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

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Green tip for the month - Conserving Water in the Garden

It's July and it's hot outside -- look for ways to conserve water:
  1. Use rain water collected in rain barrels.
  2. Use grey water that does not have germs or chemicals in it.
  3. Mulching locks in moisture.
  4. Use compost, it adds moisture
  5. Water before 8am or after 4pm to reduce evaporation.
  6. Water near the base of the plant.
  7. Take an old plastic bottle. Cut off the base. Bury it next to the plant. Water plants through this funnel to ensure the water goes where it is needed.
  8. Remove weeds ASAP - you don't want your good plants competing for water with weeds.
  9. Angle garden paths so water stays in the garden.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Factors that really influence home prices

What factors really affect a home value?

For someone buying a home, we usually think that the values are tied to the school system, lifestyle and community features as well as credit availability.

What could be nicer than living on the North Shore? Interest rates are fantastic and we have fabulous schools, beautiful beaches and wonderful communities. And yet, the housing values are not always driven by these factors.

According to a recent report, “The Economic Factors That Affect Housing Prices,” Standard & Poor’s (S&P) examined the market at a geographic level to gain insight into regional housing market dynamics and how they are affected by local macroeconomic factors.

Contrary to popular belief, mortgage rates have little influence over home prices, the report concluded. Instead, the analysis showed that five things generally impact home prices:

· Housing affordability

· Changes in shadow inventory

· Unemployment rates

· Population growth

· Measure of distress in credit markets
“There was a reasonably weak relationship between the mortgage rate and housing prices,” S&P’s report concluded. “It is reasonable to expect that as mortgage rates decline, home prices should experience upward pressure, and vice versa. But contrary to popular belief, mortgage rates have little influence over home prices.”

As I look at these five factors and evaluate our local market, it gives me pause. 

Our housing prices appear to remain less affordable, given that we have a surplus of homes – particularly with high end properties.

Housing inventory continues to grow as more and more sellers come out of the shadows. The Boomers are looking to downsize and the next generation doesn’t seem to be gravitating to these “big McMansions.”

While unemployment rates have stabilized, Illinois continues to lose population.

The report continues:

“Different markets show a range of appreciation... By and large, markets that have shown the greatest sensitivity to the five factors noted by S&P will see the greatest volatility. Under its worst-case, most pessimistic scenario, S&P said Chicago could see a 33-percent decline in home prices in the next five years, which would be substantially more than the 25-percent recession the nation may experience as a whole.”


Source: Inman News, January 2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016


It’s been over a week since the Navy Seals so ably did their job. I like Mark Twain’s quote on this: "I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure."

What goes around comes around. Fear begets fear; hate elicits hate. Joy spawns joy. Karma, baby — boy do I ever believe in it.

Strangely enough, I believe homes have Karma, too.

The house, in which I was raised, was built about 1910. This winter it was listed on the market for its very first time ever. The house went under contract in a matter of days. The couple that bought will become only its fourth owners.

My parents were the second owners – they bought it directly from the estate of the first owners. My mom basically sold it over the phone to the third owners. It’s so unusual for a house to have that kind of history in 100 years... but our old home did.

Based on the exacting desires of today’s buyers, there is nothing intrinsically special about the house. It’s stucco; there’s no real family room; two-car detached garage; modest sized bedrooms and baths, etc... The only time the kitchen was updated was when my parents did it in 1973.

But the house is special nonetheless. It was a happy home. Everyone, who lived there, loved each other and loved the house. Every owner was reluctant to leave – my parents included. I so was thrilled to learn who had bought the house this year... a wonderful couple. I know they are going to continue to bring love into the house as well.

During the last few years, I’ve seen various houses come on the market as many as 2-3 times. There seems to be something about the house that makes it transient and perhaps even unlovable. I can’t put my finger on it, but I know there is a spirit to a house.

I had a client who moved into a home and burst into tears… she felt the sadness in the home. It took them years of redecorating and moving things around to bring a new karma into the home. I turned to Oprah on this topic and wasn’t disappointed: Is Your House Making You Happy?

Sometime in the last ten years, our feelings about our homes shifted. When did we lose sight of the meaning of our homes? When did feelings of good Karma take back seat to "is it a good investment?" When did our homes become an ATM?

Our home should reflect our soul. They house our spirit and our dreams.

Originally published in Patch Lake Forest, May 10, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Things you should move yourself

So you've hired a mover.  They've said they can handle everything and you're more than delighted to let them do the heavy lifting...

But, just wait a minute and think about it. There are some things you will want to handle yourself. Here's my list... maybe you can think of others.

1. Pets
If you're anything like me, your pets are family. Sticking them in a box with air holes is nothing short of cruelty. If you’re moving across town, plan to take water and food bowls, food, treats, an extra leash, a favorite toy, and a crate with you in the car.

If you’re moving out of state, your movers probably won’t transport your pets, but you can hire a pet-moving service or just stick them in the car with you.  While a move is stressful for them in the best of circumstances, however,  if you're with them, they will have some sense of security.

2. Houseplants
Plants are sort of in the same category with animals. They don't travel that well and some states have agricultural restrictions about plants coming across borders.

Even if the plants are allowed on the mover's truck, it's questionable if they will survive the trip. My recommendation is to give your plants away to friends and family -- as a memory of you! I have a few plants like that and every time I water them, I'm reminded of the person, who gave me the plant as they left town!

3. Valuables
Whether it's Grandmother's silver or your collection of antique boxes -- these are things that are irreplaceable -- regardless of insurance. If you would be heartbroken to lose something, then move it yourself.  Enough said.

4. Personal paperwork
Any personal information - - credit card statements, passports, car titles, etc. etc.  This is your life and you could have a huge headache on your hands, if anything like this got lost. Carry it yourself -- don't entrust it to movers.

5. Firearms
Movers will not take your firearms - nor would you want them to.  Whether you’ve got a collector's antique revolver or a powerful hunting rifle, this one is a one item you've got to move yourself. Pack bullets and guns separately, and keep everything clearly marked. And remember to have all the paperwork in place before moving them across state lines.

6. Hazardous materials
Federal law bans moving companies from transporting hazardous materials.  That list includes the obvious things like propane tanks, gasoline tanks, and ammunition, but it also includes some things you might not expect including car batteries, charcoal, darkroom chemicals, batteries, nail polish, scuba tanks, and liquid bleach.  If you do have anything remotely hazardous, your best bet is to dispose of it properly before you move and restock once you’ve landed at your new place.

7. Food
If you're moving across town, moving food is pretty easy. But if you moving across country it makes no sense to move the food. Give it to neighbors or food pantries. Fill up your kitchen with fresh ingredients!

9. Climate-sensitive things
Consider the move - if you're moving things that are affected by humidity, heat or cold -- move it yourself. You have no control over the climatic conditions of the moving van.

For everything else, follow this rule: 
        When in doubt, move it yourself!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

How's the Market as of July 1, 2016

Happy Fourth of July Weekend – I love this weather we’ve been having!   Hopefully the fireworks will be spectacular and there will be another wonderful parade in Lake Bluff tomorrow.

June is over, so we have crossed the half way mark for the year.   I thought I would develop a very unscientific chart that shows inventory sold for the first half of the year – versus what is currently on the market.   

I say unscientific because real estate is seasonal, so we typically sell more in the first half of the year than in the second half.   Also, excluded from this chart are houses under contract or pending.   Regardless, I thought the results were pretty interesting. 

The way to read this chart – the red line is number of units that are currently for sale.   The white line represents the number of units that have closed in the first six months.   For me, what pops out in this chart are the extremes of the North Shore.  Over 500 units have closed in Evanston and there are only 263 units currently on the market.  Conversely, current inventory in Lake Forest is more than double the number of sales we have had in the first part of the year.  I would say it had to do with proximity to the city, but Lake Bluff suggests otherwise.   Interesting.

So how was the market in June? 

This next chart shows units sold, the second presents the median prices.  

The units sold in June were mixed across the North Shore as compared to 2015.   Glencoe seems to be pretty hot right now.   

I study inventory levels to really have a sense of how local markets are doing.  I highlighted in green, red, and blue.

Green = balanced market
Blue = sellers' market
Red= buyers' market

Evanston clearly has a shortage of homes for sale.  Several markets are favoring buyers.   Wilmette, Glencoe and Lake Bluff have a good supply of both buyers and sellers.

In the next chart I show the high-end sales for each community.  The highest sale was an older home near Lloyd Park in Winnetka.  It sold before even coming on the market. 

There are currently 267 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of June, 15 houses closed in this price range:

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

As I look out my window and see this gorgeous day, I'm reminded why I love living on the North Shore.  How lucky are we to be celebrating our country's birthday in such a lovely place.  Time to get outside and enjoy!

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