting fact about Millennials.  Perhaps because of 9/11, perhaps because of the ubiquitousness of cell phones, this generation is connected and very attached to family and friends.

Unlike the Baby Boomers, the typical Millennial has stayed closer to home. In fact, 65 percent say being near family is important in their purchase decision, while 67 percent cite being near friends as being important.

This matters, because Millennials want to have input from both their family and friends, especially when they are making a major decision. One thing I've noticed is the number of parents that tour the house (sometimes multiple sets!) and several carloads of friends show up to see the house they would like to buy.  Appealing "to the masses" is critical.

The good news is this: the percentage of Millennials purchasing real estate will continue to increase as more people in this age group advance along their career path, get married and have children. That bodes well for home sellers on the North Shore!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rocking the Ages - Part 1

Years ago, I was on the board of trustees for my alma mater. At one of the meetings, there was a guest speaker who discussed generational marketing by sharing the landmark study Rocking the Ages: The Yankelovich Report of Generational Marketing.

The purpose of the discussion was instructional:  how does one appeal to the different generations. The message I never forgot was this: peoples' beliefs and behavior are pretty much determined by generation -- not by their age.  
"Understanding generational values and motivations has become essential because each generation is driven by unique ideas about the lifestyle to which it aspires." (from Rocking the Ages)

For example, my parents beliefs were shaped by the Depression and WWII.   These beliefs of duty, honor, frugalness, etc. have stayed with them throughout their adulthood and have influenced their behavior and purchasing decisions.

I've never forgotten this speaker and thought it would be interesting to explore how sellers need to consider these generational behaviors when marketing their homes to each generation.

Have you ever noticed, that when you have an idea, some thing related appears? Look what came in my mailbox this morning!  Stay tuned.

2014 NAR Home Buyer Seller Generational Trends

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

When does a house become a home?


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tools to use when buying real estate

It's Sunday. The sun is shining. There is no football game on TV. It looks like a great day for buyers to explore properties on Open House.

That said, many buyers have altered their behavior when it comes to shopping for homes. Many have found Open Houses as the last thing they do -- not the first.  The Internet has been a game changer for everyone: brokers, agents, buyers, sellers, mortgage lenders... everyone.

I remember when I first looked for my homes. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) could only be viewed through a real estate professional. The MLS was updated weekly in these huge phonebook-like volumes. A tiny and grainy picture of the front the property was all you could see of it and much of the information was listed in a code-like language, so the agent would have to explain, what it said.

Things have changed in the last 20 years, when it comes to buying a home. Today, buyers can have instantaneous knowledge when new properties have come on the market, have gone under contract or have undergone price reductions. Buyers can preview and assess a property on their smart phones.  More and more buyers are not even going to look at properties that haven't passed the "preview test."   Having exquisite photographs has become critical for a listing to pass the test.

Are you thinking about buying this year? Here are some of my favorite tools, that you can use to make the experience a little more efficient.

Pick the neighborhood.

Every community has a city website.  I have provided an overview of the North Shore as well as books, links and additional information.  

Neighborhood Scout -- this application enables you to get crime, school and real estate information for any address.

AreaVibes -- this is another application that can provide information

If knowing how walkable the neighborhood, check out Walk Score.

Yelp is always my favorite for everyday things like restaurants, coffee shops, etc.

To learn more about a property.
If the property has been listed in a multiple listing service, there are literally hundreds (Trulia, Zillow, Homes, etc., etc. etc.) of sites that can provide photographs and details about a property. I find the most reliable site for property information is It's updated continuously to reflect the MLS information.  Many other sites are also good, but if I had to pick one, that would be my first choice.

Every property is also listed on the brokerage sites. In our market, some listings are also on agent sites and even some agents set up unique sites that relate to a specific property. (For example, you can preview my current listing at 1065 Cahill at,, and then see all the details of the property at

Another favorite is Google Maps. With this application, it's easy to see exactly how the property relates to such things as highways, trains, schools, parks, etc.

To learn more about the sales history and tax information of a property, the county assessor sites often list the public records about a particular property. (e.g., Lake County Tax Assessor
Cook County Assessor's Office)

One tool that is helpful, but unavailable to the public is the CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report. To learn if the property has had insurance claims against it, check with your insurance provider. They should be able to provide a CLUE report. Insurance companies use information from the CLUE database to help determine the rate you’re charged for a new homeowner’s insurance policy. If the house has had insurance claims filed against it, it might affect the insurance costs.

Out and About Looking at Homes
Now that you have the technology tools in hand and are ready to really look at homes. Here are some additional tools for the touring process.

A camera is invaluable. The brochures often don't provide the complete picture and it's helpful to have photographs for later review.

I also, highly recommend wearing warm socks and easy to get on/off loafer-like shoes. Home owners really don't want buyers tracking through their homes wearing shoes and often request that people remove them while touring a house. 

Bring a few power bars and a bottle of water.  Touring can be pretty exhausting if there are a lot of properties to see... it's always good to have reinforcements!

These are just some of my favorite tools and tips that I use when working with clients. To see a complete list of apps and sites of interest, check out the Real Estate Apps and Information and Resources tabs on my blog. I update this information, whenever I find something useful for my readers.

Finally, the best "tool" a buyer can have is a respected agent, who knows the local market and can help a buyer find the right home.   A local agent would know about exempt "pocket listings" that are absent from the Internet.  I've seen buyers quite upset when they learn about a sale of a house that was never marketed publicly... only the local real estate agents really knew about it.  Serious buyers understand that working with a local agent is the best way to learn about ALL listings for sale.  

Also a local agent may personally know the seller and why they are moving and how motivated they are to sell.  They would know the listing agent, the neighborhood and all sorts of relevant information -- that's not necessarily available on the Internet -- but is invaluable knowledge for a buyer, when they are making an offer to purchase a new home.   

So, if you're thinking about buying a home this spring, give me call. I'd love to be that local agent that helps you find the home of your dreams!

Happy hunting.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Going green matters

Going Green Matters is the annual environmental fair in Wilmette. People interested in living more sustainably will have a chance to learn more about topics such as saving energy at home, transportation choices, green landscaping, growing your own food, organic food and farming, connecting to nature, green home design and products, and more.

Woman's Club of Wilmette
1-5 pm