What you need to know about modern electricity with Molloy Electrical Co.

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One of the biggest reasons for my success is my team. And not just my broker team, but my larger team of professionals that I lean on. I can’t think of a single transaction that I have ever been a part of that I didn’t need the help of at least one vendor whether it be a painter, stager, plumber--the list goes on and on. 

Over the years, I have worked with dozens upon dozens of professionals throughout the Chicagoland area, and I have to say that at this point in my career, I have refined my “little black book” to feature the best of the best of the best. One such business is Molloy Electric. Cyril Molloy is the President of the family-owned company, which he manages with his wife, Neelu. They are true experts in their field, and I always learn something useful from them each time we are together. I recently sat down with them to regroup on what is new in their field, and they, as always, had vast wealth of information to share!

What is the biggest mistake you see consumers make with regard to their electrical work? 
With all of the new smart lights on the market, the options can get overwhelming! If a homeowner is remodeling, but not working with an architect, sometimes we will see far too many lights for one room. It’s important to lay out recessed lighting in a very particular manner based on the floor plan. Also, once the lights are installed, remember that you want all of your light colors and temperatures to match for a streamlined look. 

What are the latest innovations in the world of electrical? 
There is a continued effort to reduce energy output, and a lot of innovative technology is coming from that core idea. LED lights for example have improved so much over the past several years! We’re also seeing a lot of electric car charging station installations in garages, in addition to advanced technology that measures energy output in a home. These new measurement devices will be able to tell homeowners where they are doing well with electric output, and where they can improve. 

What are the best upgrades consumers can make in regards to their electrical?
This all depends on lifestyle, but some good baseline upgrades that I think any homeowner would love include: good quality LED recessed lighting, thoughtful outlet placement, USB ports in the kitchen/bedrooms/bathrooms, and dimmers on every light switch. 

What makes one electrician different than the next?
As with any trade, you can’t be an expert in everything. So one thing to know is that if you are looking to install something requiring low voltage, you should look for an electrician that is a low voltage specialist. Not every electrician specializes in every aspect of the trade, so it is important when you are working with electric in particular that your tradesman know what they are doing.  

I also always say to look for someone with a genuine passion for their work. People who are passionate about what they do are willing to problem solve when challenges arise. 

What should a consumer look for in an electrician?
We train our team to not only be up-to-date with city codes, but also to have a strong attention to detail. When installing recessed lighting for example, if anything is off, you will notice immediately. Everything needs to be aligned perfectly.  

If you were building your dream home, what would you install from an electrical perspective?

  • Underfloor heat! 

  • Dimmers on every light switch 

  • Thoughtful overhead lighting layout

 For inquiries, please email electric.molloy@gmail.com

Success Story: Nina

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How did you find Millie?
I found Millie online. I went to two of those websites where you search for the best type of Realtor to sell your home. You type in a series of information, and then the provide you with three names. Millie was number one on both sites, so I contacted her. Mille then sent me a very informative packet of information that I found very helpful. I started with Millie, and I’ve stayed with Millie.

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?
She's dogged. The woman is fierce! And she’s not only dogged when trying to get a new client, she also told me exactly what I better do if I wanted to sell my home. Immediately she told me I had to remove my Christmas decorations and personal effects. She also recommended Erin Austin, and I was wise enough to take her advice. I hired Erin to do the final decluttering and it was a great decision.

What did you buy/sell?
I was selling a co-op, which are always difficult to sell. There were also two or three others listed in the building, one for a few years. Millie said "I will sell this, if you do what I do." She was right!We sold in 48 days!

What was your favorite part of working together?
When I asked her a question, she would give me real answers. She made me feel that she would do what she said she would do—I had confidence in her.

Did you use any of her recommended vendors? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)?
Erin Austin was wonderful when she edited and staged my home.

Would you recommend her to a friend?
I have already recommended her to a friend—I sort of brow beat people to call Millie! She saved my life, really. I would be a nervous wreck if I hadn't sold that unit. Here I am on the ocean with a closed condo! I can breath again. She certainly deserves any praise I can give her.

3 ways to potentially offset your real estate tax bill

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If you’re a homeowner in Chicago, then you recently received some potentially unwanted mail:  your real estate tax bill. No matter how prepared you are for a potential increase, many of the clients I spoke to were still surprised by what they owe. As an action oriented problem solver, I recently sat down and came up with three ways to potentially offset your new tax bill. Definitely talk to a professional in each respective category before making any decisions because these are not one-size-fits-all answers. With that said, hopefully you find something helpful that sparks an idea for you!

  1. Refinance: As of the date of writing this article, mortgage rates are holding at about 4%  and expected to hover around this number through the end of the year. If your current rate is considerably higher than 4%, it may be worth it to refinance. Here is a helpful article from the Chicago Tribune that explains scenarios where it makes sense to refinance. Closings costs and fees should be one of your first questions to a lender. 

  2. Exemptions: Applied for annually, there are four different tax exemption statuses that Chicagoans may be eligible for: Homeowner, Senior Citizen Homestead, Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze, and Home Improvement. Exemptions are a relatively easy way for Chicagoans to save on their property taxes, so I urge you to look into what may work for you. Potential savings and eligibility includes:

    • Homeowner: According to the County Treasurer’s website: “Taxpayers whose single-family home, townhouse, condominium, co-op or apartment building (up to six units) is their primary residence can save $250 to $2,000 per year, depending on local tax rates and assessment increases. First-time applicants must have been the occupants of the property as of January 1 of the tax year in question.”

    • Senior Citizen Homestead: According to the County Treasurer’s website: “Seniors can save, on average, up to $300 a year in property taxes, and up to $750 when combined with the Homeowner Exemption. The applicant must have owned and occupied the property as of January 1 and must have been 65 years of age or older during the tax year in question.”

    • Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze: According to the County Treasurer’s website this is the most valuable exemption, and is available to qualifying senior citizens (must have an annual household income of $65K or less) to freeze the assessed value of their property. 

    • Home Improvement: According to the County Treasurer’s website: “Homeowners can make up to $75,000 worth of property improvements without an increase in property taxes for at least four years. The value varies depending on the reduction of the assessed value and the tax rates where the property is located.” 

3) Homeowners Insurance: one of the sometimes forgotten pieces of your monthly payment is your homeowner’s insurance. I have learned over the years that rates can vary greatly from one provider to the next, so it may be worth a few hours of poking around to see if you can find a lower rate. 

With each of these three options, I know great professionals that have helped many of my clients. If you are ever looking for a referral, do not hesitate to ask!

Success Story: Grace

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How did you find Millie?

We found Millie when we were first moving from California to Chicago. We asked our friend and trusted realtor in CA if he had a recommendation for Chicago. He asked around and came back with, “Everyone says Millie Rosenbloom is the best.” When it came time to sell our house in Chicago, we naturally used Millie. 

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?

Every other realtor has heard of Millie and respects her. She knows her stuff.

What was your favorite part of working together?

Millie tells you what to do, and we listen. We were able to sell our house in four days as a result!

Did you use any of her recommended vendors? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)?

Yes , we used her recommended lawyer, Joe Palmisano. We also used her recommended cleaners, interior painter and window cleaners. 

What do you say when you recommend her to a friend?

Millie knows all the nuances of Lincoln Park and Lakeview, down to each road and alley and school. Her team of highly capable Realtors made what could be a stressful process seamless and high touch.

Success Story: Nora

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How did you find Millie?

We originally met Millie sitting across the table from her when we bought a bank-owned condo in 2013/2014. We were so impressed by her during that transaction that we have used her several times since then for selling our primary residence as well as several investment properties.

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?

Millie has excellent knowledge of Chicago real estate, and is able to spot emerging trends--which we have found very useful. I also like her practical approach to getting deals done. For example, when we were purchasing the bank-owned condo, we found water pouring down the walls of the basement. Millie got into the basement and had a professional fix the issue, plus provided us a warranty against future damage. She gave us the confidence we needed to go through with the purchase.

What was your favorite part of working together?

I love Millie’s responsiveness. Whether it was Millie herself or someone from her team, she always gets back to us quickly. We have also been very impressed with Millie’s team, whether we saw them at a showing or communicated over email, they were always excellent.

Did you use any of her recommended vendors? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)?

I can’t recall which of her vendors we have used over the years, but I always trust Millie’s recommendations.

Would you recommend her to a friend?

I tell my friends we know the best Realtor in the Chicago area! Thank you, Millie, for all of our assistance over the years.

My reflections on the 2019 market thus far

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We are halfway through 2019 already, can you believe it? One of my favorite parts of working in real estate is that every year is a totally new experience. Buyers market, seller’s market, the global economy, politics--the recipe is never the same. And as a result, I am always learning. I recently sat down to think about what we’ve seen out of the market so far in 2019 and put together my thoughts. A few years ago, it was all go, go go--properties were flying off the market. This year things have definitely moved a little slower, but there are some major high points too.

Global uncertainty + interest rates
For better or for worse, our current administration is not afraid to shake things up on an international scale. In the first quarter, we saw the impact of the unresolved trade disputes with China and the resulting economic sanctions. In the second quarter, the economic sanctions widened to Mexico and India. The trickle down to our markets was less of a trickle and more of a sudden wave. On the plus side though, the Federal Reserve attempted to counteract and temper the negative impacts of the sanctions by maintaining interest rates at 18 month lows. We’ve also seen strong economic growth amidst the trade drama with the GDP over 3%.

Financing
Financing is readily available to buyers, and mortgages are fairly easy to obtain. This is a very important factor to the health of our market because we are also seeing fewer buyers seeking properties. Another bright spot of the 2019 market is the appraisal instability we saw in 2018 seems to have resolved. 2018’s market was filled with high high’s and low low’s, and home values and the valuation process lagged. Resultantly, we saw a lot of appraisal issues stack up.

Hyper-locality
While real estate is always a local game, when a market is transitioning —like our’s is now—this is especially true. For example, median sales price in Lincoln Park is up 3.8% across all property types. But if you break that down further, attached housing is up 2.2% and detached housing is down 5.8%.

Buyers + sellers
Here is Chicago, the market has shrunk, slightly. We have fewer listings on the market, and also less buyers. What this means for both buyers and sellers is that you have to work hard. For buyers, your competition is intense. Buyers on the market are serious and looking to make a deal. Make sure you are prepared with a pre-approval, and a clear vision of what you are after.

For sellers, putting your best foot forward is as important as ever. Spending the extra time and money painting, staging, cleaning, and clearing to make sure your online photos pop against the competition. As far as pricing, it is crucial to price to the market right out of the gate. Smart sellers and their real estate brokers are making price adjustments in a timely manner, so you should too. You and your real estate broker should be monitoring the market on a weekly basis and adjust as necessary. My sellers know they receive a weekly report from me each week outlining market activity and a plan forward.

I consider it a big part of my job to stay on top of the market and all its implications. If you ever have questions or would like to discuss further, please reach out any time. I could take about this stuff for hours!


The three ingredients for the perfect outdoor space

My feeling about Chicago summer is simple: it is short, so we need to make the most of every day! For me, enjoyment means creating a comfortable and beautiful outdoor space for a quiet dinner for two, or to entertain large groups of friends. We remodeled our garage roof deck a few years ago, and while I labored over every design decision, in retrospect, I see that there are really three key ingredients that make the space what it is: great lighting, the perfect mix of materials, and our steel trellis.

Makes the most of your lighting

The most beautiful room will fall flat with the wrong lighting. And these days there are more considerations than ever, especially around the color and quality of the light. If you aren’t careful, lighting can quickly look blue or too bright white and clinical. Go for warm, natural tones whenever possible.

Outside, we went for individually-dimming overhead lights above the dining table of course, but also over the planters and trees to create a beautiful ambiance at night. We use a Control4 system, and it has worked well for us. The dimmers allow me to create all different types of looks or moods, which I love!

Mix materials

You might recall a blog post I wrote a few years back that outlined our deck remodel at great length. I feel that the contrast between the warmer tone of the wood is perfectly contrasted by the more modern-leaning steel and glass. With Chicago winters to contend with, it’s also important to be practical when thinking about materials for outdoors like our fiberglass planters and honed granite fireplace surround. A full list of the materials we used on the deck:

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.

Create shade

We chose to build a steel trellis with the Sunbrella fabric awning to create the perfect contrast between the hard steel and the soft, billowy fabric. Creating a permanent structure also allowed us to instal the overhead lighting and sound system speakers. If you are looking for a more economical option, Sunbrella fabric is also used in many sun umbrellas, which are great for privacy and shade.


Appliances like you've never seen with my favorite brand, Gaggenau

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Over the past several years I have become a great fan of the appliance manufacturer Gaggenau. If I am showing or selling a home with a Gaggenau wine climate cabinet, without fail, this is the thing that catches everyone’s attention! The way Gaggenau manages to incorporate appliances into the home so seamlessly makes for such a modern, yet warm look.

I became so intrigued by the brand that I sat down with Skyler Stevenson of the Gaggenau team to learn more about what makes Gaggenau so unique.

Why is Gaggenau such a special brand?

According to Skyler, Gaggenau’s story goes back to 1683 in the small town of Gaggenau, Germany where local craftsmen perfected the art of metal nail forging. Today the brand is widely recognized for high end home kitchen appliances, with the brand’s origins tracing back to the town of Gaggenau and those perfect nails. All of Gaggenau’s appliances today are based on the principles of the professional kitchen: refined and precise, versus overpowering and overbearing.

Skyler explains that Gaggenau is very different from other appliance brands. When it comes to appliances, people have preconceived ideas about what they think they need: double-oven dishwasher, range stove, microwave oven, etc. Gaggenau approaches it entirely differently because the appliances are so versatile and customizable. Instead, they look at lifestyle: What do you cook? Do you entertain? Do you have a family? Gaggenau has the appliances that fit each lifestyle, and then builds a bespoke kitchen around those needs.

What are the newest and most popular Gaggenau products?

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Everybody loves the Combi-steam Ovens (with built in sous vide capabilities), according to Skyler. Their level of precision is unmatched in the marketplace.

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Gaggenau also launched a new line of refrigeration this year, a final component of their handleless kitchen.

What is the latest in appliance technology?

According to Skyler, Gaggenau’s full surface induction cooktop is one of their most exciting new offerings. Up to six pans can be positioned anywhere on top of the cook surface, creating a seamless look and experience.  

Skyler also loves their vacuuming drawer, which seals everything for fast marinating, extended storage, or preparing items for sous vide.

My clients love your wine climate cabinet! What makes it so different?

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According to Skyler, the Gaggenau team in Germany designed something truly extraordinary, showcasing and storing wine in a completely new way. When Gaggenau thinks about refrigeration, they consider not only how to showcase what is inside as beautifully as possible, but also practicality so that there is no wasted, forgotten food/beverage.

The cabinet comes in two sizes, and is designed to fit in with everything else in the home. It can store up to 99 bottles in three separate zones, for example: chilling white, tempering red, and long-term wine storage. The interior is made of untreated oak to mimic how wine is aged in barrels.

What should people look for/think about when shopping for kitchen appliances?

  1. First, speak to an expert - not every brand is the same.

  2. Ask yourself: How do I live? What am I hoping to accomplish? What are the meals I like to cook? Remember to build your kitchen around your lifestyle!

  3. Then ask yourself: How long will I have this kitchen? Make sure you think about the future and your needs when choosing your appliances!

Where can people shop for Gaggenau products in Chicago?

Chicago Showroom
The Merchandise Mart
222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 108
Monday - Friday: 9:00am – 5:00pm CST
Saturdays: 10:00am – 3:00pm






Exciting East Bucktown new construction

Have you ever driven down Webster Ave at the Elston Ave intersection and wondered what was happening to the land there? For such a prime location, it has sat vacant for a long time. I was so excited to recently learn that Belgravia is building a new condo building in that very spot, breaking ground this fall. I wanted more information, so I sat down with my friend Liz Brooks, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Belgravia, to get a larger understanding of the project.  

How is Triangle Square unique and different?

The location: Overlooking the North Branch of the Chicago River and sitting between Bucktown and Lincoln Park, Liz is very excited about the location of Triangle Square. It is close to the expressway, Clybourn Metra station, and because of its close proximity, it is only an 11 minute train ride Downtown.

The price: Starting at $495K for a two bedroom, Liz believes that Triangle Square’s pricing is uniquely positioned to attract a new type of buyer to the area since new construction condos in the area are usually more expensive. There is a wide range of options, with three bedrooms ranging from $695K - $1MM.

Design: According to Liz, the reputation for a “Belgravia Built” property is due to the painstaking level of detail that goes into designing each project. Belgravia’s designers considered the amount of cabinetry in each kitchen, the optimal closet and laundry room sizes, and how to maximize outdoor space as much as possible at Triangle Square.

What is the aesthetic of the units, and are buyers able to personalize?

Liz says that the units will have a contemporary feel with near 10 foot ceilings, wood floors throughout, high end Bosch appliances, and Italian kitchen cabinetry. Buyers have a broad array of choices from tiles to colors to cabinetry. Belgravia has two in-house designers to work with buyers in mixing and matching options.

Are buyers able to see what a unit will look like?

Yes! According to Liz, Belgravia has a fully immersive virtual tour allowing buyers to “see” a full unit including finishes, room sizes, etc.

What is the timing for delivery?

Belgravia will begin building this fall, with delivery the first quarter of 2020. Units are now for sale, and according to Liz there is a pre-construction purchaser credit of $25K available. For brokers, Belgravia is paying half of the commission at the time of ground breaking. Also, Belgravia is able to work with buyers on locking in current interest rates.

Thank you, Liz, for such great insights into this exciting new project!


The latest in smart home technology

Over the past 20 years I have watched smart home technology emerge onto the scene, become the standard for luxury properties, and then recently become accessible to the masses. What a whirlwind! And with anything that catches on in mainstream America so quickly, there are many more questions than answers around the options, costs and lifetime of smart home technology. While I am relatively well-versed on the subject, I always believe it better to lean on experts. This is why I recently interviewed Mike Anderson, owner of Digital Systems & Integration.

What is the most common smart home technology you currently install?
Most all technology is network-based at this point, so one of our most common installations is first pulling out an old off the shelf setup, and replacing with a new network with robust modems and multiple access points. A strong network is so important because so much of the smart home technology currently available is network-based, and old networks don’t have a large enough bandwidth. We will then use the new network as the hub for TVs with media players, smart lighting, surveillance, etc.

What is the latest with smart lighting?
A lot of what we currently install is panelized lighting. Instead of numerous light switches, homeowners have one keypad with a button for each room of the home to turn lights on and off. It’s such a great convenience--when you’re headed out the door, there is just one button to push that turns off all the lights in a home. In terms of brands, Lutron and Control4 are great options for high quality lighting technology.

What is the lifetime of smart home technology?
We are still servicing lighting systems from 15-20 years ago, so a lot of this technology really lasts and comes with solid warranties. A big part of our business is also maintaining technology for our clients--system updates, troubleshooting, upgrades, etc.

What is the most exciting new smart home technology?
Artificial Intelligence is a great addition to a system. With something like Alexa, we set up homes so that homeowners can communicate directly to their home. For example, we can set up a program so that when you arrive home and say, “Alexa, I’m home,” lights will turn on, shades will open, really whatever you want to happen can happen. Facial recognition is also starting to be incorporated into locking systems. Instead of a key, the front door will scan your face and automatically unlock the door if it recognizes you.

Thank you, Mike, for all the great information! I find the topic of smart home technology so interesting--especially the Artificial Intelligence tie ins! It’s amazing what your home can do for you. For those interested, below is Mike’s contact information.

Mike Anderson
Digital Systems & Integrations
Digitalsystemsav.com
Mike@DigitalSystemsAV.com | 773.425.9809


2019 most surprising design trends + what will last

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Much like fashion, home decor and design is constantly evolving. I love having a front row seat! One aspect of Chicago that I love so much is that Chicagoans aren’t scared to take a few chances when it comes to home design. I see hundreds of homes each month, and thankfully I am never bored thanks to homeowner’s bold decisions. And, a few months into 2019 I am already seeing trends emerge, many of which are in stark contrast to what we saw all last year. Here’s a roundup of the top home design trends of 2019 so far, and what I think works and doesn’t.

Goodbye gray, hello greige: Light gray walls have reigned for the past several years. And while I still think very pale gray walls are classically beautiful, they are starting to look a little dated. 2019’s version is a gray-beige hybrid, or “greige.” Greige has more brown undertones making it a warmer look than cool-leaning gray.

I love the color “Sea Pearl” by Benjamin Moore, paired with Chantilly for trim work. Benjamin Moore’s website is a great resource for wall color research--here’s a link to see Sea Pearl in several different rooms. If you are thinking of selling your home, or just looking for a little face lift, I would definitely recommend going more greige. The way the light bounces off the warmer tones is so beautiful and feels so fresh.

Lighter, wider floors: Dark wood floors have been the standard for the past several years, but I am seeing a definite shift toward lighter. Natural oak has had a bad rap for the past decade or so, but the 2019 version is less orange and very beautiful. Oversized, wide, planks are also gaining in popularity, and they end up feeling a bit more casual. If you are looking for easy to care for floors that are also easy to decorate around, I think natural oak is a great option.

An end to the white kitchen?! Honestly I don’t see white kitchens going anywhere any time soon. Especially here in Chicago, this light and bright option makes sense. Even still, I have seen more natural wood kitchens in the past six months than I have in years. Natural wood flat front cabinets in a matte finish are complimented with white quartz or quartzite countertops for a modern, clean look. I personally love the stark contrast in color, material and texture, and think it comes off as very sophisticated and classic.

A more practical bathroom: For so long the industry standard in bathrooms was all marble. But as consumer education around porcelain and its benefits became more pervasive, porcelain in bathrooms has become more and more common. It really is a great material since it is literally indestructible, requires no maintenance, and there are so many new and beautiful patterns.

The other big update I’m seeing in bathrooms is a bounce back from the freestanding tub. For the past several years, freestanding tubs have been used as the visual anchor in bathrooms--almost as artwork. What consumers have realized in the ensuing years, is that freestanding tubs are actually very uncomfortable! For someone who is a true bath lover, a built in tub is really the way to go.

What I love most about the emerging 2019 design trends is that they are all very “livable.” There’s nothing too fancy or over dramatic here. My favorite designs will always be at the intersection of where form meets function, because it is here that we know a design will stand the test of time!

Chicago's best dog parks

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Those who know me personally know that I am a very devoted owner of two beautiful yellow labs, Mavis Belle and Mabel Mae. One of my favorite things to do in the summer is take the dogs on a long walk and end up at any number of local dog parks. It’s such a great way to enjoy our beautiful city! Below is a list of our favorite dog parks organized by neighborhood. Now who’s ready for some summer weather?!

LINCOLN PARK
Belmont Harbor Dog Beach
N Lake Shore Dr & Lake Shore Drive Dr
This small enclosed area of beach is just enough space to let your pup go hog wild in the water! A perfect summertime destination.

LAKEVIEW/WRIGLEYVILLE
Wiggly Field Dog Friendly Area
2645 N Sheffield Ave
Technically called Noethling Playlot Park, this aptly-named dog park is actually Chicago’s first! Covered in asphalt and pea gravel, this park is perfect for running around or enjoying the summertime water features.

WICKER PARK
Wicker Dog Friendly Area
1425 N Damen Ave

What this park doesn’t have in size it has in community following--so go at an off time or it can get crowded. This park is covered in asphalt and pea gravel and also features dog-friendly drinking fountains.

RIVER NORTH
Larrabee Dog Park
652 N Larrabee St

A trip is worth it for the views of the river!

LAKESHORE EAST
Lakeshore East Dog Park
450 E Benton Pl

A great option for a downtown-dwelling pup, this park is covered in turf and sidewalks and also features water activities in the summer and dog-friendly drinking fountains.

WEST LOOP
Skinner Bark Park
1331 W Adams St

I love this park so much! Founded in 2014, this park is maintained by a community group that also puts on dog and dog-owner oriented events. The surface is a combination of turg, pea gravel and concrete.

Bartelme Dog Friendly Area
115 S Sangamon St
This park has something for everyone with its location right in the heart of West Loop. Just outside the park there are often food trucks and love music, making it the perfect destination for a summer evening.

SOUTH LOOP
Fred Anderson Dog Park
1629 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60616

Built in 2014, this dog park features interactive structures for climbing and a new kind of fun for dogs. I also love this park because there are separate areas for large and small pups.


Success Story: Katia

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Selling real estate from afar can be a tricky business, which is part of the reason I love to take on these sorts of challenges for clients. Katia was living abroad when she contacted me to sell her Gold Coast property, so I took it upon myself to organize everything that needed to get done prior to listing. It gives me such pleasure to ease my client’s minds, and make the process as easy as possible. Thank you for trusting me, Katia! It was such a pleasure working together.

How did you find Millie?
While I’ve spent most of my life as a US resident living in Chicago, at the time I was looking to sell my penthouse on Michigan Ave, I was living in London. When I moved back to the US I wanted to live in California, so I decided to sell. My friend recommended two agents in Chicago, and Millie was one of them. I checked out Millie’s website, we connected, and it was a wonderful journey after that.

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?
A lot. Working with Millie was such a pleasant experience. I granted her access to see the place since I was remote. At that point she took the initiative to address what needed to be fixed prior to listing. She recommended decluttering and organizing, and refreshing the terrace, and then went ahead a managed all the necessary vendors. It was so easy for me! With my distance from Chicago, she was just perfect. Her extremely enthusiastic and energetic attitude made me feel so calm throughout the process.

What was your favorite part of working together?
I work in real estate rebuilding houses all over the world, so I’ve worked with a lot of agents. Most of the other agents I’ve worked with do their work, but it is limited to certain things. Millie was so much more, and I really liked that about her. My place didn’t sit for more than two months, so it was a very quick sale compared to the rest of the luxury market. Millie also happens to be a very nice person with good energy.

Would you recommend Millie to a friend?
Of course! Not only did Millie sell my property quickly, but she made the whole process carefree for me. Even when it came time for me to move out, Millie volunteered to oversee the whole process. When you want to sell, you want to sell quickly, and she is a complete solution. I honestly can’t imagine anyone better.

Chicago’s most beautiful blocks: Lakeview edition

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This month we are continuing our tour of Chicago’s most beautiful blocks with a look at Lakeview. I love Lakeview for how different each area feels--from the grandeur of East Lakeview, to the amazing shopping along Southport, to the great restaurants and fun vibe along Broadway. And of course there are some very beautiful residential blocks as well. Here are my favorites:

Alta Vista Terrace District: Now this might be my very favorite block! Running north from Grace to Byron, this is a historic district of 40 row homes built in 1904 by Samuel Gross. Gross was a Chicago real estate developer that traveled to Europe, where he was inspired by the classic row houses of London. There are 20 different exterior styles lining each side of the block, with the houses paired off so that houses directly across the street match in style. I absolutely love this street because I feel transported in time and space whenever I walk by. A true gem!

3400-3700 Bosworth: I love this street for its varied architecture of mostly single family homes. It’s a great mix of modern and traditional, that come together to create the perfect “neighborhood within the city” vibe.

1300 block of Newport: This block is lined with gray stones impeccably restored to their original beauty. Parkways filled with large trees create a beautiful green canopy. I also love the location of this block, so close to everything on Southport, but far enough to maintain a quiet and quaint atmosphere.

3700 blocks of Greenview, Janssen + Wayne: These streets also have a great mix of thoughtful single family home architecture, and ample green space. Mature trees and well-manicured lawns make these stretches perfect destinations for a spring walk around the neighborhood.

As I mentioned in last month’s post, due to popular demand, we are thinking about hosting a fun trolley tour of the most beautiful areas of the city. Would you like to attend? Sign up below to stay in touch as plans progress.

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Chicagoans, here’s my best advice for spring market prep

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Yes, the spring market is upon us, but it is not too late to jump in head first! In years past, the activity of the spring market in Chicago ran through May, with a peak around March. For buyers, it is important to be prepared for a competitive field, and to do your homework upfront. For sellers, first impressions are everything, especially if you are hoping your home sells quickly.

Here is my best advice for making the most of the spring market this year for both buyers and sellers--and remember, time is of the essence!

Buyers:

  • Pre-approval is crucial: Obtaining pre-approval is my number one tip for buyers. It is a fast and relatively painless process, the outcome of which is a pre-approval letter from your lender. Most sellers will ask to see a pre-approval letter with an offer.

  • Attend open houses: Open houses are a great way to educate yourself on the different neighborhoods of the city, and the value of property based on location. Setup your weekends so that you attend three or four open houses per neighborhood until you’ve covered your desired areas.

  • Research schools: If you have kids, your home search may be based on the boundaries of a particular school, so up-to-date information is crucial! The CPS School Locator page is a useful page to check boundaries based on address, as well as school rankings. I also have a great foundation of information on Chicago’s schools on my website.

Sellers:

  • Paint! There is nothing that makes a home feel fresher than a new coat of neutral paint. My favorite color combinations include:

    • Benjamin Moore Pale Oak in low lustre finish for the walls, and Decorator’s White in satin finish for the trim

    • Benjamin Moore Sea Pearl in low lustre finish for the walls. and Chantilly Lace in satin finish for the trim

  • Revive your landscape: Make sure that buyer’s first view of your home is clean and vibrant. Clear out any dead plants from the winter, and add a colorful variety of spring flowers. My favorite garden shop is Gethsemane Garden Center in Andersonville.

  • Spring clean: When selling a home, less really is more when it comes to decor. Go through every room in your home and donate whatever feels like “extra.” The Salvation Army on Clybourn just south of Ashland is a great place to drop off.

I am always here as a resource for support and advice. Please contact me directly with further questions, I know each buyer and each property is unique!

Success Story: Chris

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Chris and I are kindred spirits in many ways, but mostly because we both are passionate dog lovers. Chris’s move was prompted by her growing family of pets, so dogs are also what brought us together! I am truly touched by the words Chris spoke about me, and am so glad to have her friendship. Finding people like Chris, and helping them transition to a new home is what I love most about my job.

How did you find Millie?
Of course, everyone knows OF Millie, as her reputation precedes her all over Chicagoland. Plus I know many people who have worked with her and loved her.

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?
Millie is one of the hardest working people I've ever met. As a business person, I take care of high net worth people who all work very hard, but Millie has a work ethic that would make them jealous. After working with Millie, I use her as a gage for professionalism. I’ll ask myself, “Was that Millie quality work?” She also has a magical blend of success traits such as work ethic, smarts, goal-oriented, and also kindness. She is extremely kind.

I also found that the way she handles the process is unique. She shares as much information with her clients as possible, and also has the best connections. You are so T-ed up for success if you listen to her. She also does what she says she is going to do. There is a trust factor there that is at the top of the trust scale. She said, “The place will look better if we do X, and I have a guy. Or, I will go find a guy.”

And she was right—my place looked so good by the time Millie was finished that I wanted to buy my own place again. We used such high-quality finishes because Millie knows what works. I felt so proud of the place, and felt confident that it would sell.

What was your favorite part of working together?
Millie adds good karma vibes to whatever she touches. She’s such a good person and it carries over into her work. I really believe that. For example, she looked at a picture of my dog, who had just passed away. She started crying with me in that moment. She’s the real deal. When you work with Millie, you have a partner who will work with you until you achieve your goal.

Did you use any of her recommended vendors?
I did everything she told me to do. Everyone she recommended was outstanding, and a specialist in their respective field.

Would you recommend Millie to a friend?
I would recommend her to anyone who is looking for a good experience, and for someone to restore their faith in a transaction like this. Millie keeps everything calm. She's not trying to agitate people to seek an outcome. She's trying to get you to a good end. That's her vibe and you can't fake that.


The four best indoor plants for winter

Do you ever walk into a shop and feel instantly connected to the owner? This happened to me the second I walked into Bunches, a local florist in Lincoln Park. The most beautiful and unique flowers I’ve ever seen transported me to another land! And then after meeting Marc, the owner, I knew I’d found my new favorite place to shop! Marc is a wealth of knowledge and shared with me some fascinating and very usable advice around all things flowers!

What do you recommend for an easy wintertime plant?
Succulents are a great option for people looking for something you don't see in an office lobby. They work really well in an any sort of pot, or a terrarium. They are very low maintenance and add a very cool, modern spark of green.

Another plant is Pilea, nicknamed the friendship plant because it is very easy to share a small shoot with a friend that will then grow into a new plant. These guys are adorable little plants and very easy to care for.

In Wintertime we sell a lot of bulb flowers like tulips, hyacinth, and daffodils. My word of caution here is that a hot house is the enemy of these plants! They like it cool! We will set them clay or ceramic pots and cover the top with moss for a very cute presentation.

Zamioculcas Zamiifolia or Z Z Plants are one last favorite for winter. They require very, very little water, light, or maintenance, and are nearly foolproof plants.


Marc, can you put this great debate to rest: What is the best way to water an orchid?!
Lots of people are very passionate on one side of this debate or the other. Some people swear by watering orchids with ice, while others kill every last one of their plants this way! I believe watering with ice is not a good idea for a few reasons. First, orchids don’t come into contact with temperatures this cold in nature, so the shock could kill them. Next, water left in the crown of the plant will lead to rot and death.

How to effectively water your orchid: Remove the orchid from the decorative pot it is sitting in and run water through the plastic grower’s pot. Let it drain! Also, do not remove the orchid from the plastic grower’s pot unless it is being repotted.

Do you have any cool ideas for a fresh take on Valentine’s Day?
We are not necessarily a rose-centric shop, so I tell people to think about Valentine’s Day flowers in terms of what is seasonal, and look beyond the rose! I love a lush seasonal mix with a few garden roses sprinkled throughout, or even a fun terrarium!

As a florist, my absolute favorite part of my job is creating bouquets for customers, even right in front of them! I love sharing my knowledge and building something unique before someone’s eyes.


Thank you so much, Marc! Please visit his incredible shop!

Bunches (a flower shop)
1501 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60614



Chicago's most beautiful blocks: Lincoln Park edition

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Friends are often astounded by just how well I know the city. I tell them living here all your life and working in real estate in 30 years will do that! I really do know it down to the block—quiz me next time you see me! And, it never ceases to amaze me how different each neighborhood and even block is from one to the next. Today I am sharing what I believe to be the most beautiful blocks in Lincoln Park, where I also happen to live.

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, LINCOLN PARK’S MOST BEAUTIFUL BLOCKS:

2000 - 2200 Magnolia
- I LOVE parkways. They add such a nice touch of green, and set the homes back further from the street. This stretch of Magnolia has well-cared for parkways, incredible old trees, and diversified architecture though most of the homes are brick. The brick actually acts as a visual unifier, which makes the overall block that much more lovely.

2000 - 2400 Seminary - I absolutely love the mix of homes on this stretch. It was like someone had a master plan and cherry picked just the right properties to create the perfect combination of older and newer styles, modern and traditional. Many of the homes have nice front yards, and of course all have my beloved parkway!

2000 - 2200 Mohawk - Here I love the mxi of historically significant gray stones with new construction. Builders know that to build on Mohawk means thoughtful aesthetic consideration.

400 - 450 Belden - A more urban-looking street with parkways lined with beautiful, old brick pavers, I love how “Chicago-looking” this street is—I would know it was Chicago out of a million other different streets!

2100 - 2400 Cleveland - The green space along these few blocks is fantastic. For walkersby, the old trees create a perfect arched canopy over the street. For those lucky enough to live on the street, they enjoy extra long lots with larger back yards.

2400 - 2600 Lakeview - The views are what I love in this location. The mix of old co-op buildings and newer high rises like 2550 enjoy spectacular views of the park, and from the high rises—the lake! You also cannot beat the vintage charm at some of those co-op buildings.

Would you like to join me?
I had an idea, would you like to join me on a tour of the city’s most beautiful blocks? I plan to rent out a trolley on a beautiful spring or summer day and take a tour, sharing some of these blocks, along with others. If you would like to join me, please leave me your email address below so we can stay in touch as I plan out the event!

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The latest Lincoln Yards meeting recap

Since my last post regarding Lincoln Yards, developer Sterling Bay recently met with the community to answer questions and provide updated plans for the project. As you will recall, Lincoln Yards is the projected $5 billion development that if approved will run along the river between Lincoln Park and Bucktown.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss four main issues: building height and layout, plans around green space, infrastructure improvements, and how the project would be funded. According to reports, there were many community members at the meeting both strongly for and against the project.

Building height and layout

After returning from the drawing board, Sterling Bay cut a total of about 100 stories off the taller buildings. The new version of the tallest tower is now 650 feet (down from 800), and it will also be moved further from the open space. To account for the decrease in height, the new version of the buildings are wider. To me, building height is less of an issue as you get closer to the highway, though I do understand people’s strong feelings on the issue.

Green space
According to Sarah Weidner Astheimer, a principal at the project’s landscape architecture firm, Field Operations, much of the green space design will be inspired by the industrial history of the area. For example, industrial ladles will be used as planters, designs on the pavement will look like train tracks, and slides will be made out of metal, paying home to a metal factory that once sat on the site. There will be a Great Lawn, athletic fields, and a 20,000-seat soccer auditorium.

Infrastructure improvements
Part of Sterling Bay’s presentation at the meeting was devoted to sharing their self-funded traffic study, that looked for congestion solutions around the Armitage-Ashland-Elston intersection, which the city is now reviewing. CDOT will also perform a study, but general recommendations are already being made around increasing parking, making streets pedestrian-friendly, and increasing the number and types of alternative transportation options. Specific plans to accommodate for the development include extending a number of existing roads including Dominick and North Avenue, connecting Southport to Kingsbury, and extending Armitage over the river.

Funding
It is still up for debate how the project will be funded, but the most recent suggestion is a TIF (tax increment financing district) within a 168-acre zone surrounding the development. The proposed area would run along the Chicago River between North Ave and Webster Ave, to Clybourn in the east and Elston to the west. According to the city’s Department of Planning and Development, the TIF would raise about $800 million in about 20 years.

Nine things you might not know about DePaul College Prep

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I recently ran into my friend Mary Dempsey, who is such an incredible Chicagoan. She is currently the President of DePaul College Prep, and before that she was Commissioner for Chicago Public Library—among many other city-centric posts she has held. I was fascinated by all that she has accomplished during the high school’s short five years, so she was kind enough to share more about their mission and all they have to offer. Here are the top nine things I learned:

  1. They are an academic partners with DePaul University: This means so many great benefits for students--curriculum enhancements, faculty resources, artistic and athletic resources, and dual enrollment options. Last summer 13 juniors took advantage of the dual enrollment opportunities, earning college credit through the university for a reduced fee. Additionally, student athletes play games on the collegiate sports fields and art students perform on the collegiate stages.

  2. The school is growing quickly! Current enrollment is 500 students, and the current freshman class is double the size of last year’s graduating class.

  3. They have AP and honors classes, in addition to International Baccalaureate.

  4. Service is a huge part of the school: Every student is required to participate in at least 20 hrs of service per year.

  5. Great student to teacher ratio: Mary noted the school’s welcoming atmosphere and small student to teacher ratio of about 11:1. Everyone knows each other at school.

  6. Diversity is important: The current racial breakdown of the school proves it!

    44% white
    31% hispanic
    8% black
    8% asian
    7% multiracial

  7. They have a 100% college and university acceptance rate!

  8. Extracurriculars are popular: 88% of students participate in extracurricular activities or sports. They currently support 38 clubs, and a full range of sports.

  9. STEAM Lab is SO cool: STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math, and the Lab is a maker space where kids learn to create robotics, digital media, art and design. Students learn through hands on experimentation how to create real-world results like how to write and edit film, digital media, design a bridge, and game design.

When I spoke to Mary about her short and long-term goals for the school she said this: “ Short term, to continue pursuing excellence in academics and athletics. We have a new principal and she is deeply focused on our students, looking at their social and emotional learning, and of people of faith and service. Long terms I’d like to grow to a school of 1,000, while continuing to focus on diversity and welcoming as many different types of students as possible.”