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, please email me! 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!

Our favorite spots for Mother's Day brunch

It’s almost May…have you planned Mother’s Day yet? If not, we have you covered. Together my team and I have compiled our list of favorite brunch spots, perfect for a brunch to celebrate the beautiful women in your life!

LINCOLN PARK:
Summer House
Bright, airy and beautiful, this restaurant sets the perfect tone for a celebration! Try the avocado toast and one of their juices--the Watermelon Cooler is to die for.

CLYBOURN CORRIDOR:
Kingsbury Cafe
A great more casual, laid back option for a delicious meal. The whole wheat carrot pancakes are absolutely delish!

RIVER NORTH: 
Dolce Italian

Located in The Godfrey Hotel, Dolce Italian has a great glam vibe, accessible Downtown location, and a delicious brunch menu (try the eggs benedict and bottomless bellini!).

GOLD COAST: 
Fig & Olive

The perfect place to take a shopping break. The menu is filled with light and fresh options, so you will be ready to hit the shops again post-brunch.

FULTON RIVER DISTRICT:
Piccolo Sogno

The perfect destination for the pasta-loving mama! We love the ravioli and the lasagna. After brunch, walk over to City Winery for a live show.

For those thinking of celebrating over dinner, my other favorite restaurant is Gemini. The owners just remodeled the space, and it’s just beautiful. I can’t think of a better Mother’s Day dinner destination. Here here to all the special women in all our lives!

A big thank you

Mike Greco, Michelle Walker, Millie Rosenbloom, Lauren Painter, and Jenny Anderson

Mike Greco, Michelle Walker, Millie Rosenbloom, Lauren Painter, and Jenny Anderson

I am only as successful as my team. This is my mantra, and I live it every single day. What does this mean? It means that the Millie Rosenbloom Company functions like a very hard working, yet very supportive family. Winning a Platinum CARLY Award for our 2016 sales numbers provides a great opportunity to reflect on my team.

Jenny Anderson has been with me for over ten years, and is the source of my day-to-day organization. She knows how we run our business like the back of her hand, and is responsible for ensuring our clients receive the best possible service during the buying and selling processes. She is able to take a mountain of overwhelming paperwork and distill it down into meaningful steps for clients--a real talent to be sure!

Michelle Walker is my right hand, and one of the smartest people I know. When I am unable to conjure a floor plan or address in my mind, Michelle is there to fill in the gap every single time. She remembers everything, and has a contagious passion for the market. Our clients are constantly amazed at her market knowledge, which definitely comes into play during showings and negotiations.

And last but not least, our Mike Greco. After meeting Mike, everyone say the same thing, “What a nice guy!” Mike is always smiling, which is just one reflection of his positive, helpful and service-oriented attitude toward all our clients. Mike is our buyer client’s go-to resource for guidance, support and logistics, and I can’t think of a more compassionate, resourceful, or knowledgeable person for the job.

So, a huge shout out and thank you to the rest of the Millie Rosenbloom Company! The three of you are truly the best in the business.

For sellers: Three tips for navigating multiple offers

Multiple offers on your home?! A dream for many, to be sure. And, as a result of our low level of inventory, for many Chicagoland sellers, this dream is also becoming a reality. But, without a full understanding of the implications of a bidding war, that dream can quickly become a nightmare. The stakes are high, emotions are hot, and time is short. Knowing your next move is crucial, so I've put together my top three tips for sellers. 

1. Understand what an escalation clause is and how they work.

An escalation clause is an addendum to an offer that says a buyer is willing to pay $X for the property, but if the seller receives another offer that is higher, that the buyer will increase their offer by $Y.

Let me make this is a bit clearer with an example: Say you found the home of your dreams listed for $800,000, and the listing broker has indicated that final and best offers are due. If you and your broker agree an escalation clause makes sense, you would include an addendum that says your offer is for $800,000, but that if the sellers receive a higher offer, that you will offer $1,000 more up to a cap of $815,000. 

An escalation clause may make sense for a buyer who is confident in their original offer, but willing to pay only a little bit more than they originally offered. Because these are highly competitive situations, I always recommend that my buyer's original offers be as strong as possible so as not to depend on the escalation clause to win the deal. Escalation clauses don't make sense in all situations so it's always important to lean on your broker to guide you.

2. Know when it makes sense to disclose or not.

As the seller, you have the power to choose whether or not your broker discloses that you have received multiple offers. And with everything in real estate, there are pros and cons to both answers: if you do disclose, you risk alienating the less assured buyer. There are buyers out there that just don't want anything to do with a bidding war. On the other hand, if you don't disclose, you may be leaving money on the table. Talk to you broker, and try to glean an understanding of you particular buyers and where they stand. 

3. Remember that price isn't everything. 

It's easy to get caught up in the bottom line, but remember that there are many additional aspects of offers to consider: financing terms, contingencies and close date to name just a few. If you are lucky enough to receive a cash offer, keep in mind that cash deals tend to be simpler and faster than financed. 

And lastly a few more thoughts. Remember that there is a threshold for the value of your home, and that is the appraisal. An appraisal is required by the bank financing the buyer's loan to ensure that the property's market value and the buyer's offer match. Buying or selling a home is always emotional, and multiple offers just ups the ante. Feeling confident and educated will help keep emotions in check. 

New baby, new home

Having recently relocated back to Chicago, Alex and his wife started their home search with a large “online” type of agency. They’d gone on countless home tours over the course of a year, and were no closer to owning a home. 

“We felt we were not getting enough feedback from our agent, and had lost out on a number of offers as a result. Quite frankly, I felt that they were somewhat disengaged in the process,” shared Alex. 

While in the lobby of his condo, Alex and I met. Looking back, Alex says he saw the rapport I had built with my buyers, which was exactly what he was looking for. He saw me pointing out ‘must see’ features of the building and offering personalized advice. 

Within days, Alex says the experience felt different now that they working working with me. Instead of being blindly led through properties, they were now the ones getting the insight regarding location, potential property faults, and competitive pricing. A month into the process, I presented them with a new listing that I knew they would like. 

Forty-five minutes after making the offer, Alex’s wife went into labor. While driving to the hospital in his crazed new-dad mode, I called Alex with a counter-offer from the seller. 

“I would have accepted it,” Alex shared, “but I told Millie that I was in no place to make a decision. I asked her to take the lead; she decided again to counter, but considerably lower, and the contract was accepted. Over the next 48 hours, while we were in the hospital, I relied on Millie’s advice and extensive network of contacts. I followed her step-by-step instructions to setup attorney review, inspection, etc. and she helped coordinate everything with our mortgage broker as well. We ultimately closed on the house within 45 days, and moved into our dream home.” 

After the fact, Alex revealed that sharing two firsts in the same day, that of father and home-buyer, would not have been possible without my team: “Millie and her team are top-notch; I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone looking for a home. We will be using them for all our real estate needs going forward.”

How to navigate the mid-winter market

How to Navigate the Mid-Winter Market

The New Year has just begun and already headlines are sending you mixed messages as to whether homes sales are up or down, or if it's a seller's or buyer's market. How do you cut through the noise? First, talk to your broker. Second, keep the following tips in mind as we head into the mid-winter market.


Keep Your Perspective

Whether you're a buyer or seller, remember that real estate is hyperlocal. So ignore the national headlines and focus on your market. And by that, I mean, what's happening in your neighborhood and even more to the point, what's the price point in the area. In the Chicago area, real estate can change block to block.


Why Wait Until February?

Forget that old advice about waiting until after February to enter the market. January is a great time to catch the wave of people who want a new home by the end of spring. Chances are – whether you're a buyer or seller – you'll have less competition if you're active in January, so both a listing and offer will stand out. If you wait until February, you might find yourself sitting on the sidelines.


Pricing 101

My number one goal is to help you have a successful sale, which starts with listing your home at the correct price. During this time I'll be your advocate, counselor and truth teller. We'll work together to determine the listing price, but there are some basic rules to keep in mind to ensure the process goes easier than you expected:

  • Someone could have the most beautiful home, but if the property has challenges (like it abuts power lines) while a neighbor's home doesn't, then it's comparing apples to oranges.

  • If a home doesn't have any showings in a few weeks, it's time to consider a price change.

  • There's an old adage that remains true – 14 days 14 showings – whichever comes first. Then, if you don't have a contract, lower the price.


The First Offer Really is the Best

Generally, people have been looking for some time before they see your home. So, when your property comes on market and they make an offer, those people are serious. Of course you can, and should, counsel with me in navigating negotiations to make sure it's a strong offer and all parties are satisfied. Everyone wants to come out feeling like there's been a fair deal.

2016 year in review

2016 was an incredible year for real estate. Much has happened that will have very positive effects on the 2017 market. Rental apartments in Chicago and surrounding neighborhoods set a record last year for overall number of rentals, with over 3,830 apartments completed and 4,500 planned for 2017. Decreasing rental values are likely, due to this major increase in rental inventory. 

McDonald's announced their corporate headquarter move to our own downtown which will cause an influx of buyers in the Chicago housing market. Sterling Bay will be developing their office at the old Harpo Studios site in Fulton River District. The residential side of the Fulton River District has seen major growth this year, focused mostly on mid-size condominium buildings.

The old Main Post Office sold this year for $130 million to New York-based developer 601W, who has yet to release plans for the enormous space. Vista Tower, a 93-story condominium and hotel building in Lake Shore East, s underway and will become an impressive new addition to our skyline. The Ritz-Carlton Residences at 118 E. Erie underwent new ownership along with a new marketing plan with lower prices. For the buyer looking for Magnificent Mile luxury + immediate occupancy, this condominium building is the place to go. 

Despite the lack of land in the Gold Coast we saw some very impressive developments last year. 9 W Walton is still under construction with only seven of their 66 units still available and only five of the 35 recently-completed units remain on the market at 4 E. Elm.

In Lincoln Park, you’ll find sporadic new-construction single family homes and 3-6 flat condominiums popping up and selling quickly. 2016 also boasted A. Finkl and Sons Steel Plant selling for $140 million in Lincoln Park. The 30-acre site is still being designed with the intent of office, retail and residential use. 

While we could see an interest rate increase in the new year, financing will be readily available. Given all the positive changes to the city, I am optimistic we will see a very strong real estate market in 2017.