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

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Year in Review

As a blogger, I like to see what people enjoy reading.   It's always a bit of hit and miss -- I'm often surprised at things people love versus the posts that have little readership.  I thought I would do a scan on the stats and highlight my top posts for the year!

10.  30 online resources as you move to Chicago's North Shore - a guide to some of my favorite websites

9.  Check the Pockets - some thoughts on exempt or  pocket listings.

8. Name that Colonial Home - a quiz about our founding fathers' residences

 7.   It's the Little Things - Easy things to keep your home in tip top shape. 

 6.  Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder - thoughts on clutter

 5.  Announcing a new Blog for Baby Boomers - notes about my Next Chapter Blog

 4.  8 things to consider about your front door

 3. Green Tips - Looking for zero-waste tips - more ideas on reducing your consumption. 

 2. Things - My existential crisis on downsizing.

 1. Collectively, my monthly, "How's the Market reports" score the top hit!

Stay tuned.   I'll be getting you my end of the year recap for 2018 soon. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Green Tips - the eco-friendly Christmas

It's that time of year when consumerism and waste seems a little much.   Here are some tips from Friends of the Earth for a more eco-friendly Christmas:

21 eco-friendly Christmas tips

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

10 Festive Events in Chicago This Month

Festive events in ChicagoIt’s time to break out that Michael Bublé album and immerse yourself in the magic of the holidays. Fortunately for us, nobody does holiday fun better than Chicago. With that in mind here is a list of 10 of the most festive events in Chicago this holiday season.
Randolph St. Market Festival | Chicago Plumber’s Hall (West Loop) | December 15th & 16th
Head to the Randolph Street Market Festival to find the most unusual and stylish mix of vintage and modern fashion, jewelry, decorative objects, housewares and hostess gifts available.
Memorable and exciting treasures in all price ranges await you at the Randolph Street Holiday Market.
Frosty’s Christmas Bar | Goose Island | Until January 6th
If you’ve ever dreamed of grabbing a drink with Santa, then here is the bar for you. Frosty’s pop-up Christmas bar in Goose Island is the ultimate destination for festive fun, and lively libations, featuring wall-to-wall decorations across three levels, a holiday themed soundtrack and Singing Santa shows every hour on the hour.
Put on your favorite holiday sweater, grab a festive holiday punch from one of the four bars and get ready to dance the night away.
Plan your trip to Frosty’s here.
37th Annual Holiday Treasure Hunt and Tea Party | Art Institute of Chicago | December 9th
Learn about select works and enjoy an array of family-friendly activities as you visit five stops within the museum’s galleries and the Ryan Learning Center.
Your tour will culminate with a stop by the historic Stock Exchange Trading Room for a tea party featuring delicious refreshments, live entertainment, and a gift bag for each child.
Head here for more information.
Ugly Sweater Party/Beginner Salsa Dancing | Duet Dance Studio | December 14th
If you’re looking to burn some calories, check out Duet’s Ugly Sweater Party to wear your ugliest holiday sweater and get your salsa dance on.
The event includes a 45-minute beginner salsa class, Duet’s student and teacher performances, as well as open dancing and mingling. Guests must be 21+ for this event.
Head here for more information.
Christkindlmarket | Daley Plaza (Chicago Loop) | Until December 24th
There are few events that evoke the holiday spirit more than the annual Christkindlmarket in the Chicago Loop. Shop iconic German items like nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, and hand-blown ornaments.
Along with traditional toys and holiday-themed items, you can find a bevy of delicious authentic German cuisine like sausages, potato pancakes, beer, and assorted sweets.
Head here for more information on Christkindlmarket.
A Christmas Carol | Goodman Theater (Chicago Loop) | Until December 30th
If you’re looking to get into the holiday spirit via theater, this is the event for you.
Head to Chicago’s Goodman Theater to catch the annual run of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This is an event for the whole family, with a message of hope, charity and kindness towards others.
Head here for more information.
ZooLights | Lincoln Park Zoo | Until January 6th
A tradition in Chicago, Lincoln Park ZooLights is something you do not want to miss this wintertime. This is a family-oriented holiday celebration, so you’re sure to enjoy at any age.
Enjoy the luminous displays as well as the holiday-season activities throughout the zoo. ZooLights is free, but be sure to check the schedule before you plan your visit since some nights are special themed events that may require a ticket.
You can find the schedule here.
Christmas Around the World | Museum of Science and Industry | Until January 6th
This holiday season head to the Museum of Science and Industry to explore holiday traditions from around the globe. The museum’s annual celebration features a four-story grand tree surrounded by a forest of more than 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteers to represent the holiday traditions from cultures across the globe.
On the weekends you can even enjoy live holiday performances and photos with Santa.
Head here for more information on the exhibit.
The Polar Express Train Ride | Chicago Union Station | Until January 1st
If you’re looking to recreate the magic of The Polar Express, look no further. This holiday season, head to Chicago’s Union Station to board The Polar Express Train Ride.
This is a magical one-hour trip through the neighborhoods along the Chicago River that includes all the bells and whistles. Literally, as each passenger gets to take home a keepsake sleigh bell.
For more information on The Polar Express Train Ride, head here.
Winter WonderFest | Navy Pier | Until January 6th
The ultimate destination for indoor family fun, Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest is a favored Chicago holiday tradition spanning across 170,000 square feet of attractions for the whole family, with rides, giant slides, ice skating, and lots of festive decor.
Buy tickets online or at the Fifth Third Bank Winter WonderFest box office until January 6, 2019.

Head here for more information on Winter WonderFest.
Source: @properties blog

Saturday, December 1, 2018

How's the Market as of December 1, 2018

It's so hard to believe another year is coming to an end.   Where does the time go?  I was just watching the news about the death of GHW Bush and realized how much time has gone by since he was president -- so many tumultuous events have happened since then.... from the impeachment of a president to 9/11 to the financial meltdown to tribal politics.  His tenure as president seems like a another era, when civility and humility were the norm.    Time sure marches on.

And so it does with people creating families, selling and buying homes, and celebrating our holidays together.  I look forward to another Christmas with my family as the market cools down and goes into a somewhat of a hibernation over the holidays. 

There was a disappointing article, "Back to the bottom" for Chicago in Crain's this week, which points this out that Chicago continues to lag the rest of the country in terms of real estate sales.   But all real estate is local, so I tend to focus on each community before I make a global statement about the real estate market. 

So how was the North Shore market in November?

These next charts show units sold and the median prices.

The months of inventory is the best way to determine the health of the housing 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. There continues to be a shortage of inventory in Wilmette and Evanston with a surplus in Kenilworth and Lake Forest. The rest of the North Shore is in great shape with a balanced market. 

In the next chart, I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale this month was a Jerome Cerny home situated on the lake in Winnetka.

There are currently 153 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. The numbers tend to go down as people take their homes off the market during the holiday season.  Regardless, during the month of November, 9 houses closed in this price range:

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

Nice month for high-end sales!

As the holiday season begins, I wish you and yours joyous time both now in the in the coming year.   Stay tuned for next month's end of the year market recap report.   

Happy Holidays.  

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Green Tips - Go Green This Holiday Season

It’s easy to make your holidays a little greener—for the health of our planet. We all have the power to make small choices that, together, can add up to big impact that does our planet good.
Here’s 7 simple steps you can take today!
    1. More Fun, Less Stuff. Think about giving people on your list experiences like concert tickets or restaurant gift cards or even donating to a cause you love!
    2. Reuse Your Wrap. Reuse alternatives to traditional wrapping paper like magazine pages, old maps or calendar pages and help reduce the estimated 4 million tons of waste from wrapping paper and shopping bags during the holidays.
    3. Opt For A Real Tree. Most plastic trees aren’t biodegradable or easily recyclable, so choose a real tree if you can. Tree farms give back to the planet by providing wildlife habitat, keeping soil healthy, and absorbing carbon dioxide and breathing out oxygen for cleaner air. If a real tree isn’t an option for you, choose a plastic tree that you’ll be able to use for 10+ years — that’s the amount of time it’ll take to even out the carbon footprint impact created.
    4. Keep It Local. The farther you transport a tree or greenery, the more likely a new invasive pest could be along for the ride. Choose locally sourced holiday plants to avoid introducing new pests to your neighborhood.
    5. Showcase Simple Beauty. Instead of store-bought décor, use simple natural touches like extra branches from your tree, a bowl of pine cones or local plants to bring nature’s calming influence inside.
    6. Invite More Veggies to Holiday Meals. Incorporate more plant-based foods into your meal traditions—it’s good for your health and good for lowering your carbon footprint.
    7. Cut Food Waste. Even if mom taught you to make 5 pounds of sweet potatoes per person, control how much food you buy and don’t let it go bad. Every year 30% - 50% of food produced gets wasted, along with the water, energy and labor it takes to make it.
Whether you put one tip in action or do them all, every step you take makes a difference.
Source: The Nature Conservancy

Thursday, November 8, 2018

5 Updates to Consider Before You Sell Your Home

One common theme among today’s homebuyers is that many are looking for a home that’s move-in ready. If you’re planning to sell, here are a few updates that can help give your home an updated look and make it more attractive to buyers:

Paint Your Home 
A fresh coat of paint can instantly enhance the appearance of your home and is one of the most cost-effective things you can do. Start by focusing on high-traffic areas like main hallways, kitchens and bathrooms. In terms of color, go for something more neutral to ensure your home appeals to largest number of potential buyers.

Light grey or light beige tones are popular among brokers and stagers when they work with sellers to neutralize and update the look of homes. “Greige,” a tone that can give the appearance of either light grey or beige, is a great choice.

Kitchen Improvements for Your Home
You don’t have to completely gut your kitchen to give it a move-in ready look. For a minor remodel, consider refacing or repainting outdated cabinets and drawers or installing new hardware with a modern design. Cabinets are one of the first things people notice when they walk into a kitchen, and this is a simple way to change their appearance without replacing them entirely.

While everyone has different preferences, converting cabinets to white tends to yield the most positive reaction.

You can also give your kitchen a facelift by upgrading the light fixtures and appliances, replacing the countertops, or adding a new backsplash.

Bathroom Modifications for Your Home
While plumbing and electrical upgrades can be costly, smaller bathroom upgrades can still make an impact.

If a quick makeover is in order, consider new paint or shelving. Other common upgrades include replacing the vanity, tile, light fixtures and countertops.

Flooring for Your Home 
Hardwood floors top many buyers’ wish lists due to their appearance and durability. If you already have hardwood floors, refinishing them can quickly elevate the look and feel of your home. Homeowners who want to replace their carpeting have a variety of options, from real hardwood to less expensive alternatives like laminate or engineered wood flooring.

Exterior Improvements for Your Home 
Curb appeal can have a significant impact on how many buyers will be enticed to take a closer look at your home. Attractive landscaping enhances curb appeal and makes a lasting first impression on potential buyers. After all, it’s the first thing buyers will see in person and probably in photos, too.

According to Remodeling’s 2018 Cost vs. Value Report, other updates to the exterior of the home such as replacing garage doors and front entry doors can offer the greatest return on investment.

It is important to start the conversation with your broker before you are ready to list your home so you can get their advice and ensure that you are making the best first impression when entering the market.

source: @properties blog

Thursday, November 1, 2018

How's the Market? As of November 1, 2018

November already?   Where did the year go?   

It was a quiet October, with some very interesting high end sales.   The ultra-luxury market looks a lot stronger than it did a few years ago.    With a few exceptions the number of sales slowed down a bit.    There was an interesting article in Crain's this week, which points this out.  Home price growth slowed in Chicago...

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

The months of inventory is the best way to determine the health of the housing 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. There continues to be a shortage of inventory in Wilmette and Evanston with a surplus in Kenilworth and Lake Forest.   The rest of the North Shore is in great shape with a balanced market. 

In the next chart, I show the high-end sales for each community. The highest sale this month was in east Glencoe: a mid-century modern, one story home on 1.5 acres on the lake.   

There are currently 170 houses for sale on the North Shore that are priced greater than $2M. During the month of October, 9 houses closed in this price range:

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

Nice month for high-end sales!

As the holiday season begins, I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 25, 2018


I find it interesting to walk my neighborhood these days.  Many of the lawns are staged with fake tombstones and ghostly figures.   Halloween brings out such interesting decorations.  

Which leads me to talk about one of the more interesting aspects of real estate: the use of land for cemeteries. In Lake Forest and Calvary Cemetery, just south of Evanston -- prime real estate is being used to house our ancestors.  If I'm really honest, I've always wanted lakefront property -- maybe in death I'll have it!

My dad loved to visit cemeteries -- he loved genealogy and he found cemeteries very informative.   On our vacations, we often detoured out of our way in order to tromp through some cemetery to find tombstones from some distant relative.   My mother was just as curious.  I suppose that sounds odd to some people, but that was the way it was in our family.
Austrian cemetery
European cemeteries are amazing to visit.  They are frequented often by relatives, so there are an abundance of flowers, gardens and mementos.  I was told once, that due to the shortage of land, plots are reused -- so the occupants tend to be the fairly recently departed.  

With Halloween coming, I find autumn a wonderful time of year to walk through a beautiful cemetery and appreciate not only the scenery, but also the tombstones, and sometimes even the final resting places of famous historical figures.   Graceland in Chicago is an amazing place -- as is the Lake Forest Cemetery.  

Some people find them frightening, while others purposely seek out graveyards.  My grandmother's cousin(?), Lilburn Kingsbury, was an authority on Missouri cemeteries - his records remain a goldmine for local historians.

Here are 20 cemeteries worth seeing -- I think I've seen three of them.    And in honor of those departed souls who wanted to get the last word, I enjoyed reading 50+ Brilliant Tombstones By People Whose Sense Of Humor Will Live Forever.

Here's one interesting story in the New York Times: Family Cemeteries Bind Generations, for Remembrance and Tax Reasons

As you can tell, I'm not one of those people who finds cemeteries disturbing -- in fact, I enjoy seeing them from time to time.   I even went on a school outing to visit the historical and gorgeous Mount Auburn Cemetery near Boston.

But what about buying a home near a cemetery?   How does it affect property values?

Well, there are pros and cons.  


You are guaranteed quiet neighbors.  You never to worry about all-night parties or loud construction going on nextdoor. You will enjoy unobstructed and sometimes even beautiful natural views.  Some cemeteries have extraordinary gardens and monuments and many are on the list of National Historic Places. 


I've had buyers who are fearful or superstitious so they find the idea of living near a cemetery a deal breaker.  Then there are buyers who seek out a feng shui lifestyle, which means living near a cemetery is a nonstarter.   Re-sale of your home needs to be a consideration. 

Yes, the neighbors are quiet, but a cemetery is sometimes a problem for some buyers. In fact, the National Association of Realtors found that the presence of a cemetery nearby drags down property prices by 12 percent.
But an analysis of sales by another real estate firm came to the opposite conclusion. It discovered homes closer to cemeteries fetched more money per square foot than those farther away. 
Who knows?   It really comes down to personal preference I suppose.   

What do you think?  Would you buy a property next to a cemetery?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Housing Horoscope: Is Your Dream Home Written in the Stars?

Bungalow or high-rise? Loft or Queen Anne? Vintage walk-up or new construction? With so many housing choices in Chicago, we thought it would be fun to match up home styles with horoscopes. Of course, you’ll want to consult a Realtor before you start your search. But let’s just imagine what your sign might say about your ideal home sweet home.

Bold, assertive, independent Aries appreciate simplicity, value and practical comfort. Aries would be right at home in a mid-century single-family home with clean lines and bold design. A mid-century home suits their disdain for chaos and makes a strong statement with its open design.
This classic, patient, warm hearted earth sign would be right at home in a classic Chicago two- or three-flat. The iconic Chicago homes, the majority built between 1900-1920, once made up a quarter of the city’s housing stock. A Taurus would appreciate the practicality of owning a two-flat, allowing them to live in one unit and rent the other for extra income.
Fun-loving, versatile and social Geminis might be right at home in a mixed-use development. The latest in condo developments offers a mix of residential, commercial and cultural areas providing Geminis plenty of opportunities for a change of scenery, dinner with old friends or coffee with new neighbors.
Emotional, imaginative, and cautious, Cancers aren’t looking for something flashy. Chicago’s courtyard buildings built in the early 1900s suit Cancers’ traditional, classic style. The spacious U-shaped buildings offer protected green space, plenty of light and privacy as each condo building has its own front entry and stairwell leading to no more than six units.
Generous, creative, enthusiastic, regal, majestic lions who love to roar are the perfect match for a Queen Anne or Victorian home. Leos will be right at home as the center of attention in a beautiful painted lady in all its splendor – from dramatic entrances and wraparound porches to colorful detail.
Modest, meticulous, practical, perfectionists, Virgos appreciate quality over quantity and classic over trendy. Naturally, they’re a great fit for a classic Chicago bungalow. The modest 1.5-story brick single-family homes were mostly built in the early 20th century. They can be found across the city and in a stunning display in the city’s “bungalow belt”.
Diplomatic, easygoing, sociable Libras appreciate simple beauty. Libras will find the calm elegance they adore in a Greystone. The stately homes with limestone facades come in all sizes from multi-unit buildings to spacious single-family homes with backyard space and gracious garage-top decks for entertaining
Passionate, compulsive, resourceful Scorpios with a need for action and an eye for detail will find plenty of options amid the city’s luxury mid-rise and high-rise condo buildings, offering breathtaking views and every amenity — from pools and meditation rooms to community spaces and dog runs. Styles range from new sleek and shiny high-rises to neo-classical vintage apartment buildings.
Freedom-loving, optimistic, excitement-seeking Sagittarians could be a perfect fit for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD). The latest in condo communities designed to eliminate the hassle of cars and parking offers easy access – usually a short walk – to public transportation, work, dining, and shopping. TODs offer the flexibility Sagittarians crave to go wherever their free spirit takes them.
Practical, ambitious, disciplined, Capricorns are natural-born leaders. Goal-oriented Capricorns will appreciate a new construction single-family home that suits their sophisticated style and practicality, offering both form and function with professional kitchens, custom closets and backyard space the earth sign will appreciate.
Inventive, independent, humanitarian, creative and cool Aquarians are a great match for Adaptive Reuse homes that fit their unconventional flare. In addition to converted industrial spaces, there are reimagined schools (chalkboards included) and historic churches finding a second life repurposed as luxury condos and stunning homes. They’re not for everyone, which is exactly the point.
Imaginative, sensitive, compassionate, kind and social, open-minded Pisceans will appreciate a great loft space offering a great canvas to make it their own. Whether converted from a 1900s warehouse or industrial space or newer construction designed for loft living with exposed brick and wide open spaces, the city offers many options just waiting for a little imagination to make them home.