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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!