Success Story: Sarah

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Real estate is about so much more than just buying and selling homes; it’s about the important relationships I have with my clients, and about assisting them as they move through very significant periods in their lives. Thank you to my wonderful client Sarah for sharing her thoughts about these transitions (and more) on the blog today!

How did you find Millie?

We found Millie when we purchased our Chicago home several years ago. She was representing the seller at that time but after we met her, we asked Millie if she would act as a dual agent and help us purchase the home. When it came time to sell, we knew that we would work with Millie again. 

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?

Millie's experience, knowledge of the Chicago market, honesty and responsiveness sets her apart from other brokers. Selling a house and moving is a big transition for any family and because of this, Millie does a lot more than just assist with the mechanics of a real estate transaction. She provides guidance and reassurance for every step - from preparing the house to show, to the inspection and final walk through - and even beyond. We always felt like we could call or email Millie and she would be there to assist us. She cares a lot about her clients. 

What was your favorite part of working together? 

We really appreciated Millie's pragmatic, "can do" approach to getting our house sold. She is also kind and considerate. We followed all of Millie's suggestions to prepare our house for market. When the house did list, it looked wonderful and was in great condition. It was also priced appropriately. Consequently, it sold very quickly and easily passed inspection.  

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

Yes, we used many members of Millie's wonderful team. Her recommendation for a real estate attorney was outstanding. We also greatly appreciated the assistance of her go-to contractor and stager. Finally, the other members of Millie's real estate team were also extremely personable and easy to work with.   

Would you recommend her to a friend?

We would absolutely recommend Millie without hesitation!

My Go-To List for An Initial Walk Through

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It can be easy to lose sight of your main priorities during the first walk through of a potential home. That 2 bed 1 bath house might be so beautiful you forget what you actually need: 4 beds and 3 baths! Since balancing the strategic and emotional aspects of real estate can be an overwhelming task—especially when viewing a home for the first time—I’ve come up with some useful points to keep in mind during an initial walk through. These will help you keep focused on what you truly want!

Size and Layout

Firstly, although it may sound obvious, you have to intentionally consider whether or not the space is large enough for your needs. Even if it’s your dream property in every other sense, you are bound to regret purchasing a home that is ultimately too small. Secondly, is the home laid out in a way that will work for your everyday needs? For example, if it’s important that your kids sleep on the same floor as you, does the floor plan allow for this? 

Longevity and Upgrades

The property you’re looking at might work for you right now, but will it work for you years later? I always encourage my clients to think ahead to their future needs, and see if they match the property they’re considering. During an initial walk through, I also point out any obvious wear and tear; the quality of finishes such as painting and light fixtures; and any potential upgrades the house will need, as these improvements should be factored into the overall cost of the property. Upgrades to kitchens and roofs are common, for example, and the age of mechanicals such as furnaces and hot water tanks should be considered. I also like to educate my clients on less obvious aspects that might require future attention such as split face block on the exterior. Unlike brick, split face requires a maintenance program every 5 to 7 years. 

Location, Location, Location

Finally, I always ask my clients if the location of the property will benefit their day-to-day lives. Are they happy with the exterior surroundings? If they have kids, is it close to good schools? Is proximity to public transit important to them? Obviously, the location of a home matters a great deal—in some cases, even as much as the home itself—so these are vital things to consider during an initial visit.  

Where to Celebrate Independence Day in Chicago

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Independence Day is just around the corner, and I'm looking forward to this year’s celebrations with friends and family. As usual, there are many amazing events planned for both kids and adults all around Chicago; to help you narrow down the choices, my team and I have rounded up a few of our favorites. Whether you’re barbequing at home or joining the festivities at Navy Pier, we wish you a very happy Fourth of July! 

Grant Park Music Festival: Independence Day Salute (Free)

Once again, classical-lovers unite at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for an evening of wonderful music. From 6:30pm to 8:45pm, Christopher Bell will conduct American classics like Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with this year’s show featuring 16 year-old piano prodigy Emily Bear. Don’t forget your lawn chairs!

Tickets are available here, or free seating on the lawn is available on a first-come-first-served basis. 

Fireworks at Navy Pier (Free)

Nothing says Fourth of July like fireworks! This impressive pyrotechnics show is synched with a score of patriotic music and gets even more popular by the year. The display begins at 9:30pm on the lakefront, but we’d recommend arriving much earlier to find a comfortable place in the crowd. 

Chicago History Museum’s 59th Annual Fourth of July Celebration (Free)

This event is a beloved Lincoln Park tradition. From 10:00am to noon, bring the kids to the Chicago History Museum for festivities, musical performances, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and a children’s costume parade led by the World’s Tallest Uncle Sam! After the morning’s celebrations, the museum will be open until 4:30pm with free admission for all Illinois residents.  

Jazzin’ at the Shedd (Ticketed)

A perfect evening for the jazz lover. This coming Wednesday (and every Wednesday throughout the summer), the Shedd Aquarium hosts Chicago’s top jazz musicians at their incredible outdoor venue. From 5:00pm to 10:00pm enjoy a cocktail, great music, stunning views, and Shedd’s new special exhibit “Underwater Beauty.” 

Tickets available here

Fourth of July Lunch Cruise (Ticketed)

Guess what? Fourth of July cruises aren’t just for adults! This Independence Day, Spirit Cruises is offering families the chance to get out on beautiful Lake Michigan. This 2-hour ride features spectacular views, a three-course buffet style lunch, games, and even a DJ + dance floor. The boat will be dressed up for the occasion, and departs at noon from Navy Pier. 

Tickets for all of their cruises (including evening departures) available here.

3 Hot Neighborhoods in Chicago Right Now

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One of the best parts of my job is getting to see this great city evolve. I keep a close watch on promising neighborhoods around Chicago, especially for clients who are looking to make smart and affordable investments in areas that will only continue to grow. I’m happy to share my top three picks for up-and-coming neighborhoods on the blog today! 

Pilsen

Located three miles southwest of the Chicago Loop in the Lower West Side, Pilsen is one of the city’s most colorful neighborhoods on the rise. It’s an arts and culture hub, with famous murals along 16th Street, Benito Juarez Park, beautiful Thalia Hall, and the Chicago Arts District in East Pilsen—now one of Chicago’s most popular art walks. The neighborhood is also full of great restaurants and breweries, including Michelin-starred Dusek’s. With continued interest from developers and prices per square foot rising annually, Pilsen is absolutely an area to watch.

Tri-Taylor

In part due to the continued expansion of the University of Illinois and the Illinois Medical District, the market in Tri-Taylor gets hotter by the year. Bordered by Congress Parkway to the north, Ogden Avenue to the east, and Roosevelt Road to the south, buying here is a smart way to get more for your money while still remaining centrally located. I love the storied architecture of this neighborhood, with its gorgeous 19th century brick row houses and character-filled industrial buildings being converted into lofts. Tri-Taylor’s affordability and quiet, tree-lined streets make it perfect for families, not to mention it's near some of the best Italian food in the city!

South Loop

As the fastest-growing neighborhood in Chicago and winner of Curbed's 2017 Curbed Cup, South Loop has it all. Developers have been keeping up with the demand for housing here by converting former warehouses and factory lofts into fashionable residential buildings, as well as taking advantage of vacant or underused land for townhouses and highrises. Importantly, many of these are still budget-friendly options compared to other neighborhoods in the downtown area. South Loop may also be home to one of Chicago’s biggest developments in decades, as Related Midwest is currently seeking the city's permission to build up to 10,000 homes on a vacant 62-acre riverside site. With its incredible dining, proximity to the lakefront, and a bid for Amazon’s second headquarters to potentially be developed here as well, South Loop is a major star on the rise.

Our Favorite Places for Father's Day

 Swift & Sons. Photo credit: Anthony Tahlier

Swift & Sons. Photo credit: Anthony Tahlier

Father’s Day is fast approaching! If you’re looking to celebrate dad with an epic meal, my team and I have come up with some of our favorite places around Chicago for just that:

Smoke Daddy BBQ:

With a brand new location overlooking Wrigley Field, Smoke Daddy is the place to take dad if he’s a BBQ fan. They’ve been perfecting their smoking technique since 1994, and everything from their burnt ends to brisket and cornbread are outstanding. Be sure to make a reservation—it’s a popular place.

Sheffield's Beer & Wine Garden

If dad is a craft beer lover, bring him to Sheffield’s outdoor beer garden! They rotate their unique taps daily, and they’re famous for BBQ as well as beer-infused menu items like the “Five Beer Mac N Cheese.” This year, they’re offering a Father’s Day BBQ special for dine-in or pickup.

DMK Burger Bar

For a casual but fun place to take dad, DMK can’t be beat. Their award-winning grass-fed burgers and fries are some of the best in the city, and they have an amazing variety of options to choose from. My team and I love the #1: aged cheddar, smoked bacon, charred balsamic red onion, and Rufus Teague's BBQ sauce. The chocolate milkshakes are also a must!  

Swift & Sons

Swift and Sons American steakhouse is an excellent choice if you’re wishing to treat dad to a finer dining experience. The space is classic with modern twists, and their food (especially the steak!) is always exceptional.

My Day-to-Day Lincoln Park Favorites

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If you know me, you know that I love Lincoln Park. Not only do I get to work in this beautiful area, but it’s also the place John and I call home! As part of an ongoing series featuring my favorite Chicago vendors, here are some of my go-to spots in the neighborhood:

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Bakery: Sweet Mandy B’s

This is where everybody in Chicago goes for birthday cakes. They’re famous for their custom creations, which get more creative and colorful by the year. In addition to cakes, the Sweet Mandy B’s shop is full of tasty cookies, brownies, pies, and other treats; I especially love their lemon bars. 

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Pets: Kriser's Natural Pet

My wonderful dogs Mavis and Mabel adore going for walks around Lincoln Park, so I’m thrilled my favorite pet store is here, too! Kriser's is where we buy all of their food, vitamins, and toys, and their grooming services are also fantastic.   

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Nails: Pinky Nail Lounge

I regularly go to Pinky Nail on North Clybourn; their location could not be more convenient, and they’re always consistent. Plus, it’s a lovely way to relax!

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Schools: Francis W. Parker School

If you’re new to the area and have kids, I highly recommend Francis W. Parker, Lincoln Park’s premier private school. Just west of the Conservatory and Zoo, it has an enriching environment and phenomenal curriculum—there’s even a student-led robotics team! Each year, I’m happy to be able to contribute to this school with a donation to their auction program. 

Success Story: Mary Jane

Last year, I had the privilege of helping my clients Mary Jane and her husband redo their home before we put it on the market. The process was led by Marin (Marc) Nicolaie of Triumph Construction, who brought in a number of incredible teams to restore things like the yellowing oak floors. They were meticulous, staining the hardwood multiple times to get the right color, and the end result was beautiful. Above, we’ve included some before and after photos of the house’s transformation, and I am so thankful to Mary Jane for sharing her story on the blog today! 

How did you find Millie? 

Millie was referred to us by a trusted work associate who had a friend in the industry. When we met with Millie, we had every intention of interviewing two more agents and then making our decision—we’ve bought and sold many houses over the years and are experienced with the process. After spending an hour quizzing Millie, we decided to commit to her on the spot. We figured that if she was that thorough and knowledgeable for a tire-kicking conversation, that she would be even more thorough in a business deal. When she came back two days later with a complete marking plan, we signed up.

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers? 

We valued Millie’s honesty and direct approach as well as her experience in the industry and specifically in the Chicago market. We also appreciated how she stayed directly involved in our showings and sale, and yet leveraged her team of associates to make sure we had plenty of day-to-day coverage. She is very practical and realistic and excellent at considering the selling plan based on the feedback from the market. She doesn’t miss a single detail.

What was your favorite part of working together? 

I like how Millie gets things done. She is very organized and when she makes a commitment, you can count on it. She doesn’t waste anyone’s time, but she doesn’t rush you either when you just need to talk. She knows how to strike a good balance.

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

We used Millie’s stager as well as numerous contractors and crafts people. From floor refinishing and staining, to carpentry tasks, to a masonry project, the contractors’ pricing was fair and their work quality was as promised. 

Would you recommend her to a friend?

Not only would I recommend her to a friend, I’d recommend her to my favorite relative—or a complete stranger.

Our Favorite Ways to Treat Mom

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Mother’s Day is just around the corner, so it’s time to start planning something special for mom! Because you can’t go wrong with a sunny brunch date and beautiful flowers, my team and I have come up with a list of our favorites for both:

Luxe Bloom

A flower arrangement from Luxe Bloom is truly one-of-a-kind; their roses are treated with a special blend shortly after being harvested, so they last for months instead of days, with no water or care required! Available in a huge variety of colors, you can order everything from single rose arrangements to elaborate bouquets or even wall installations.

Nancy Krause Floral Design

Nancy is Lincoln Park’s go-to neighborhood florist, and I just love her work. As a former fashion photographer she has an exceptional eye, and is renowned for her custom floral work. She just moved next door to Sweet Mandy B’s, so perhaps you’ll want to pickup some cupcakes for mom, too!

Flower Fetish

Samuel at Flower Fetish has built a reputation for his gorgeous custom arrangements, which include both cut flowers and living plants. He’s a master of personalizing his bouquets for clients, and always carries an incredible array of orchids. 

Crosby’s Kitchen

Crosby’s is family-friendly and fun, the place to go for a comfort food brunch. They’re famous for their rotisserie chicken, and the buttermilk biscuits are to die for. 

Kingsbury Street Café

This is a casual yet refined option with choices on the menu to suit everyone. I love their croque madame with salad, and they always have a beautiful selection of baking.

Margeaux at the Waldorf

For the mother who loves French cuisine! After dining here on Valentine’s Day, Margeaux has quickly become a favorite. The brunch dishes are gorgeous, including eggs benedict served on croissants, and the restaurant itself looks like you’ve escaped to Paris.  

Lula Café

A sunny classic on Logan Square, Lula does brunch beautifully. Their menus change with the season, but we almost always get a selection of their house pastries, and their breakfast sandwiches are famous in the city. 

Why It's Important to Use a Real Estate Lawyer

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I regularly recommend trusted contractors, photographers, designers, and other vendors to my clients. When it comes to lawyers, sometimes they ask if it’s necessary to get a real estate lawyer specifically, and I always say yes. Why? Because when it comes to something as important as buying or selling a home, it just makes sense to ensure everyone working on the deal is a specialist. 

A professional in this field can save you both time and money. They’re experienced, they know contracts, and they also know what has or hasn’t historically worked in the industry. Additionally, your real estate lawyer will typically get you better title rates, and when they go through your inspection report will see points of interest right away; a lawyer with little or no experience in the field can require much more time to sort through your needs before closing. 

Another important thing to remember is that generally speaking, real estate lawyers who work in the same city all know one another. If they’re constantly doing deals throughout the year, then your lawyer will know the backgrounds of other lawyers involved, and can give you that kind of useful information right away. When their rapport is good it benefits you, as things move along more quickly.

Because they’re the best in the industry, we regularly refer clients to attorneys Joe Palmisano (who I’ve worked with for 30 years) and Cambi Cann. My team and I can always trust them to do exceptional work, both for us and any of our clients!

Success Story: Nik

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

How did you find Millie? 

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

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

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers? 

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

What was your favorite part of working together? 

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

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

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

Would you recommend her to a friend?

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

Colleague Spotlight: Pappageorge Haymes Partners

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

Please share a little about your design philosophy. 

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

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

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

(Photos above)

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends? 

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

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

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

What are your go-to classic design favorites? 

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

What are your favorite local shops for appliances and decor? 

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

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

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

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why? 

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

What types of services do you offer? 

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

My Perfect Day Downtown

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

Clothes: Giorgio Armani

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

Hair: Delle Amiche

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

Lunch: NoMI Kitchen at the Park Hyatt

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

Shopping: Christofle

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

Pampering: Waldorf Astoria

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

Success Story: Amy and Sammy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Insider Advice from one of Chicago’s Top Home Inspectors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do your research:

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

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

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

In Conversation with Chicago's Leading Ladies

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

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

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

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

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

Success Story: Grace and Dan

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Colleague Spotlight: Summer Thornton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Favorite Spots for Valentine's Day Dinner

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

Les Nomades:

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

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Gibsons Bar and Steakhouse:

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

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Margeaux Brasserie:

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

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colleague spotlight: jordana joseph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Success Story: Lois and Jim

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

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

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

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

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

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