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

Contact Ann

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Green Tips - 10 Things You Should Never Throw Away

I'm big believer in re-purposing, reusing and recycling.   Whenever possible, I look for alternative uses for things rather than adding to landfills.   I found this article on the Internet and thought I would share:

10 Things You Should Never Throw Away

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The looky-loo and the unprepared agent

One of the things I strive for with all my listings is to create an incredible online presence.   I hire professional photographers to take exquisite pictures, I hire someone to measure the rooms and include floor plans with each listing and I often use a professional stager to make sure that each photo looks great.  I do this -- as do many other agents.


Over 50% of buyers see their future home for the first time on the Internet.   Since our job is to market a property, getting people to want to come and see the house is key.

A compelling online presence with exquisite photographs can make all the difference in the world.   I like to think that the online experience is actually the "first showing" of the property.

BUT... every once in a while, I have a listing that is unusual and the pictures only tell half the story.   Only when a buyer really sees the house in its setting, do they know for sure that it's a good fit.  Perhaps the house has an unusual floor plan or more than five bedrooms.  Perhaps the house has three bathrooms, but only one upstairs by the bedrooms.   Perhaps the house is situated next to an expressway.   Perhaps the house doesn't have a finished basement - in fact, it has a basement that can't really be finished.  Perhaps the neighbor's house is abandoned and in disarray...

This is the where a great local agent can make all the difference in the world.   A buyer, who is working with a local agent, who knows the inventory and has seen the house, can fill in the blanks and share detailed information about the property.  When a local agent wants to show one of my listings, I have a pretty good feeling about it -- they typically know the house and the neighborhood.

But then there are the looky-loo buyers and the unprepared agents... I sometimes wonder why they waste everyone's time: mine, theirs and most importantly my sellers.   I feel compelled to call them and ask, "Have you even seen the house?"   "Have you studied the floor plans?"  "Are you sure this is a good fit for your buyers?"

Sometimes I wonder, if they even know their clients, when they say to me: "Well they saw this house on the Internet and they want to see it."

It's a funny thing.  

As an agent, I like to get as many buyers in to see one of my listings to consider it for purchase.  But on the other hand, I want to make sure that the buyers understand the neighborhood and the house, too.  Getting a house ready for showings is a stressful and time-consuming situation for sellers -- I don't like unnecessarily making them get their property ready for, what turns out to be, a 5 minute showing.

In my opinion, this is where a great, local buyers' agent can make all the difference in the world.... they know the house, the neighborhood and their clients' needs, wants and desires!  A good agent previews the property, checks it out and is informed and can share their knowledge with their clients.

So when shopping for a house, use a buyers' agent who does their homework and really understands if this is the right house for you!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

But my house is worth more....

If I write about this often, it's because it seems to be a big part of my life these days:

Sellers who won't budge on the sales price ...

Talk to any real estate agent and it's probably one of the most frustrating aspects of our work in this market.

I've been working with some folks for over ten years.   They say they want to move to a new house. But I don't believe it.   They've come close to selling their current home -- but not close enough to put something together that will stick.

There was a time when people bought a house; they lived in the house and when they sold the house, they made a lot of money... their house was an investment.   My parents lived in their house for 40 years and when they sold it, the sales price was 800% higher than the purchase price.  (Of course, inflation had gone up substantially along with wage growth.)

For now, those days are gone in our market.  Inflation, year on year, has been pretty flat over the last ten years.   Wage growth has also not risen significantly.   In the meantime, housing inventory grew substantially during during the years between 2007-2013.

The good news is this: we are selling houses.  For example, in Lake Forest we have sold more homes this year than last year during this same time-frame.

Sales are actually fairly robust.  

But it's a numbers game:  Supply versus Demand -  and we're still over-supplied.

The housing market is really not all that different from the commodities market.  Not too long ago, crude oil was selling for over $140/barrel.   Our current 52 week high is sitting at $56/barrel.   It's about supply and demand!

Every deal feels like a game of tug of war.  No one is happy -- especially the sellers.

Sellers -- I know you don't want to hear this, but until demand level matches supply, prices are going to continue to stagnate or go down.  It's basic Econ 101.

Sellers -- I understand your feelings.  I get it.  I feel the same way.   I've owned my home for nearly 16 years and it's not worth much more than what I paid for it -- certainly not worth all the money I've put into it.

But it has been my home and a roof over my head.   It's been a place of peace and comfort.

I love Knight Kiplinger's quote:
"I regard my home as a place to live, not as an investment. It is not a substitute for retirement savings."
So sellers, please understand when your agent encourages you to seriously consider every offer.   Those of us who are out there every day working in the market understand how precious and rare offers are.

I get back to The Rules.

Rule #7 - An offer is never an insult.
Too many sellers put value judgments on offers they receive.   It's just an offer and as such a starting point for negotiations. You may not like the offer, but it serves no purpose to be angry or emotional.   It's just an offer... work with it until you don't want to -- don't reject it outright. 
Rule #10 - A property is worth what a buyer is willing to pay and what a seller is willing to accept.
It doesn't matter how much money you have into your house. At the end of the day, a house is only worth what a buyer will pay for it and a seller will accept. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The whole truth and nothing but...

I often get inquiries about properties from my clients -- they have seen something for sale on some obscure website and they call me to ask about it.   I dully note what they say and search to see to what they are referring.  Frequently, I find these properties have closed and are no longer even available for sale.

As I'm sure you know, there are literally thousands of websites that present properties for sale -- everything from to individual agent websites.   When I worked with computers, we often used the expression, "Garbage in, garbage out."   I'm not saying that these websites are rubbish, but they are often presenting obsolete or inaccurate information.

Real estate agents consider only one website as completely accurate.  That website is their own Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  Agents have an association membership to subscribe to the MLS service at a significant cost.

All MLSs are local.  So for example, I'm a member of the North Shore Barrington Association of Realtors (NSBAR).   Membership in NSBAR includes use of our MLS: Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED).  MRED-MLS is used by a number of associations such as the Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR) or the Mainstreet Association of Realtors.  

To use this MLS service, agents have to comply with rules and can actually be fined if we don't adhere to the rules.   For example, one rule is that we have to mark a listing as under contract in the system within a specified time or we can be fined.   It's because of these rules that the data is incredibly accurate and up to date.   Some of these other websites have "feeding systems" that don't run immediately.

Individuals can list their properties on sites like Craig's List to just test whether their house is worth a certain amount of money.

While I know about these other sites and occasionally check out what they have listed, for me MRED-MLS is the only site I follow or for that matter even care about.  These other sites sometimes don't even show the actual listing agent of the property.  Agents can pay to have their names associated with properties in certain zip codes -- even though they might not even be active in a particular market.

If you're looking for a website with the most up-to-date information and with the name of the listing agent, I suggest you use   This is the website managed by the National Association of Realtors and usually has the most accurate information.

Better yet, call your agent.   They know not only what is listed in MRED-MLS, but often know what available listings are not in any website!!!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

How's the Market as of July 1, 2017?

Here we are -- the Fourth of July Weekend.  I'm sure the fireworks will be spectacular and there will be another wonderful parade in Lake Bluff.

June is over, so we have crossed the half way mark for the year.   I thought I would present 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 sales are 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 550 units have closed in Evanston while there are only 240 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.  The other communities are fairly balanced.   Interesting. 

So how was the market in June?  These next charts show units sold and the median prices.  

The months of inventory is the best way to tell about 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. The level of inventory has not deviated much over the last few months -- with the exception of Kenilworth.   Good news - their inventory level dropped down to single digits this month!!

In the next chart, I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale this month was in Winnetka - a lakefront home built in 1996.  

There are currently 267 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of June, 13 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!

Have a great celebration!