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

Contact Ann

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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Green Tip of the Month - Eat Local

Did you know that in North America, fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles before reaching your dinner table.

What Can You Do?

Buying local not only saves energy used to ship produce, but also preserves flavor and nutrients. Here are three avenues for picking fresh, local produce.
  • Visit the local farmers' market. 
  • Get involved with a community garden or start one on your own. See to see what's growing in your neighborhood and for tips on planting your own crops. 
  • Join a Community Supported Agriculture group (CSA). CSA members prepay a fixed seasonal fee to a local farmer in exchange for a weekly share of the harvest, delivered to a location near your home. Don't wait, though. CSAs are popular and can fill up. For information on joining a CSA group near you, go to, or


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Check out the neighborhood

In a New York Times article in 2009, William Safire searched for who came up with the phrase “location, location, location.”   A colleague had told him that the phrase was attributed to a British real estate tycoon named Lord Harold Samuel, but Safire found the phrase used in a real estate classified ad in the Chicago Tribune in 1926. Lord Samuel was 14 years old at the time. Safire said the context of the 1926 ad suggests it was already a familiar phrase in Chicago.

Location ... terra firma ... piece of earth

What makes a good location?  I wrote at length about this a few years ago, and yet people still ignore this fundamental principle of real estate.  

Finding the right home involves more than just finding the right property.  I've met so many folks that are dazzled by new construction -- only to discover later that they own an older home in a marginal location.  New homes don't stay new forever.  The last thing you want is to buy the so-called dream home, only to discover later on that the location is inconvenient for work, school and shopping. 

So when you find a home you really like, drive around the area. Drive to the schools your kids will be attending. 
Consider the all their schools -- just because your kids can walk to the elementary school, there will come a time when they need to go to the junior high and high school as well.... how close are those schools?  Drive to the highway you take to work or O'Hare. Drive to activities you and your family enjoy.  Drive to the stores and see how that works.    See what your life is going to be like once you move to that location.  Then decide -- is this a lifestyle that fits?

Spend time understanding the location.   If the property's price is too good to be true -- maybe it's because the location could be better....

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Is it time yet?

There can be a perpetual struggle between realtors and their clients, who are selling their homes.

Sellers in our market continue to believe that the real estate market has recovered.  Therefore they should be able to recoup the cost of their homes + market appreciation. 

Well... not necessarily... 

It really depends when you bought your home.

For example, I bought my house in 2001.  I tend to believe the market appreciation for my home might be as high as 8-10% in the last 15 years. However, in the meantime I've made capital improvements to my home that have more than consumed that appreciation. So no. I don't think the appreciated value of my home has gone up since I bought it.

In my estimation the only sellers that might be seeing real gains are those, who bought their homes over twenty years ago.

"Can't we test the market?" is the question I'm always asked.... or the more distressing question, "Are you telling me that my home value has only gone up 'X' in the last 20 years?"

Sadly, yes.

The market is glutted with homes that are not selling. Agents are always asking their sellers to reduce their price; sellers are usually resistant to losing more money than they already have in the house.

Thus the perpetual struggle between realtors and their sellers.

The point is this: getting the house at the right list price inspires buyers to move and make offers.... and they move quickly if the price is right. The hardest thing to understand is that everything boils down to price. 

So the question is, "Is it time yet?"

What are the signs that it's time to drop the price?

  • Your 'for sale' sign is starting to fall apart. 
  • Similarly priced properties are selling and yours is not. Maybe your location isn't as desirable. Maybe the other houses are newer... maybe -- or just maybe the other houses are a better value...
  • Your property is not getting many showings -- and no second showings. If you’re not getting showings, it means the buyers who can afford your house are disinterested in it. 
  • You're getting showings but no offers.
  • and finally, you and agent are tired ... and tired of each other. 
It's time.

So you’ve come to terms with the fact that the price needs to be lowered... how low should you go?

Make the price reduction significant enough to open it up to a whole new market of buyers. At least 5% down from the last price is good, but 10% is better.

Reducing slowly can be an exercise in futility. It gives the illusion to the buyers that you're just not that motivated -- they'll wait for the next price reduction. Small reductions create little excitement and rarely attract a new set of buyers. Large reductions attract buyers who previously did not consider your home to be a viable option financially.

I know this sounds self-serving, but I would encourage any seller to listen to their real estate agent. Don’t negotiate with them! They are not the enemy – and they are not the buyers of your house. If you've hired a competent agent, they know the market considerably better than you do and they are advising you on what you need to do to get your property sold.

Start thinking like a buyer... do your research and work at understanding todays' buyer values. If you didn't get a chance, you might want to look at my blog series:  "Rocking the Ages."  If you understand the buyer mindset, you might have a better appreciation, as to why your house isn't selling.

Understand your home's value.  Try researching your property’s last sale price to calculate an estimate of its current value. The Federal Housing Finance Authority has an online calculator for this purpose. This is just a rough estimate that does not take into consideration a number of factors, including property condition.  Or check out our calculator on the BHHS-KR website.

But more importantly, try to avoid being in this situation in the first place.  As I tell my clients: 

Pricing your home correctly from day 1 is the most strategic marketing decision you can make. 

A well priced homes sells in less time for more money. A house that lingers on the market typically brings in lower and lower offers.

So do you see yourself in this situation? 

Is it time yet?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer on the Shore

I was in high school when the Lovin' Spoonful’s hit song, Summer In The City, came out. At one time I knew all the lyrics, but it was only the first few lines that would replay over and over again in my mind years later when I was jammed into the 151 bus during a July rush hour evening.

Now, I really do love Chicago in the summer -- it's a fantastic place to play. But working in the city is a very different experience. Just walking on pavements in the Loop, the heat would rise out the sidewalks. It was rarely pleasant when dressed in a business suit and nylons.

It was while going home - standing in a sweltering bus (it was a fairly typical for the air conditioning to be on the blitz) - that my memories would drift back to my childhood summers on the North Shore.

I could see my dad coming in through the front door, hot and exhausted. He’d take off his coat and tie and sit down in the kitchen to talk to my mom. He always looked so spent from that hot day in the city. Sometimes, if we were really lucky and he was up for it, he’d take my brother and me to the lake for an evening dip.

I remember in the mornings how my mom would pack up the towels and buckets and we’d head down to the beach, where she’d join her friends with their children. All the moms would line up their beach chairs along the shoreline and lay their feet in the water. As they shared their lives, they would be vigilantly scanning the landscape to keep a watchful eye on all the kids.

We might be swimming out to the raft or playing Marco Polo or making sand castles or wandering up and down the beach collecting frosted glass. When our lips and nails turned blue, we’d bury ourselves in the sand or wrap ourselves up in a towel and lie still or nap.

As a child, summer always began with the Winnetka Children’s Fair and would end when school began the Tuesday after Labor Day. There were picnic dinners at Ravinia and Fourth of July fireworks celebrations. In the evenings we would run outside in the evenings with our mayonnaise jars to capture lightening bugs or to participate in a neighborhood game of kick the can or capture the flag. As teenagers, it all seemed rather boring but as a young child, it was truly idyllic.

Though our family usually took a long, hot road trip to Montana to visit my grandmother, most of our summers were spent at home. My parents could never really understand the rationale for owning a summer home…. why leave the North Shore? There was just too much to do and nothing was better than our lazy summers at home.

Hot time, summer in the city? Not any more -- today I find myself loving summer on the shore.

Originally published in Patch Lake Forest,  June 5, 2011

Friday, June 3, 2016

How's the Market as of June 1, 2016

June is busting out all over… what a great day!  Love seeing summer all around us. 

So how was the real estate market in May?

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

As you can see, the inventory is still elevated in communities where there are a lot of high-end properties (Kenilworth and Lake Forest). But there appears to be a significant shortage of inventory in Evanston and Wilmette. 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 most cases, what is selling is significantly lower than what is in inventory.  For example in Lake Forest, the median sale price of homes that are listed is over $1.2M, yet the median of what is selling is under $900K.  This is somewhat of a concern.  

In the next chart I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale was relatively newer home situated on over an acre looking out to the 16th hole of the Skokie Country Club golf course.  While sales were up in the luxury market, there continues to be significant levels of high-end inventory all along the North Shore, particularly in Lake Forest, Winnetka and Kenilworth.

There are currently 267 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of May, 11 houses closed in this price range:

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

Things are selling and the market is moving.  The challenge is that the inventory keeps growing and is not getting absorbed as quickly.  We'll see how things look in June!

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

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Does the home still fit?

I was looking in my closet the other day and saw a pair of gorgeous red shoes. I wore them a long time ago -- in the days when I dressed in tailored suits, nylons and designer shoes. The heals were at least 3 inches high. What was I thinking? Why women destroy their feet with shoes like that... but I did.

I haven't worn shoes like that in at least 20 years, so why those shoes are still sitting in my closet is a mystery to me. Sentimentality,  I suppose.

The same is true with houses. We hold onto our homes even when they don't make sense or don't fit anymore. For most people, lifestyle and needs evolve through the years. Kids get older. Jobs or careers change. People retire or have joint problems and hate the stairs... What worked when there were kids running around the house, just doesn't make a lot of sense for empty nesters.

When we purchase our homes, chances are they were a good match for our lifestyle. It had the space we needed, the features we wanted, and a location that worked.

I lived in a condo in Chicago for over 25 years and I loved it. It worked great, while I was on the road traveling and I needed a doorman to receive my mail and dry cleaning. Once I retired from consulting and got a dog, the apartment just didn't make sense anymore. But it took me three years before I realized that I was done with the city and needed some green space and a different lifestyle.

Take some time and figure out ...

  • How many bedrooms do we REALLY need?
  • Am I tired of schlepping strollers and groceries up flights of stairs -- maybe a house with an attached garage makes more sense?
  • Are we tired of taking care of the lawn -- wouldn't it be nice to live in maintenance free?
My two grandmothers approached their homes completely differently. One downsized twice - first to an apartment and then to a retirement home. My other grandmother refused to leave her house until finally my mother had to come and get her and move her.  My folks had my demanding grandmother living with them for three years -- Mother also had to clear out and sell Grandmother's house. I really learned a lot watching these two grandmothers.  The takeaway was to keep moving; make sure your home fits you and your life.

I was talking to a client yesterday. She said something pretty funny. After her three college aged kids came home for the summer, she said she finally understood why some empty nesters sold the big house quickly. The last thing she wanted was for the kids to move back into the house after college... better to have something smaller.

So ask yourself, "Does the home still fit?"