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

Contact Ann

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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Green Tip of the Month - reduce radiator heat loss

Fit wooden shelves/covers over your radiators. This will force the warm air to circulate around the room instead of going straight up to the ceiling.
If the radiator if under a window, the cover will also stop the heat from traveling behind the curtains. You can also fit a sheet of aluminum foil or insulation on the wall behind the radiator to help reduce energy waste, particularly if the radiator is on the outside wall. It is possible to buy rigid reflective radiator panels that can be used without having to take the radiator off the wall. They simply slip right into
the gap between the radiator and the wall.

Source: The little Green Book of the Home by Sarah Callard

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thinking about an estate sale?

Lately,  estate sales have been on my mind.   My basement is still full of stuff from my parents' home.  I've had several clients and colleagues ask me for the names of estate sale agents.  

Selling one's "stuff" can be a bit overwhelming.   I've been to enough estate sales to see how the money is shoved into apron pockets.    How do you know whether you are dealing with people who are reputable and professional?   I tossed that question over to my neighbor, Cherie Doherty, who has worked with estate sales. 

She put together this suggestion list for me to share with my readers:

Tips on Choosing an Estate Sale Company

1. Interview More Than Two

Look over the complete list of companies in your area. Call as many as possible for information about the services they offer.

2. What Do They Charge?

Don't let the percentage charged be the only criteria when choosing a company.  A lower percentage does not necessarily mean you will make more money.  For example, if a company with more experience knows that you have a collection worth a lot of money, they could possibly make you more money even while charging a higher percentage.

3. Interview In Person

Once you have narrowed it down to a few companies ask them to come and meet with you. They will want to see what you want liquidated.

4. Do NOT Throw Anything Away

Do not throw anything away before meeting with the companies. Every company will tell you this and there is a reason. That "pile of junk" or "that trash" might be worth big money. Seriously ... don't throw anything away until you have an expert look at it.

5. Removing Items After An Interview

Realize that most companies work on a percentage so the more they make for you the more they make. Also, realize they may make a bid to you based on what you represent will be for sale. Many will charge a commission once they have started working on the sale and something is removed. If you intend to take items let the companies know on the front end and have it in the contract.

6. Research, Research, Research

Make sure you feel comfortable with the company before signing a contract. Check with your local better business bureau to be sure there aren't outstanding issues with the company you have chosen. If there are, ask the company about it.

7. Visit a Sale

The best way to get a feel for a company is to watch them in action. Go to a sale and don't let them know who you are. Look and see how it is set up. Interact with their staff at the checkout. Do they treat people with respect? Are they efficient? Look for what is important to you.

8. Ask for References

Ask the company for letters of reference and contact information for recent clients. Contact those clients and find out what they liked and what they didn't like. Ask them specifically "What do you wish would have been done better?"

9. Get a Contract

A contract is extremely important. It should detail out when the sale will be held, how much the company is charging, when you will get paid, etc. Do not hire a company without a contract.

10. Ask The Same Questions

Make a list of questions to ask each company. That way you are comparing apples to apples. They may have a brochure or something they can send you in the mail. Here are some questions you may want to consider asking:

·       Will a company owner be present at my sale?

·       Is your staff all W-2 employees?

·       What is your commission?

·       Are there fees besides your commission?

·       Do you have insurance? What types?

·       Where and how do you advertise the sale? How are you connected on social media?

·       How many days will it take to set up the sale?

·       Do you have an appraiser on staff or access to one?

·       What is your field of expertise? Antiques, Art, Furniture, etc?

·       How many people do you generally have staff a sale like mine?

·       How will my home be left? Broom Clean, Empty, etc?

·       Do you do cleanouts?

·       Do you or your employees buy items?

·       Do you have a store?

·       Do you bring any other merchandise into my sale?

·       How many days will the sale itself be?

·       Do you have a contract? Can I take a copy home with me to look over?

·       Do you pre-sell or allow people early entry?

·       How long after the sale will I be paid?

·       Do you have any sales coming up that I could visit to see how your sales are conducted?

·       When would you be able to do the sale (dates and times)?

·       How do you feel your company is different/better than the rest?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Putting a price on memories

I just met with some men who are clearing out the house of their parents. There is something poignant about meeting with these guys.
They are patiently working their way through the closets and the books and photos. Every once in a while, they take a break to visit old friends and to reflect on past times.

I think about their mother and dad and the little house in which they all lived … it was a good house; a house of the ‘50s. I remember when the boys rode their bikes up and down the middle of the streets wearing their plaid shirts and black high top sneakers. I remember also when girls, donned in smocked dresses and with a roller-skating key dangling on a string around their necks, would play hopscotch on the sidewalk. I remember.

But today is different. As I enter the house, it has the smell, the look and the feelings of a place that is in a time warp; it has the wear and tear of a home that has not been loved or carefully tended to since the mid ‘70s.

The sons look at the house and remember their childhood: camping out and tossing baseballs in the back yard.. I look at the house and think: ouch, the "Gen-Xers" and the "Millennials" are not going to like this. It’s hard for all of us.

As I bring out the recent sales comparables, they tell me what a great street it is; how special the neighbors are; how their house is different and should sell for at least the same as that house across the street that sold a few years ago.

Despite what they may think, I do believe in the house; I do understand the location; I do believe that new memories will be created and someone else will love the home.  After all, it is a great neighborhood… it is a great street….

So I try to explain, that while I believe everything they say, I also believe in the market and that selling a house means pricing it to reflect the market – not your wants, needs, feelings or even your memories.

It’s not an easy conversation. It’s never an easy conversation to tell someone that, the family home is now just a commodity in an ever-crowded market of competition. That today, the only thing that matters is the price....

What does it take to get a house sold?

Originally published in Patch Lake Forest,  May 7, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Please, Don't Shoot the Messenger

My clients' home was definitely atypical of a house built after 1980.  

It was quirky with funny hallways and tiny bedrooms. The bathrooms could be modernized somewhat; the master bedroom could only house a small dresser and big bed; the master bath had one pedestal sink. There was a beautiful formal dining room and a gracious living room, but there wasn’t really a family room.  

In short, the house was a classic design of the 1920's.

As someone who grew up in that type of house, I loved the place. I enjoyed the quirkiness and thought the older bathrooms somewhat charming with their floors of little black and white tiles.

Who needs a family room? We lived in our living room.

Unfortunately, for my sellers, I wasn't in the market to buy a house. This was family home and it needed a family.  

After each showing the first thing my client would ask was, "What was the feedback..." 

And I always was expected to give the answer in great detail.  I couldn't just say, "They weren't the buyers for your house."

My client wanted specifics.

It's such a tricky question for Realtors. In some cases, if you were to repeat verbatim the words actually spoken by the potential buyer or their agent, your client might burst into tears. But if you minimize the comments, the seller really doesn't appreciate the buyers' perspective...

Some agents seem to have the knack of delivering less than enthusiastic feedback. I really admire their skills.

Somehow, when I give feedback, I find my clients start arguing with me. For some reason, they believe the words spoken reflect my opinion.... like somehow I didn't have just the right words. It’s almost as if they are saying, “Why didn’t you convince them to buy our house?”

"Did you tell them, what a great location it is?"

"Oh, yes. I told them it was a fabulous location...."

"Did you tell them that we have 9 foot ceilings?”

"Yes, yes, yes..."

Remember, I was the one who loved your house.

Our homes are so special to us that it's nearly impossible to understand that others look at our homes with different eyes. We find our creaky floors charming and having character; while buyers may see them as flawed or dated. We love the coziness and warmth of little rooms, while they see them as too small or inadequate.

For sellers, a house is a home. It’s a refuge. It's shelter.

It's memories and it's personal.  For buyers, it's just a house. It's something to critique and either find to their liking or not.

I try to say comforting thoughts ..."If those buyers don't like it, so what?" They'll like something else. "There is a buyer for every house." Each of us likes something different – it’s as it should be.  I try to find the right words.

So if the feedback is negative – it is what it is.  I would ask, do you really want these people to buy your house? I guess, I would want people to love my house as much as I do.  It is personal.

So sellers, when your agent gives you the feedback, they are just repeating the thoughts of another person. Listen to the comments. Do try to understand the buyer’s perspective. If there is something that can be addressed simply – then think about it and address it.  If not, c'est la vie.

Just, please, don't shoot the messenger.

Originally published in Patch Lake Forest, August 13, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2016

How's the Market as of April 1, 2016

So the market keeps moving. Lots of new inventory keeps coming on every day. We’re beginning to see more and more buyers out there looking at homes. With Spring Break over, things are starting to happen all over the North Shore.

And how was the real estate market in March?

The first report shows units sold, the second presents the median prices. 

As you can see, the inventory is still pretty high in communities where there are a lot of high-end properties (Kenilworth and Lake Forest). But there appears to be a  real shortage of inventory Evanston, Wilmette and Northfield. The months of inventory is the probably the best barometer of the health of a market. Anything less than 6 months is considered a sellers' market -- anything more than 8 months is considered a buyers' market. 

In the next chart I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale was a classic George Maher home in Kenilworth with a beautiful beach on the lake.  While sales were up in the luxury market, there continues to be significant levels of high-end inventory all along the North Shore.

There are currently 223 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of March, 7 houses closed in this price range:

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

In summary, March looked about the same as it did last year.  Let's hope the buyers start getting out there and really keep this Spring Market humming!

Source: MRED (Midwest Real Estate Data) Multiple Listing Service