Success Story: Nik

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I’ve been working with Nik and his wife for years now, and consider them not only to be wonderful clients, but also good friends. I’ve helped them buy and sell several houses—including for an aunt who recently entered hospice—and I greatly value the trust they place in me during these times of transition. Thank you for sharing your story on the blog today, Nik! 

How did you find Millie? 

We were looking for a different place to live, and saw something online that we were interested in. The name of the realtor was Millie Rosenbloom! So we called her (this was on a Sunday) and she answered the phone—we setup a time to see the place, though we didn’t end up buying it. We talked to Millie a little bit about why we were moving and what we wanted to do, and she started showing us different places. Ultimately, she found a home that was on a short sale. We had two days to make a decision and buy, or the bank was going to withdraw the price it had set, so Millie helped and we bought the place! And then, since we had bought it, we had to sell our current home, so there was nobody better to help us sell it than Millie. She was able to price it properly, and she brought in her stager and photographer—who was just spectacular—and Millie sold that house for us. 

A couple of my family members were looking to buy houses, so I referred them to Millie and she helped them buy. Then recently, my aunt was put in hospice care, and I needed to sell her house. So Millie’s been working on that for us, and she’s got a buyer. That took about two weeks, and we’re now working out all the details. It will probably be sold by the beginning of May. 

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers? 

There is nobody like Millie. She knows the market, she knows her clients, and she has a lot of good ideas about things. Once you make a decision, she negotiates the best price you can possibly get. I have worked with Millie a lot, and there’s nobody else I would ever work with. 

What was your favorite part of working together? 

My favorite part is spending time with Millie! She’s fun, she makes things easy, and she is completely professional. There is nothing Millie can’t do, and can’t do perfectly. 

Did you use her team? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)? 

Millie knows everybody in the world who can get things done to get your house ready. For the house we’re currently selling for my aunt, we had a huge amount of stuff that needed to be cleared out before we could even put the house on the market. We used Millie to clean everything out, and then she brought in her photographer. When we were selling the first place, if Millie couldn’t be there for showings then her staff were there, understanding what needed to be done. As I said, there is nothing Millie can’t do! 

Would you recommend her to a friend?

Of course I would recommend her to a friend; I would even recommend her to someone who is not a friend! Ironically, I’ve met a lot of people in the last couple of years who’ve also used Millie, and we all sit around talking about how wonderful she is.

Colleague Spotlight: Pappageorge Haymes Partners

I am so pleased to feature Pappageorge Haymes Partners today as part of our ongoing Colleague Spotlight series. This architectural firm has been in business for 37 years, and during that time they’ve designed countless Chicago homes including condos, high-rise apartments, town homes, and beautiful single family houses. Their team is dynamic, experienced, and extraordinary at what they do. I’m grateful to partner Brian Kidd for sharing his thoughts about architecture and design on the blog! 

Please share a little about your design philosophy. 

Since its founding in 1981, Pappageorge Haymes Partners has cultivated an enduring legacy of timeless architecture that embodies the unique visions of our clients and harmoniously embraces the essence of each project’s context and spirit of place. In our role as architect, we consistently fuse a deeply imaginative aesthetic with technical innovation and a rigorously practical approach to budget and schedule. 

PH’s body of work ranges from small renovations to skyline impacting high-rises and our expertise in urban housing, adaptive reuse, and mixed-use developments continues to receive both local and national awards. 

Can you share a few photos from a recent favorite project? 

(Photos above)

1. Lincoln Park Exterior: We designed a high-end condominium building in the heart of Lincoln Park along with some very custom interiors. 

2. Lincoln Park Residence: A more traditional home in Lincoln Park that has some modern touches. 

3. Pullman Bar & Diner: A cool diner that we designed the interior for in Iowa. 

4. Lincoln Park Traditional Interior: Classically detailed traditional interior. 

5. 465 N Park: A modern residential tower currently under construction.

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends? 

For exteriors, we eschew anything that could be considered trendy. We carefully consider our client’s requirements with the history and style of the neighborhood in which the building is to be built or renovated to develop designs that are unique. We believe that trends are best incorporated in the interior spaces, thereby allowing the building to evolve as trends change. Currently, interiors are incorporating bold colors and contrasts of texture, natural and machined finishes, and dark and light finishes. 

What are your predictions for the next big trends we’ll see? 

Changes in the technology and environmental sectors are driving quality over quantity in new developments and renovations. Technology continues to advance in simplifying the user experience and changes the way we incorporate it into our lives and living spaces. The importance of conservation of resources will continue to grow with more efficient construction and building systems. These forces are behind the movement for smaller, more efficient, houses with multi-functioning spaces that are designed to adapt to changing lifestyles. 

What are your go-to classic design favorites? 

For classic design, we follow the tenets of a true classic. Vitruvius, a Roman architect and author of De architectura, described a triad of structure, function and aesthetics that is often referred to as the Vitruvian Triad. It’s a bit like the golden rule of architecture. These timeless tenets still guide us today no matter what the stylistic approach to the project may be. At PH, we design for strength, usefulness, and beauty. 

What are your favorite local shops for appliances and decor? 

With the PH office located in the heart of Chicago, we have numerous resources available throughout the metropolitan area and we have developed great working relationships with them. While we certainly cannot list all of these businesses here, a few that come to mind are Abt Appliances in Glenview, IL; Advantage Kitchen & Bath Gallery in Niles, IL; and Studio 41 Home Design with various locations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Additionally, we often send clients to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago to visit the home design showrooms there. 

Do you have any tricks for making rooms look bigger/more open? 

There are no tricks, only expert design! Seriously, though, as you can see by our other responses to your questions, design is a process that takes numerous factors into account. In addition to the client’s requirements and budget, we look at the intended use of the space and the surrounding environment to seek a solution that is unique. 

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why? 

What makes Chicago great is the diverse tapestry of neighborhoods that make up the fabric of the city. It is difficult to choose one part of the city over another. We work in many neighborhoods throughout the city and the more time you spend in each of the different neighborhoods you find these unique and memorable places that offer unique perspectives on what it is to live in Chicago. At PH, our designs are developed to promote the community of Chicago’s neighborhoods. We believe this diverse landscape in which we work has allowed PH to develop a very adaptable and innovative architecture team. 

What types of services do you offer? 

What do you need? We are known for our expertise in housing but have a tremendous amount of experience in many other facets of the profession. In addition to the custom single family work, we are working on large master planning projects, retail, office interiors, hospitality and hotel work, restaurant design and numerous historic renovations and restorations. 

My Perfect Day Downtown

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I love living in Chicago, and every year I come to appreciate its beautiful neighborhoods even more. Today I’m highlighting some of my favorite downtown spots, each of which I know well and whose staff have become friends. If you’re new to the city or just want a relaxing day downtown, this is where to go!  

Clothes: Giorgio Armani

The Armani experience is second to none. I’ve been going to Rachel Grimaldi at the Giorgio Armani store for a long time, and trust her entirely when it comes to my personal style. Ultimately, it’s all about the amazing quality of the material at Armani, and their color palette is gorgeous. I also highly recommend their in-house seamstress. 

Hair: Delle Amiche

I have been going to Delle Amiche for years! It’s owned by the talented Carolyn Bakken, who I have complete faith in when it comes to my hair. It’s always great to catch up with her when I’m in the salon, and I’ve loved watching her business grow. 

Lunch: NoMI Kitchen at the Park Hyatt

This is one of my go-to restaurants for lunch, both for the food and the view! NoMI Kitchen overlooks Michigan Avenue and the historic water tower building, and is such a lovely bright spot to meet friends. Their smoked salmon beignets are a favorite, and they’re also well-known for their sushi. 

Shopping: Christofle

The service here is incredible. I know and love Christofle’s timeless products well, and often give them as gifts. Once I’ve made my choices, manager Ricky Gutierrez takes care of the rest, always ensuring they’re elegantly wrapped and monogrammed.

Pampering: Waldorf Astoria

I head to the Waldorf Astoria when I want to relax. In addition to the hotel’s wonderful restaurants and cafes, their spa services are exceptional. I recommend The Signature Massage or The Waldorf Cleanse body treatment—both are such nice ways to treat yourself after a busy week! 

Success Story: Amy and Sammy

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Recently, I helped my wonderful clients Amy and Sammy find their dream home! They came to me with a very specific wish list in mind, including a desire to be close to the lake; just a few weeks later, I introduced them to the property they now call home. I could not be happier for this family as they settle into their beautiful new house. Thank you for sharing your story on the blog today, Amy and Sammy! 

How did you find Millie?
Through an online Google search for top Realtors in Chicago. 

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers? 
Millie is exceptional because she is precise, time efficient, caring, professional, and has fabulous recommendations in and around Chicago to support her high level of work. 

What was your favorite part of working together? 
I enjoy being with her because she has a positive outlook, yet is able to be honest and truthful about the situation at hand. Also, I love her ability to respond to our concerns and requests quickly. 

Did you use her team? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)? 
We have used her lawyer and painter, and will be using her contractor and landscaper recommendations as well. 

Would you recommend her to a friend?
100% yes! 

Insider Advice from one of Chicago’s Top Home Inspectors

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I am so appreciative of the long-standing relationships I have with many vendors around Chicago, including Julio Neira of Inspectrum Property Inspections. Julio and I have known each other for close to 20 years, and many of my clients have used his company’s services. 

Today on the blog, he’s graciously shared three great tips about the home inspection process, and his advice is truly invaluable. Thank you, Julio!

Home inspections are about more than just finding problems—they’re about education: 

Information learned through an inspection isn’t just helpful at the time of buying—it’s advice that will see you through both successful home ownership and the future sale of your property. 

Julio says, “Everyone takes a different approach in inspections. We take the education route. We’re always going to find everything that’s wrong, but things that are wrong can be fixed. What you want to find out is why it’s wrong, and then make sure you don’t see it again. Finding issues is obviously what we’re supposed to do—and we are going to find them—but if you educate people, then those issues will not reoccur for them, or they’ll be able to find them on their own. The inspection process will not only teach them about maintenance, but also how to recognize symptoms, and if you can do that then you’ll fix problems before they manifest and get worse. Inspections teach you how to maintain your home so that when you sell, those problems haven’t progressed to what’s called “deferred maintenance,” and you can get top dollar.

This is why Julio and I always encourage clients not only to be present for inspections, but to actually go through the process step-by-step with the inspector and ask questions along the way. 

Do your research:

People are often shocked to learn that the home inspection industry is actually quite young—less than two decades ago, it wasn’t even licensed! As Julio points out, “The hardest thing for a home inspection company to build is trust. Home inspections were never licensed before 2000, so the whole industry is nascent. When I first started doing home inspections in 2001, anybody could have thrown a name out there and become a home inspector without any guidance as to what they’re looking for, how they’re doing it, or what their process is.” Julio and his team are pioneers in this industry, and have the credentials to back up their work. Don’t be afraid to ask for information regarding licensing and an inspector’s experience before hiring one!

Home inspections ARE worth it, even if it’s new construction:

Julio says, “Even if it’s a brand new house and you’re new to the business, spending the less than 0.5% of the property’s value on an inspection is worth it. To me, the home inspection is the best investment you’re going to make; you’re going to learn how to maintain your house, where your shutoffs are in case there’s a disaster, and how your things work. You can then take that knowledge with you forever—when you learn about something, you’re more free.”

In Conversation with Chicago's Leading Ladies

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Recently, I was invited to participate in an event called Leading Ladies: Conversations with a Powerhouse Panel, held on March 1st at the beautiful J. Parker restaurant in Hotel Lincoln. Hosted by Mary Haight and moderated by Emily Phair, I joined Brooke Vanderbok, Melanie Stone, and Judy Gibbons onstage to discuss the joys, challenges, and strategies involved in working in real estate. Over 100 women attended (what an amazing turnout!) and we all agreed this kind of gathering is so important; sharing with one another will not only help us individually, but will benefit our industry as a whole. Today on the blog I’m thrilled to share some of the key themes we addressed during this great event!  

1) Mentorship
Everyone onstage acknowledged the value of having had mentors when they first started out. My mother, Dan Levin, and Terry Folks were mine, and the knowledge they shared with me was truly invaluable. It’s important to me to be able to give back to other up-and-coming realtors through mentorship, and it’s one of the many things I love about my job. We also discussed just how beneficial these relationships are for the mentors! A lot can be learned from collaborating with women who are new to the industry, as they bring all kinds of diverse life experiences to their work. 

2) Leadership 
This was a common theme throughout the discussion, and it was an honor to be sitting amongst such strong leaders in our industry. These skills are certainly strengthened over the years, and I shared my gratitude for having once run my own real estate company. That experience truly gave me a different perspective on what it means to lead a team, and this knowledge has informed my work ever since. 

3) Growth
Naturally, there was a lot of interest in hearing about growth strategies! My advice to the crowd was that opportunity is everywhere, and if you keep your eyes and ears open and surround yourself with smart people, those opportunities will present themselves. The same goes for those looking to build their networks; you can connect with people anywhere, and even if you don’t think you have a sphere, you do! Here I am discussing this point in greater detail:  

Thank you again to the organizers of this inspiring event, and to all of the attendees! I was so honored to have been a part of it.

Success Story: Grace and Dan

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I recently helped my clients Grace and Dan find a wonderful family home in Chicago, and I am so grateful to have their kind words on the blog today. Along with their children, they made the big move from California to Illinois, and I was honored to be a part of building their new life here. Here is our interview with them—thank you Grace and Dan, and welcome to Chicago!

How did you find Millie?
We were making the move from California to Chicago. We asked our very trusted realtor and friend to recommend us the best realtor for the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. He did a survey of the Chicago branch, and the answer was, hands down, Millie.

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?
Millie wasn't trying to pitch every house to us. She showed us a spectrum of houses—some of which we asked to see and she thought inappropriate—so that we could make up our own mind. She never pushed any product on us, but instead guided us towards what we jointly found to be the appropriate neighborhood and price point.

What was your favorite part of working together?
When we were touring the various houses and Millie was grilling the realtors about the windows and tile work. During the inspection, she was scanning the house for anything to be fixed.

Did you use her team? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)?
Yes, we used her lawyer recommendation, Joe Palmisano, who was able to negotiate good warranty and liability protections for us.

Would you recommend her to a friend? 
A strong yes. 

 

 

Colleague Spotlight: Summer Thornton

“Do at least one thing your mother wouldn’t.” This is decorating advice from interior designer Summer Thornton, and I couldn’t love it more! I’m so pleased to feature Summer on the blog this week—she’s renowned for her bold use of color and pattern, and her stunning work is featured regularly in House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Lonny, and many others. Lately I’m feeling especially inspired by her use of incredible statement light fixtures! Though Summer works on projects nationwide, we are so lucky to have her based not only out of Chicago, but Lincoln Park specifically.

Please share a little about your design philosophy.
My philosophy is really centered around the belief that every home should reflect the homeowner's unique personality. So while I have my own personal aesthetic, much of what I do is centered around creating the mood that the client wants to live in. I want people to live in homes that feel like them - where their soul is on the walls and reflected in the furniture. Every project we work on looks totally unique to that particular client - some are modern, some are traditional, some colorful - that's what makes them so personal. With that said, I do generally find that clients come to us when they're looking for interiors that feel fresh & timeless, oftentimes with color and pattern, and definitely a dash of whimsy.

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends?
I honestly don't really like to follow trends. Once something is a trend, it has lost its timelessness and its specialness. Instead of trends, I typically try to look for what's timeless but still feels fresh, and oftentimes I do that by incorporating pieces from a variety of eras. We'll mix art deco, mid-century, and contemporary pieces together to create a look that is curated and timeless but still feels current. Sure we might mix in a few trendy accessories here and there, but they shouldn't be the backbone of any design.  

What are your predictions for the next big trends we’ll see?
I think there will be a big resurgence for wallpaper over the next 5-10 years. People were afraid of it, fearing it would feel heavy and old, but I use it quite regularly and it always feels fresh. I think we'll also see a shift away from the overuse of beige/grey and more people comfortable using color & pattern.

What are your go-to classic design favorites?
You can't go wrong with classic Karl Springer, Jansen, or Milo Baughman furnishings. 

What are your favorite local shops for furniture and decor?
It's hard to pick just a few - last year we bought from more than 2000 different vendors worldwide, but here in Chicago I love Redefined Decor on Grand for accessories and vintage art; Jayson Home for furnishings & some imported flea market finds; and Asrai Garden for fresh floral bouquets. 

Do you have any tricks for making rooms look bigger/more open?
You know what surprises most people? The more you layer a home, the bigger it feels. It causes the eye to move around and draws attention to various things, which makes the room feel more complete. When rooms are sparsely furnished or empty, they oftentimes look really small.  

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why?
I live in Lincoln Park, our design firm office is in Lincoln Park on Armitage Avenue, and my kids go to school in Lincoln Park so it'd be hard for it not to be my favorite! But truly, it is perfect for my family. I've got a 5-year-old daughter and almost 1-year-old son, so we have regular trips to Oz Park, Sweet Mandy B's, and we don't feel bad bringing our kids with us to some of the restaurants. It's a great place to raise a family. But don't get me wrong - I also love a night out with my husband going to Gold Coast or the West Loop for drinks & dinner, without the kids! 

What types of services do you offer?
We are a full service design firm. Most often clients hire us to do comprehensive designs, in many cases including construction documentation, finish selections, and of course furnishings, art, and more. We've done everything from ground-up new construction builds, gut-remodels, and pure furnishings/decorating projects.

My Favorite Spots for Valentine's Day Dinner

Chicago has so many outstanding restaurants, but some are particularly wonderful for a romantic dinner date. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I thought I’d share some of the spots John and I love for that special night out, as well as one we’re excited to try for the first time! 

Les Nomades:

Les Nomades has been a favorite of ours over the years, and you simply can’t beat the space. This legendary restaurant has occupied a turn-of-the-century brownstone in Streeterville for decades, and we love the intimate setting. The service is incredible, and they pair their classic French food with a particularly interesting wine list. We always finish with one of their gorgeous soufflés—you can’t go wrong with a reservation here.  

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Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse:

If you’re looking for buzz and excitement, Gibsons is always a fabulous time. They’ve got everything from steak to seafood—we like to start with oysters on the half shell—and they’re famous for their variety of mile high desserts, so save room! Gibsons’ excellent food and energy has made it a place we frequent often—it’s a great place to take your date. 

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Margeaux Brasserie:

For Valentine’s Day this year, John and I are excited to try Margeaux Brasserie at the Waldorf Astoria, which opened just last summer. Along with Petit Margeaux, this is Chef Michael Mina’s first foray into the Chicago culinary scene, and it’s in such a wonderfully luxurious setting. We’re looking forward to tasting their traditional brasserie fare, including some beautiful French cheeses. We've even heard there’s a roving Champagne cart!

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colleague spotlight: jordana joseph

Today we're pleased to continue our new blog series, which highlights some of my favorite interior designers and architects in Chicago. For our second feature, I’m happy to introduce you to the talented Jordana Joseph!  

Please share a little about your design philosophy.
Design should be fun, challenging, brave, smart and slightly carefree—at least for the client. For me it is all of those things but also about reading the mind of my clients, so I can learn their tastes and attitudes, both for design and for their expectations of the process. What I would choose personally is not always appropriate for other spaces, so I like to be a chameleon—it keeps my job challenging and rewarding.

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends?
Blush is everywhere right now; it started on the runway a few years ago and filtered down to the sofas. And Maximalism—More is More, as long as it’s all well done.

What are your predictions for the next big trends we’ll see?
I see people getting a lot more daring in what they will have in their homes. I think the Monochromatic Days are finally over and cool boutique hotels are paving the way for inspiration. When people see well-designed spaces they start to understand that it is possible to incorporate some of that into their lives.

What are your go-to classic design favorites?
I love a perfectly comfortable sofa, great vintage furniture, courageous wallpaper, a well-planned kitchen, good flooring, and lots of opportunity for unique lighting.

What are your favorite local shops for furniture and decor?
Unfortunately a lot of the shops are closing, but luckily some of the best still remain and I love these stores as much for what they sell as who is selling it. These are my friends for years and they all have such a unique take on what they select: Pavilion Antiques, Jayson Home, Urban Artifacts on Lincoln, Sojourn in Michigan, Vern + Vera. I buy a lot at auction so I am hanging around Leslie Hindman Auctioneers and Wright quite often.

Do you have any tricks for making rooms look bigger/more open?
Design is always first and foremost about proportions of the room and the furniture that should go in it; this often is a designer’s greatest contribution to a project. If the scale is right, the room will look its best.

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why?
I love the older houses in Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast. There is nothing better to work with than an original vintage space.

What types of services do you offer?
We do everything from staging to total renovations and have been involved in ground up custom home building as well. I have the best clients and a really great team in my office so thankfully we have been able to tackle just about anything that comes our way! 

Success Story: Lois and Jim

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We are going to do a little something new with the Success Stories we feature on the site. I recently asked my very kind clients Lois and Jim a few questions about our time together, and put together a quick interview with their kind responses! I am constantly humbled by my incredible clients, thank you Lois and Jim!

How did you find Millie? 
I found Mille through an online search for “Best Chicago Realtors” to buy a condo. Millie stood out to me after reviewing her website, YouTube videos, testimonials and my phone discussion with her. 

What sets Millie apart from other brokers you’ve worked with in the past?
What sets Millie apart from others is her genuine concern for you as a client, her spot-on attention to detail, experience and knowledge, and her quick response to our questions and concerns. She is professional and very organized. 

What was your favorite part of working together?
Aside from the aforementioned qualities, she makes you feel like she is your friend--not just your agent. She is very genuine and sincerely wants you to find your perfect home and a good deal.

Did you use any of Millie's vendor recommendations (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)?
We used her recommendation for attorney and inspector, who were excellent.  We are in discussions with a painter and a designer, as well.  When you say “Millie referred me” you get quick, excellent response from very experienced, highly qualified and nice people. 

Would you recommend her to a friend, and if so, why?
I would definitely recommend Millie to anyone.  Because our permanent home is out of state, we relied heavily on her. I can’t imagine a better agent, and feel I very lucky to have found her.  

My predictions for real estate in 2018

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2017 was definitely a year for the books, but I am just as eager to get 2018 started! I've put together a list of my predictions for what the coming year will bring us in the world of Chicago real estate: 

  • Trump's new tax plan: I think the new tax plan may slow our market in the beginning of 2018 while people digest the news, but ultimately it will have little impact on the market this year. From a real estate perspective, I will be closely watching these aspects of the plan: 
    • Mortgage Interest Deduction: The limit on deductible mortgage debt has been reduced to $750,000 for new loans taken out after 12/14/17.  Interest remains deductible on second homes, but subject to the $1M/ $750K limits.
    • State and Local Property Taxes: The final bill allows an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 for the total of state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes.
    • Capital Gains Tax: No change here, but important to note that homeowners must live in their home two out of the past five years to qualify for capital gains exclusion.
  • First-time buyers: We will continue to see a large pool of first time buyers in the 25-34 age group enter the Chicago market this year. 
  • Spring market: It will start early again this year!
  • Interest rates: Will remain low for 2018, in the 4-4.5% range.
  • New construction: We will continue to see an increase in new condos and single family homes although they will primarily be delivered in the $750k plus range.
  • Supply and demand: 2018 will be very similar to 2017 in terms of supply and demand:
    • Price: The median price of attached homes on the North Side of Chicago has increased roughly 3.5% each year for the past two years. 
    • Supply: There is currently a three month supply of inventory on the market with attached housing on the market, and a seven month supply of detached homes.   
  • Area of opportunity: The amount of home sales under $500K have been steadily decreasing over the past two years, while the number of home sales over $500K and $1M have been increasing.  This presents an opportunity for move-up buyers who can sell their current home high and purchase a new home at the lower end of the price range. 

Colleague spotlight: Casagrande Architects

I am so fortunate to know many incredible vendors in the real estate space, especially interior designers and architects. So today we are starting a fun new series on the site, highlighting my talented friends and their businesses. Today I am pleased to introduce you to Philip Casagrande of Casagrande Architects!

Please share a little about your design philosophy.
Architectural design must respect that there are practicalities to creating great buildings, like  client needs, building codes, zoning regulations, budgets, the laws of gravity, and too many other factors to mention everything in one sentence.  Balancing those facts, we endeavor to design great looking buildings that one can live in and flow through with a sense of ease and pleasure. Before that can happen, the process of designing must be worked through.  If the process is enjoyable, it will be reflected in the end result!  We don’t do cookie-cutter design, since the circumstances surrounding the practical aspects are never the same on any two projects.

Can you share a few photos from a recent favorite project?
The interior photo is a loft-style open plan from a 3-flat conversion to single family (shot as a panorama) – note that the separate formal living and dining room have been eliminated – read more about this exciting trend below.  The façade is a rendering of a new single family house, which is in the Mid-North Landmark neighborhood of Lincoln Park; I’m really excited about this project, and it will be the only new house on the block!

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends?
We have noticed lately people are willing to give up formal living and dining rooms in favor of more informal spaces within which to live.  We’ve worked on a few houses where the main living space is wide open without any separate formal living space at all.  When I take people in to see them, their eyes light up!  I also love the freestanding bathtubs that have become the focal point in master bathrooms.

What are your predictions for the next big trends we’ll see?
Heightened interest in constructing high performance homes will definitely accelerate. With the current administration’s lack of concern with pursuing renewable energy resources as well as a backward approach to keeping our air and water clean, I’m hopeful the trend will be to make up for this by incorporating solar and geothermal heating and cooling systems. 

Battery technology will need to improve to make solar more practical (fortunately Elon Musk’s Tesla is advancing rapidly on it) and charging stations for plug in cars are becoming a standard feature in our garages.  LED lighting is a big energy saver, and I predict these bulbs will become more sophisticated with better dimming and color rendition in the future.  In terms of architectural design, we will see more clean lines and very simple sophistication reminiscent of Art Deco, though even more toned down, what I might call “classique”.

What are your go-to classic design favorites?
For house exteriors, I love to look at historic American house styles that were adapted from our European roots. I also love the French styles in particular (French Second Empire, Norman, Châteauesque), as well as Italian styles (Italianate, Renaissance Revival), and English (Cotswold Cottage, Norman). 

And we love Art Deco, though there are very few historical house examples. We don’t like to copy any of these styles, and instead choose to draw on them for inspiration, then adapt and simplify them and incorporate elements of the past in new ways.  This is important because people want to feel connected to something stable and solid, so it conveys a sense of peace and continuity. At the same time people are interested in being part of the progress in a world which is constantly evolving and changing, and hopefully improving.

What are you favorite local shops for appliances and decor?
We regularly send our clients to shop for appliances at ABT, plumbing at Studio 41, who acquired our old favorite Clark & Barlow for hardware, and Materials Marketing has been our stand-by tile supplier (and design contributor) for many years.  The German Kitchen Center on Halsted is a newcomer that has a great showroom!  

Do you have any tricks for making rooms look bigger/more open?
Yes, there are ways to create a sense of width or length using optical illusions.  For example placing beams on a ceiling side-to-side, will make the space look wider.  Another trick is counter-intuitive: I like to design framed openings or divisions between spaces – the foreground creates a background which then visually recedes, and makes it appear like the room is more spacious.

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why?
There are so many under-appreciated neighborhoods in Chicago.  The easy answer is Lincoln Park because it has been really good to me, as have Lakeview and Graceland West, and then there’s Lincoln Square, Bucktown and Wicker Park, as well.  I’ve been to so many areas in the city working on buildings and looking at actual and possible projects: Pilsen, Bridgeport, Hyde Park, South Shore, Old Irving, Edgewater, Andersonville (I live in West Andersonville), Bowmanville, Rodgers Park, and even Englewood.  The potential of this city is phenomenal, and I’ve always cheered for the underdog, so rather than declare a favorite, can I just say I’d like to see the marginalized areas of the city revitalized, while somehow remaining affordable for its citizens--that part is a really important and difficult challenge!

What types of services do you offer?
We work mostly on residential projects of various sizes (whether single family or multi-unit) and small commercial projects, and have done new construction as well as renovations, many with additions. 

We offer complete architectural design services for exterior and interior construction, which includes structural, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical design work.  We also like to work on detailed architectural design of interiors, millwork drawings, stairs and railings, as well as exteriors, especially limestone and brick facades (front, back, and garage), ornamental iron fences and landscaping components. 

For projects which require Zoning Changes or Variations, we are very experienced with how to handle those kinds of tricky situations.  We also have offer complete construction management services (similar to general contracting), where we handle every aspect of a project, starting with design and seeing it through in construction on a daily basis until completion and occupancy. We find that this method of design-build leads to the best results, especially for our homeowner clients.

Buying and selling with clients that become friends

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Marc and I go way, way back. I absolutely love my clients who ultimately become friends--and Marc is one of my longest standing! We’ve been through a lot together too: selling the home he built in Lincoln Park, buying and selling a home in Wicker Park, and now ultimately renting back in Lincoln Park.

“Millie is a good, sweet person, and we get along so well. She’s basically the opposite of many of the other big producers,” Marc said. “Plus, she’s been at it so long that she knows Lincoln Park better than anyone. I trust her Lincoln Park advice more than anyone.”

For Marc, trust is the biggest factor to consider when it comes to which real estate broker to work with when buying or selling. When I asked him why he trusted me so much, he said: “We just get along so well! When I trust someone, they become a friend.” I feel the same way, Marc!

Marc also reports having a great experience with Joe Palmisano, the lawyer that I recommended he use for his deal. It’s so important to me that my clients full experience, beyond just working with my team, is as positive and productive as possible.

Here’s to many more years of friendship, and real estate deals, Marc!

New construction to watch

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There's not much that gets me more excited than new construction in the city of Chicago! I love watching a building from inception to delivery--new and beautiful homes for Chicagoans is such a big part of what makes our city flourish. Today I'm highlighting the two new construction buildings I am most excited about. 

445 W. Arlington:
Slated to be an intimate eight-unit structure with only two units per floor, I can only imagine the gorgeous open floor plans in store! Located in a prime East Lincoln Park location on quaint, tree-lined Arlington, the building is mere feet from the Lake and Park. Delivery is projected in late 2018 or the first quarter of 2019. 

360 W. Superior: 
This building is the newest glass and steel mid-rise in River North. Featuring a mix of two and three bed units, the two bed, two bath units will start at 1,700 square feet, and pricing will begin at $1.1M. The three beds will be 2,700 square feet and feature 2.1 bathrooms. These units will start at $2M. I am most excited to see the expansive glass rail balconies, and the sky deck with panoramic skyline views. Delivery is scheduled for January 2019, pending city approvals and permits. 

Stay tuned as these properties start to hit the market!

 

My top four destinations for seasonal gifts and decor

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I like to go all out for the holidays, whether it's decorating my home, or buying gifts for friends and loved ones. There really is no better excuse to spoil the ones you love! Over the years I've really narrowed my list of local shops to the best of the best, and today I've rounded up my favorites for you!

Gethsemane Garden Center: Have you been to this Andersonville garden center gem?! If you haven't, you are truly missing out. They do every season right at Gethsemane, but the way they celebrate the holiday season is truly a sight to behold. You can buy real and artificial Christmas trees, and the real trees are never stock piled, and typically cut within 48 hours of shipping! I also decorate with their garland, poinsettias, custom holiday wreaths and winter containers. On top of their fabulous inventory, the customer service is unparalleled. 

Sur La Table: This is where I head for anything tableware related--table cloths, dishes, napkins, candles, holiday-inspired serving pieces, the list goes on. I always shop here if I need a little gift inspiration for a hard-to-buy-for friend. 

Tiffany & Co.: A special destination to purchase the most memorable holiday gifts--everyone loves to receive that little blue box! I buy anything from jewelry to timeless table serving pieces.  

Material Possessions: Material Possessions is my destination of choice for hostess gifts any time of year, but particularly around the holidays. They stock a great variety of different looks, from modern to traditional, so I know I will always find the perfect little something.  

I always have so much fun shaking up my usual home decor around the holidays--hopefully I've inspired you to do the same!

My take on Chicago's Amazon HQ2 sites

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I have been closely following Amazon’s search for a second headquarters--this is an exciting time for our city! As of right now, we are waiting for Amazon to narrow down their selection in early 2018--238 cities were hoping for consideration.

There are 10 sites in Chicago that fit Amazon’s requirements of 500,000 square feet of initial office space, and an additional 8 million square feet over a 10 year period. We also know that Amazon is looking for an affordable city, among many other factors (population, location, density, etc.).

The 10 sites are well-outlined in this recent Curbed Chicago article. My top contenders include:

Chicago Tribune River District Sites:
According to the Curbed Chicago article, “Located at the intersection of the neighborhoods of River North, River West, Goose Island, and Fulton River District, the Trib’s mega-project is a short walk from nearly all of the CTA’s major train lines and could include transportation improvements such as a new pedestrian bridge across the river and a transitway or shuttle route from Chicago’s big commuter rail stations. Despite calling for nearly two dozen structures, the plan sets aside a fair amount of open space and a riverwalk component.” To me this is the best location of the bunch.

The 78:
The public transportation options at this site would be the most diverse. “A major riverfront development opportunity also exists on the South Branch at a 62-acre parcel of vacant land controlled by developer Related Midwest. Anticipated to increase Chicago’s 77 recognized neighborhood areas by one, ‘The 78’ redevelopment plan will include a mix of residential, commercial, academic, civic, cultural, and recreational spaces master planned by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. A newly announced University of Illinois-led research facility known as the Discovery Partners Institute will help establish the site as a major public-private research hub,” according to Curbed Chicago.

Burnham Lakefront:
This site actually includes some city-owned land, so the $2.25 billion incentive package from the State of Illinois may increase if this site is chosen. According to Curbed Chicago, “This massive redevelopment opportunity for the former Michael Reese Hospital in the Bronzville neighborhood on Chicago’s Near South Side would provide Amazon with Lake Michigan views as well as to room grow. Controlled by a team consisting of Draper & Kramer, Farpoint Development, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, McLaurin Development Partners, and the Bronzeville Community Development Partnership, the Burnham Lakefront plan calls for 12 million square feet of mixed-use space.

With the projected average Amazon job salary in Chicago at about $100K, we would also see a huge boom in the residential market. At that salary range, Amazon employees would be looking for $500K+ homes. I am looking forward to keeping a close eye on the developments!

My predictions for the winter and spring markets

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Around this time of year, I hear the same two questions over and over. First people want to know how to prepare for the winter market, and then they want to know my predictions for the spring market. Of course I don't have a crystal ball, but since I live and breathe the market day in and day out, I do have a few predictions/recommendations to share: 

In real estate, winter is actually short!
For serious buyers and sellers, keep in mind that the winter market actually starts to pick up again right after the new year. For buyers this means doing your homework now so that you are ready to pounce on the right property, and for sellers this means don't wait on any last home projects.

Take advantage of the slower months
If you are thinking of selling next year, assess the condition of your unit now--this is also a great service to request of your broker. The best brokers are able to look at a property and recommend updates/changes that will maximize return. Many vendors consider the winter their slow period, so take advantage of their more open schedules, and maybe even a discount or two on service. 

Projections for spring
This past spring market was on fire! The double digit returns we experienced make me believe that the spring market this year will be as good as it was last year--if not even better! Plus, we haven't seen the spike in interest rates that everyone anticipated, which I also believe won't happen anytime soon. 

Success story: "Millie was truly a lifesaver!"

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I met Diane and her husband when they became interested in one of my listings. We quickly connected, and sure enough, Diane soon asked me if I would represent them as buyers of the property. I take the role of dual agent very seriously, and in this situation it turned out well for everyone. Says Diane: “Hiring Millie was the best decision we’ve ever made.” Plus, then I helped them sell their property too!

Diane’s purchase went extremely smoothly--we came to an agreement very quickly and easily with the sellers, and everyone was happy. From there, we moved onto getting their condo ready for the market. Says Diane: “Millie hooked us up with a great stager who presented the condo in the very best light. I never would have known where to start! This particular stager (Exit Stage Right), is wonderful because they do it all--use some of the homeowner’s existing pieces, move things around, and bring in replacements to make the home look its best.

Unfortunately once we hit the market, Diane ran into some health issues, and I was asked to take over wherever possible. “It was a hard time, but I knew Millie wouldn’t let anything fall through the cracks, which not all brokers can do. Millie was truly a lifesaver,” Diane says.

We ultimately sold their condo, and Diane and her husband are happily living in their new duplex down. When asked if she would recommend Millie to a friend, Diane said: “Absolutely! My youngest child just moved here from Baltimore, and she already knows who will help her find a home when the time is right!”

My take on three current home design trends

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The other week I participated as a panelist at an event hosted by Snaidero Kitchens + Design and ChicagoAgent. The discussion was focused on what is trending in residential home design, which is a topic I could talk and think about for days! Here are my biggest take aways:

People are investing in their home versus moving
I’ve seen this trend anecdotally pop up in the past year, so it was interesting to hear others echo the same. Post-recession, people’s outlooks have changed. Instead of uprooting and diving into the unknown of a new property, people are investing in updating or refreshing their home, particularly the kitchen. And the math makes sense--instead of, for example, moving from a $400K home to a $600K, invest $100K into your current property and come out $100K ahead! As a result, I anticipate an uptick in mid-market property values.

Incorporate the kitchen
As a result of the recent trend toward open concept floor plans, buyers are now looking for kitchens that feel like an extension of the rest of the living space. This means less white and marble kitchens (since white cabinetry and marble are less at home in other rooms), and more texture and light grain wood. Islands with an overhang for casual seating are also a huge draw, as are built-in coffee makers to brew premium coffee at home.

Invest in kitchen appliances
We are to the point when high end appliances have become the standard for most buyers. Even $400K properties on up should feature recognizable brands that buyers covet. Interestingly though, as much as buyers care about seeing high end appliances in the kitchen, they care less about appliance branding throughout the rest of the home--washer and dryer, bathrooms, etc.

One thing is for sure--it is hard to keep up with the trends in home design, and that’s one of the reasons I love real estate so much!