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!

Success story: Making sure ann feels like "our only client"

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A retired managing director of The Private Bank, Ann was referred to me by an SVP there, who knew me from when I worked with the CEO. Ann told me she had researched a number of brokers, but that she hired me for both her home purchase and sale as a result of my experience and reputation, and because she really wanted someone who knows luxury high rises.

We started with finding Ann a new home in very limited areas of either the Gold Coast or Lincoln Park. “I felt like I was her only client,” Ann recalls of the experience. We looked at a number of properties over the course of one week, and within eight or nine days, we had found the property Ann loved. Before finalizing the deal, Ann wanted an estimate of the cost of the rehabs she wanted to make on the property. “Millie has a very in depth knowledge of renovating and gave me a good estimate of what it would cost, which was very helpful to me,” explains Ann.

From there we started the process of listing Ann’s home: “I felt like I was in very good hands. The team is responsive, and very good at setting forth options and sharing comparables,” Ann said. In fact, when asked what her favorite part of working together was, Ann said my team! I’m so glad she feels this way because I do think I have the best team in the business!

Ann also used a number of our referrals, including her excellent lawyer, Kimberly Palmisano, and great contractor, Walter Banas--who is handling the remodel of her new home. When asked if she would recommend our team, Ann says, “Absolutely, without hesitation.” Thank you, Ann!

Learn about your local school options from other parents

What a night! Our first ever local school parent panel event was definitely a night to remember. I decided to host the event after working for 30+ years with families looking for the same thing: the right neighborhood for their home, and the right school for their children. I thought, what better way to help educate these families than by introducing them to other families who have made it to the other side of these difficult decisions. I am grateful to be able to give back to the community in this way, and also so appreciative to all my friends who participated as panelists! I know I have smart friends, but I was truly blown away by the insightful and helpful information that each of our panelists shared.

On that note, I have compiled my favorite words of wisdom from each panelist to create a short guide for you.

(Alexander Graham) Bell Elementary | John Martin | Daughter in 3rd grade: "My wife, Stacey, and I love Bell Elementary for the simplest reason: our daughter loves to go to school and learn with a diverse group of children participating in three different programs (local, options, deaf). In addition, our community is very much centered around the school and education.”

Other notes:

  • Feeder public high schools are improving
  • Parent involvement is a very high priority

St. Josaphat School | Marc McDonald | Son in 8th grade, daughter in 5th grade, daughter in 2nd grade: "There are two main reasons why St. Josaphat is a special place. The first is their vision of developing a balanced student. The educational process fosters growth intellectually, spiritually, socially, emotionally, and physically. I find this to be a unique approach to student education. The goal is lofty, but the talented staff at St. Josaphat is making it happen. The second is the strong community built upon the unbridled efforts of the school families. Families invest their time, talent, and treasure, to make Saint Josaphat the best school it can be. The results are impressive."

Other notes:

  • Based his decision on conversations with other parents
  • Appreciates the integrated view of the student: spiritual, educational and social

Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School | Scott Schneider | Son in 1st grade: "The community at our school is really amazing and this includes the families and administration. Everyone is very close-knit and works together to create an exceptional academic and social environment."

Other notes:

  • The warmth of the school is one of its attributes that sticks out the most (he gave an example of whenchildren from the class will call sick classmates to wish them well)
  • Parental involvement is crucial to the success of a child and a school--neither will be successful without it

(Augustus H.) Burley School | Amy Shulman | Daughter in 6th grade: "I love how small the school is, and the high involvement by the parents and the teachers."

Other notes:

  • At least 50% of 8th graders were admitted to their #1 choice high school
  • Burley is a very small school (only about 55 children/grade) and the principal knows every student by name

British International School of Chicago | Neena Vlamis | Son in 8th grade, son in 5th grade: “British School’s curriculum allows my children to become open minded, out of the box thinkers, and holds the children to high standards.”

Other notes:

  • The school features an internationally-based curriculum that starts in nursery school
  • Standardized tests for the school remain consistent at their schools throughout the world

Latin School of Chicago | Keren Weiss | Son in 6th grade, daughter in 4th grade: "I love the sense of community amongst parents, faculty, and students. Everyone has a shared commitment to raising well-rounded, intellectually curious and responsible students."

Other notes:

  • There is definitely a focus on academics, but because most children are applying at age 3, there is more of an emphasis on the whole child--the mind-health component
  • Parental volunteering is an important part of the culture

Educational Consultant | Jane Herron: “The ‘right’ school for your child celebrates your child’s uniqueness, curiosities and excitement with discovery and exploration, in concert with your feelings of con dence, trust and connection to your child’s school.”

Other notes:

  • New considerations for parents when looking for a school include policies around safety and bullying--ask about these protocols at the schools you are considering

 



 

Tickets are going fast! Join us for our local school parent panel!

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OUR EVENT, YEARS IN THE MAKING, IS NOW JUST DAYS AWAY! TICKETS ARE GOING FAST, REGISTER TODAY!

After working with Chicago families to find the right neighborhood, home, and school for 20+ years, I am finally able to create a night dedicated to helping families navigate these big decisions! Please join us for a night of connection and conversation, led by a panel of the best experts on the subject--other parents! Our esteemed panelists represent many of the school options presented to Chicagoland parents: public, private, and parochial, and are here to help!

Panelists/Schools: 

We are thrilled to have Mary Dempsey, president of DePaul College Prep, moderate our discussion.

Jane Herron: Educational Consultant
John Martin: (Alexander Graham) Bell Elementary
Marc McDonald: St. Josaphat School
Hillary Schneider: Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School
Amy Shulman: (Augustus H.) Burley School
Neena Vlamis: British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park
Keren Weiss: Latin School of Chicago

Event Details: 

Wed, September 27 at 6:30pm
DePaul Student Center, Room 120
2250 N Sheffield

Parking is available at the Sheffield Parking Garage located at 2331 N. Sheffield Ave.

Success story: Owen and Melissa move cross country with our help

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Recent clients Owen and Melissa found me via Zillow, when one of my listings populated in their results. I later found out that I was chosen as their broker after quite a bit of research on their part! “In the end we liked her the best because she listened to what we wanted--which not all Realtors do. Many push whatever is out there on you,” Owen recalls.

Because they were still living in California while looking for a home here in Chicago, I knew it was important to get a very good idea of their specific tastes, and exactly what they were looking for: “Millie took the time to get to know us, so the new ideas that she brought to the table were always helpful,” said Owen.

Owen and Melissa took about three to four trips here to Chicago to research properties, neighborhoods and schools, and I was very involved in the process along the way. Once they settled on the property they wanted to purchase, I made a few key referrals to help the process along: “We used Millie’s recommended lawyer, and he was very knowledgeable and responsive,” Owen said.

After about six months of research, and selling their California property, Owen recalls: “Buying was the easiest part of the whole deal!” You don’t hear that very often, and I am very glad he feels that way, especially working remotely on so much of this deal! “We love what we bought--love the location, and love the property,”  Owens said.

When asked if he would recommend our team, Owen said, “Absolutely. Millie is super professional, but what set her apart is that she isn’t the typical real estate agent. She wasn’t trying to sell a house. Her approach was to learn about us, and what we want and don’t want, and then go out and find what we were looking for. She put her time in, and we appreciate it.”

Welcome to Chicago, Owen and Melissa, we are glad you’re here, and it was a pleasure working with you!

 

Best of: my top 7 favorite Chicago high rises

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There are so many incredible high rises in this city, and the list just keeps getting longer! I’m not sure if our city is special, but to me we have some of the most elite, unique, beautiful and luxurious high rises out there. Today I’ve compiled my “best of” list for you!

1) Best amenities: The Pinnacle (4 E Huron)

The amenities list for The Pinnacle does not disappoint whether you are interested in exercise for yourself (they have a gorgeous indoor pool), or for your four legged friend--their dog run on the 7th floor is beautiful enough that I might want to run there myself! The property also features a beautiful outdoor lounge area two gyms (one aerobic and one for weightlifting), and a theater room. Also important to note that this properties is one of the few downtown that offers gorgeous terraces.

Best views: 
2) City views: 340 E Randolph

340 E Randolph also happens to be the city’s first ecologically-friendly tower, built in 2008. On top of that, the views of the city are top notch, and there is an underground connection to downtown.

3) Lake views: The Carlyle (1040 Lakeshore Dr)

The panoramic Lake views from this building (directly across from Oak St Beach) are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, period!

4) Best location: 4 E Elm + 55 E Erie

From either of these buildings you are a stone’s throw from all of the city’s best attractions: shopping, the Lake, restaurants, Division St Farmer’s Market, Rush St, Oak St, and the bike paths along the Lake.

5) Best neighborhood feel: 2450 N Lakeview (where I also happen to have a listing!)

This lush little enclave of east Lincoln Park is built around the close proximity of the Park, Zoo, bike trails, nature conservatory, and all the shops and restaurants along Clark.

6) Best unit layouts: 1211 S Prairie

I love the open feeling of the split floorplans within this building, and that the majority of the kitchens feature a separate breakfast area. The master baths are also uniquely spacious, with double bowl vanities and separate shower, tub and commode.

7) Best for dogs: The Ronsley (676 N Kingsbury)

I love this building’s proximity to the Ohio St Dog Park and the dog-focused food truck that always parks nearby!

Do you have a favorite high rise I didn’t feature? Email me and let’s talk!

 

Parent Panel: How to find the right school for your family - tickets available now!

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Complimentary tickets are now available for our inaugural Millie's Meetup: a night devoted to helping you find the right school for your child and family.

We will help you navigate these difficult decisions through conversation, cocktails and a panel of the best experts on the subject--other parents! After years or working with young families to find the right home and school setup, I decided it was time to figure out a way to uncomplicate this stressful time--even just a little bit!

Panelists/Schools: 

We are thrilled to have Mary Dempsey, president of DePaul College Prep, moderate our discussion.

Jane Herron: Educational Consultant
John Martin: (Alexander Graham) Bell Elementary
Marc McDonald: St. Josaphat School
Hillary Schneider: Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School
Amy Shulman: (Augustus H.) Burley School
Neena Vlamis: British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park
Keren Weiss: Latin School of Chicago

Event Details: 

Wed, September 27 at 6:30pm
DePaul Student Center, Room 120
2250 N Sheffield

Parking is available t the Sheffield Parking Garage located at 2331 N. Sheffield Ave.

Success story: Kevin finds a seasoned pro

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I first met Kevin back in 2006 through events at DePaul. Kevin was the Associate Vice President of Development, and my husband John is on the Board of Trustees. I don’t hold it against Kevin that he’s bought and sold a few properties in the time since we first met since everything turned out well in the end!

This was the first time Kevin worked with a team, and I could tell he had a little trepidation about that. From my perspective, my team is a huge part of my success, and contribute so much to each transaction. Plus, I’m always there for my clients every step of the way. “As I honed in on what I was looking for, Millie was there, already starting to put together ner negotiation strategy together,” Kevin said.

When Kevin decided which property he would like to buy, I came to him with what I believed was a fair starting point, and we went from there: “It became clear very early on that Millie is a real seasoned professional. She was a strong negotiator with a real sense of moving the deal forward. I always tell my friends: hiring a broker is like hiring any other professional, you want the best in the business. With Millie, I felt like I was working with the best in the business,” Kevin recalls.

Once we had a signed contract, my extended team quickly jumped into action for Kevin. “A lot of times, real estate attorneys will kill deals. That wasn’t the case at all with Joe. He was a true master,” Kevin said. I also referred Kevin a painter that he ended up hiring as well.

Working with Kevin was an absolute pleasure, and I am looking forward to working with the friends he has already sent my way!

Tips and tricks from remodeling my outdoor space

When John and I decided to update our outdoor space, we knew we wanted to create a private oasis, built to last. What we ended up with is the most beautiful outdoor space in the city--and I don't think I'm exaggerating! I learned some great tricks, tips and ideas throughout the process that I'm happy to pass along to you. 

Choose materials wisely

Steel: First, we chose to build our arbor out of steel instead of wood because it is low to no maintenance and will last forever. I still wonder why so many exterior structures are built with wood. I also love the sleek look of the steel. 

Ipe Wood: Durable and rot resistant in addition to beautiful, Ipe is definitely my wood of choice for outdoor structures. We used it to build our walls and trellises, and I couldn't be happier with the rich red color the wood adds to the overall look. Another tip: I use Penofin Oil every year to refresh the wood's natural red hue. 

Glass: I love our glass railings! They are only there if you look for them, but once you spot them, you instantly appreciate the architectural, airy element they provide. 

Fiberglass: All of our planters are made of indestructible fiberglass.  I love the modern, yet understated look. 

Honed granite: Our gorgeous built-in gas fireplace features a honed granite surround, which I just love. The granite is as beautiful as it is durable--no sealing or worrying!

Sunbrella Fabric: Our light gray fabric awning adds such a light and breezy feel to the space. Plus, Sunbrella Outdoor Fabrics are incredible because they are the most durable, weather-resistant fabric you can find on the market. 

Consider how colors work together

Pavers: One of the most striking features of our deck are the 18x18 pavers we chose in three complimentary shades of gray. It's a timeless yet unique look that I know I will appreciate for years to come.

Trees: We use boxed trees to soften the space and add greenery year round. My advice is to hire a professional to help you select the right trees for your space. We chose a combination of Madison Birches, an Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac, Yellow-Groove Bamboos and Cordon Sargent Crabapple Espalier trees.

Flowers: All of our planters are hooked up to an irrigation system so that we don't have to worry about remembering to water. The flowers we chose for the space provide the right colors and coverage and include Dark Purple Verbena, Purple Verbena Bonariensis, Rhythmic Blue Hydrangea, Burgundy Stained Glassworks Coleus, White Cirrus Dusty Miller and Silver Falls Dichondra.

Lighting: After working in real estate for so many years, I have a great appreciation for the importance of lighting--it really can make or break a room. We installed individually-dimming lights over all of the planters, trees, and dining areas to create the perfect ambiance for any occasion. 

I can't tell you how much John and I enjoy entertaining in our new space. Having the built-in grill on the kitchen balcony also adds a great level of functionality--we can easily run food from the kitchen straight out to the grill. We also installed separate sound systems for the upper and lower decks to allow for similar flexibility since after all: it's all about setting the right mood!

If you are considering an outdoor space remodel and have questions or are looking for a great architect or designer, I used Thomas Roszak Architecture and Suzanne Lovell Inc. Please email if you are looking for another type of referral, I'd love to help!

 

The inaugural Millie's Meetup: How to find the right school for your family

Are you starting to think about where to send your children to school? Or maybe your like many of my young family clients, and you have already been researching for many years! After years or working with young families to find the right home and school setup, I decided it was time to figure out a way to uncomplicate this stressful time--even just a little bit!

Welcome to Millie's Meetups! I designed this event series to help local families navigate life's big decisions, and we will kick off with a night all around local schools. I have put together a fabulous panel of the best experts on the subject--other Chicago parents! 

Panelists/Schools: 

Jane Herron: Educational Consultant
John Martin: (Alexander Graham) Bell Elementary
Mark McDonald: St. Josaphat School
Hillary Schneider: Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School
Amy Shulman: (Augustus H.) Burley School
Keren Weiss: Latin School of Chicago

Event Details: 

Wed, September 27 at 6:30pm
Cortelyou Commons at DePaul University
2324 N Fremont St
Chicago

To receive an invitation and event updates, please email me to be added to the mailing list. Looking forward to seeing you there!

My no-fail pre-list checklist

When listing a home, there is one simple truth that I never stray from, not matter the situation: I never list a home until it is ready. Why? For a few reasons. First, there are so many other homes out there that hit the market without addressing the small stuff, so I know mine will automatically stand out from the pack. And, buyers notice everything! The mind wanders when they spot a small issue: "what else is lurking?" they wonder.

Lucky for you, I've compiled my check list of pre-list to-do's that you may or many not have already considered. These are the items that I believe truly make the difference between a house that sparks and one that may fall flat--they make that big of a difference!

  • Things to power wash:
    • Garage floor
    • The algae off the front facade, steps, and deck
  • Things to paint:
    • Garage floor: I always use Benjamin Moore Battleship Gray
    • The inside of fireplaces: paint them black for a clean, fresh look
    • Fence/front gate: spray paint shiny black
  • Things to clean:
    • Windows
    • Exterior dryer vents
    • Change filters and humidifier pads before inspection
  • Checking windows for broken seals and fix as necessary: they always catch this during inspections 
  • Landscaping:
    • Spruce up as necessary, clear away debris
    • Add a few colorful flowers to planters
    • Trim trees/bushes that may be covering windows

Success story: Brandon's first purchase

For first-time buyer Brandon, it all came down to the data: “I found Millie through a website that looked at sales numbers/dollars, and she was at the top.” Since he’d never bought a home before, he knew that he wanted the best of the best on his team.

Brandon first started working with us in February 2016 because his lease was about to end. We talked about what he thought he wanted, showed him a few properties that fit his criteria, but nothing was jumping out. “I decided to put the search on hold, and pick it up again in another year,” Brandon says. “During that time I stayed on top of the market by doing my own research, and through Millie’s e-newsletter.”

Fast forward to February 2017, and Brandon is again ready to look at properties, and we found one he was interested in pursuing with an offer. “Millie was very good at always asking me if I wanted her input, which I always did. This time she told me: we can absolutely go in at your price, but I don’t think we will get this property. X, Y and Z will happen, but you lose nothing putting in this offer. Of course she was right!,” Brandon recalls about his first experience submitting an offer.

I immediately went back to the drawing board for Brandon, sending him properties that met his criteria. We did a few more showings, and ultimately found another property that Brandon really liked. “We put in a low offer to start, and Millie was very good at telling me how we would end up at my final number,” Brandon says, “She knew exactly where I was willing to budge and where I wasn’t.”

Once we were under contract, Brandon used my recommended attorney and lender, and had a great experience. “Key Mortgage was very good, and my lawyer was absolutely fantastic. I’m a detailed person, and she was well beyond me in terms of detail,” Brandon recalls.

I love working with first-time buyers like Brandon. There’s something about the educational process that I enjoy so much! “My favorite part of working with Millie is that she was so forthcoming with advice and opinions, and almost every time we were thinking the same thing. That sort of connection is comforting when you’re buying property for the first time,” Brandon says.

As with all my clients, Brandon and I are in regular touch. He likes to consult me on ways to add value to his asset, and I’ve been in touch with a few of his friends looking for properties.

 

The 4 hottest neighborhoods right now

Can you believe this market? 2017 has been one for the books, already! And yes, the Chicagoland market overall is stronger than it has been in years, but some neighborhoods are truly off the charts this year. I’ve compiled a list of the four hottest neighborhoods in Chicago right now, and a few may surprise you!

1. Uptown:

    Closed sales (all properties): +27% overall
    Median sales price (detached): $980,000 +38% since 2016
    Average market time (attached): 58 days -38% since 2016

Uptown is a less surprising entry on this list since it is home to some of the most beautiful lakefront real estate in the city. Plus, the new Wilson El stop is nearly finished, and new retail is opening up in the area every day. With an average condo sales price of $262K (+7% since 2016), Uptown is a great opportunity to get in on now.

2. Lincoln Square:

    Closed sales (all properties): +20% overall
    Average sales price (detached): $832,664 +11% since 2016
    Average market time (attached): 65 days -10% since 2016

The tiny area of Lincoln Square is a less shocking entry since Chicagoans have been settling in this northern enclave for years. What is a bit more surprising (and exciting for condo hunters!) is the vast price difference between single family homes ($832,664) and attached ($273,000), though attached values are up nearly 10% since last year

3. Albany Park:

    Closed sales (all properties): +18.5% overall
    Average sales price (detached): $420,402 +11% since 2016
    Average market time (attached): 76 -18% since 2016

Located just west of Lincoln Square (on the west side of the Chicago River), Albany Park is considered a combination of Ravenswood Manor, Kimball, Albany Park and North Mayfair. With single family homes selling for an average of $420,402, Albany Park is a great opportunity for anyone looking to stay within the city limits at under $500K.

4. Avondale:

    Closed sales (all properties) +14%
    Average sales price (detached): $454,992 +12% since 2016
    Average market time (attached): 61 days +11% since 2016

Avondale has seen a major boom in recent years, and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping--especially with inventory down 39%, demand is at an all-time high. Located just west of Roscoe Village on the west side of the Chicago River, and spanning west to the I-90, Avondale covers a lot of conveniently-located territory.

Can you see why studying the market is one of my all-time favorite hobbies?! Studying the current market helps me get a pulse on what is to come, so I can help my clients make the most informed decisions possible.

 

Our favorite spots for Father's Day dinner

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We’ve celebrated the wonderful Mothers in our lives, and now it’s the gentlemen’s turn! We don’t have a specific Father’s Day family tradition in our home, but the team and I put together a list of our favorite restaurants to celebrate dad from years past--the biggest hits, of course! Our dads are all very different people, so we’ve got fathers of all types covered in our round up of our favorite spots to celebrate!

Jenny:
Smoque
My dad is a huge barbecue fan, so Smoque is our Father’s Day go-to. We love the brisket and pulled pork, plus they offer catering and delivery, which we sometimes do so we can eat in our backyard. A casual, yet delicious option for sure!

Michelle:
Bub City, Al’s Beef
Give my dad all the meat! Whether it’s barbecue or Italian Beef, we celebrate my dad with lots of meat. Bub City is a great sit-down, super casual option and Al’s Beef is fun to grab take out and set up a picnic by the beach.

Millie:
Half Shell
If the dad in your life loves seafood as much as my John, then Half Shell is the place to go! We love to get a dozen oysters and relax in the outdoor patio. After dinner, we wander to Lincoln Park for a beautiful walk along the path.

Mike:
Athenian Room,  Butcher and Burger
My dad is equally satisfied with the Greek Chicken from Athenian room or a burger from Butcher and Burger because both options are equally delicious. Make a night out of it and head to the bar adjoining Athenian Room (Glascott’s) for an after-dinner nightcap!

For sellers: My secret weapons for maximizing value

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One of the questions I am asked most frequently by sellers is, “What do we need to do to our home to ensure we get top dollar?” There is a lot that goes into the answer. I consider factors like the price of the home, the state of the market, comparable listings and the price of the updates.

I had a similar conversation with a client, Mary Jane. Mary Jane’s home is a beautiful custom build in one of the best neighborhoods in the city, however, in my opinion there were a few important upgrades that we needed to address. So, I met with Mary Jane and her husband to outline my plan, which included handling everything from bidding out the work, to getting it all done.

From Mary Jane: “It was one stop shopping, plus we were confident that we were getting fair deals. Millie is loyal to her vendors, and her vendors are loyal to Millie. I originally questioned a few of Millie’s recommendations, but now that I see the finished product, I totally understand. Millie knows the small shifts that make the big difference. She knows how to sell real estate.”

I first met with my painter to select the perfect wall color. We painted a few swatches on the wall, and then I visited the property a few times to see the colors in different light before selecting the winner. From there, we refinished the hardwood floors while Mary Jane and her husband were on vacation. I’m very particular about how the work is done, so my vendors know to take their time. I handle all of this work as if it were my own home.

And lastly, we replaced the carpeting. I told Mary Jane the total, and she said it was $5K less than she anticipated! A win win! The finished product is beautiful. Mary Jane has mentioned that when her friends saw the photos of the home, they commented on how much they love all the new remodeling! Selling a home can be stressful, to be sure. I believe it is my job to break down the process into manageable, meaningful steps.

4 tips for writing a competitive offer

The lowest market times in years, plus historically low inventory. What does that equation amount to for buyers? One very competitive market! It’s as important as it has ever been for buyers to be prepared, and come in with strong offers right out of the gate. So I’ve put together my four biggest tips for writing a competitive offer.

  1. Tap into emotion: It may sound counterproductive, but this is the time to really tap into your gut to gage how badly you really want a property. If you are dead set on a home, then your mentality throughout the offer and negotiation process should be getting the deal done as quickly as possible by positioning yourself for a response. Cut to the chase!
  2. Do your research: This step is absolutely crucial to formulating a strong offer because taking into account factors like the state of the market and comparable property values will tell you exactly how strong your offer is relative to market value.
  3. Keep it clean: Clean offers include all relevant information (pre-approval, signed disclosures, etc.) and also address any seller-specific motivations. Have your broker ask the seller’s broker if the sellers are looking for a specific close date, earnest money, etc. to make your offer stand out as much as possible.
  4. Act fast: With our current seller’s market, there is definitely a first mover’s advantage. If you are sure this is the property for you, then do everything you can to get your offer in as quickly as possible to avoid a bidding war.

To avoid feeling stressed and under the gun when you do find a property you love, try to do as much work in the upfront as possible. Pick your favorite neighborhood, get pre-approved, and familiarize yourself with the offer paperwork. All your hard work will pay off!