Success Story: Jennifer

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While I have worked with many very powerful people, the compliments I receive from people I have known personally for many years are the most special. I have known Jennifer both personally and professionally for many years, and it was my greatest pleasure helping her sell her city home and find the suburban home of her dreams! 

How did you find Millie?
I was referred to Millie many years ago by another Realtor!  Over the years she has assisted me with multiple transactions, most recently a purchase and sale on the North Shore.

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?  
That Millie has an unsurpassed knowledge is probably no surprise. She’s elite in the industry and it is important to me that she has earned such respect. I trust Millie. She has demonstrated time and again that her main priority is my best interest, and has at times cautioned me against certain properties based on adverse conditions or risks that I missed.  

Her knowledge of construction and ability to forecast sale-ability have been a tremendous asset. As busy as I’m sure she was, she had a way of making me feel like my deal was the only one she was working on. She’s very responsive and accessible when I needed her to be.  Finally, we appreciated Millie’s vast network of service providers for post-purchase improvements. 

What was your favorite part of working together?  
She is reassuring, has a sense of humor and made the process fun.  She was thorough in pointing out the pros and cons of the home we purchased, and counseled us well on where we should focus our improvements. Her estimates of construction costs were right on. She listed and closed the home we were selling within 60 days, which was amazing.

Did you use her team? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)?  
We used and were pleased with several of the service providers in Millie’s network.   We were particularly thrilled with her stager and hardwood flooring referrals.

Would you recommend her to a friend?  
I would refer Millie without hesitation and have done so in the past.

Here's why I have the best team in the business

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Behind every great real estate broker is a great team. Hands down! And, I just happen to be fortunate enough to work with the best team in the business! We're a small, tight knit group, and we really are a family. Today I'd like to take a moment to reintroduce these amazing people, so that our clients and future clients know exactly who is doing what. 

Jenny Anderson, Director of Operations: Jenny is the reason all of our deals go so smoothly. She is responsible for breaking down the mountain of paperwork sometimes required to buy or sell into manageable and easy to understand pieces for our clients.

For our buyers she is managing timelines, working with lawyers, ordering condo docs and appraisals, and generally making sure everyone is doing what they should be doing, when they should be doing it. For sellers she orders signs and photos, prepares all listing paperwork, ensures our property questionnaire is complete and the team is briefed on all property details prior to showings, follows up regarding earnest money and attorney review timelines, and makes sure everyone makes it to the closing table!

Mike Greco, Senior Sales Broker: Mike handles the bulk of our showings, both for our listings and for our buyers. For our sellers, Mike is brilliant at figuring out the most appealing and unique aspects of a property, and highlighting those features. He knows our inventory inside and out, and prides himself on ensuring that our listings are as accessible as possible to prospective buyers.

When working with buyers, Mike's first task is to make sure that they are 100% ready to go: pre-qualified and market educated. From there, Mike does a great job of ensuring that our buyers see every possible listing that meets their criteria. He checks the Top Agent Network for off market activity, the private listings on the MLS, and talks to other brokers about upcoming listings they have hitting the market. No stone is left unturned!

Michelle Shemroske, Senior Sales Broker: Michelle is a jack of all trades. Whenever we have a big project that needs to get done, Michelle is our girl. With a great eye for design, Michelle is our go-to photography specialist, and handles most of the photos for our listings. We are lucky to have her talents because there is such a difference between a good and bad property photo. Also for our sellers, Michelle handles compiling listing reports that outline our showing and market activity. 

Another big part of our business is working on deconversion projects, which Michelle also leads. She will research the viability of a building project, and then we will present this report to an investor considering a new build. These projects are huge in scale, and very exciting because they literally change the city!

Like I said, I work with a team of rockstars! Thank you, team, for all of your hard work. Our clients and me appreciate it so much. 

Success Story: Jean

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Jean is a client turned friend, and we have seen each other through many of life's biggest transitions. As a real estate broker, I tend to be present for many of these changes in my client's lives whether it is a big move, new career, a loved one passing, and on a happier note--birth and growing families! I take my role in these life phases very seriously. Thank you, Jean, for your ongoing friendship and for your answers in today's success story.  

How did you find Millie?
I met Millie 15 years ago when she was representing the sellers of a townhouse we were purchasing. Millie couldn't have been more accommodating throughout the process, so I remembered her when it came time to sell that townhouse. I worked with Millie at the same time to buy a loft, that we recently just sold together in two days! In the 15 years that I have known Millie, she has only gotten better at her work. 

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?
Simply put, Millie's professionalism is what truly sets her apart. She knows the market better than anyone and knows how to advise buyers or sellers on price. I've found through the years that sellers can have unrealistic expectations around price, so imparting her knowledge and explaining the market is crucial. 

When we sold our townhouse, there was another similar unit for sale at the same time. Those sellers listed with a totally unrealistic price, and that unit sat for 15 months! Millie's education around price is invaluable to me as a seller. 

What was your favorite part of working together? 
She's so personable. Working together felt like time with a friend looking out for my best interest. 

Did you use her recommendations? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)?
I didn't hire anyone, but I did take Millie's recommendation to declutter, and did it all myself. 

Would you recommend her to a friend?
Of course, without question!

My predictions for the remainder of the 2018 market

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What a unique spring market we experienced this year! Properties sat, inventory increased, and to me the biggest change this year is buyers’ mentality: for the first time in a long time, buyers felt that they had the space to be picky. I think we were was shocked by the market’s changing course, and of course everyone is now trying to anticipate the fall and winter markets to avoid the surprise factor again. Here are my thoughts on what the next several months hold for us Chicagoans.

My predictions
Like it or not, my prediction is that the fall and winter markets will be fundamentally the same as the spring and summer: a nearly balanced market. We will see our typical slow downs in August, December and January, with a little bump in September. For the past few years we have been in a heavy seller’s market meaning that demand was high and inventory was low. We call this tabulation Months Supply of Inventory (MSI) in the industry, and it uses two factors: supply, or the number of listed properties, and demand, or the rate at which the properties are selling. In a balanced market, each measure is about the same.

I’ve broken down the market by price point and outlined how the balanced market is affecting both buyers and sellers.

Properties under $500K
I believe that entry level buyers at this price point have been most impacted by increased interest rates and are therefore taking their time in buying, or not buying at all. As a result, MSI has increased, and properties not priced for this more sluggish market are sitting.

Properties $500K-$1MM
Here is the bracket that we see a lot of competition between sellers for a limited group of experienced buyers. Many buyers at this price point have been looking for several years, and are very aware of their newfound power. Sellers in this market segment seem less willing to make price adjustments, and are therefore sitting.

Properties $1MM+
This segment of the market has been exciting as of late! For about the past two years, we have been at peak inventories, however, because sellers and particularly developers are pricing to sell, properties are moving faster than they have in quite some time--units under contract are up 30%.

What does this mean for buyers?
While indeed we are closer to a buyer’s or neutral market than we have been in years, buyers still need to keep their wits about them. Buyers are experienced and market savvy, so if you are new to the game, make sure you are educated. When a property is priced properly, things still move quickly--don’t get left behind.

What does this mean for sellers?
Whereas before sellers could list their property even 10% higher than market value and still see lots of traffic, it is a different story today. Sellers must price their home properly right off the bat, or they will see less traffic. Photography that shows every feature of a home is also as crucial as ever with so much competition amongst sellers.

Colleague Spotlight: Suzanne Lovell

Today is a special day because we are sharing a feature on my dear, and incredibly talented friend, Suzanne Lovell. Suzanne started Suzanne Lovell Inc. here in Chicago in 1985, and since that time it has grown to be one of the most respected design firms in the city. 

Today the firm specializes in not just architecture and interior design, but also fine art, design furniture editions, ceramics and textiles--Suzanne is also the founder of Twill Textiles, a high-end collection emulating the look and feel of handwoven custom work. 

And, on top of all that, Suzanne found the time to literally write the book on designing around fine art collections. "Artistic Interiors: Designing with Fine Art Collections," came out in 2011 and is available on Amazon, here

Please share a little about your design philosophy.
We create homes that reflect a client’s story. Architectural details are considered carefully, while interior furnishings are selected, placed and coordinated. We are able to facilitate layers of design and accessories and fully believe that fine art is the key to the client’s story. We accomplish all of this with a thoughtful application of budget and time.

Can you share a few photos from a recent favorite project?
Recent projects include another fantastic Mag Mile pied-a-terre in the Park Tower for wonderful clients. We created elegant and rich architectural and material palettes that set the backdrop for the art collection that we created together. What fun!

We also recently completed a Gold Coast full-floor residence in the former Mayfair Regent Hotel for an elegant, art collecting couple with grown children. A highlight of the apartment is the gourmet kitchen with a full wall of La Cornue stoves and two oversized islands – one for prep and one for eating. True chefs, they wanted a fabulous kitchen with adequate food prep and baking surfaces.

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends?

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  • Brass in kitchens and gold on dining tables provide a sophisticated mixture
  • Fashion is leading...dressy and feminine is back in flowered or large patterned fabrics. Multiple patterns work together in the same room – no more matching!

What are you go-to classic design favorites?

We integrate tall black doors whenever we can to accentuate the volume of space. Think about drapery in the same way....install to take advantage of full wall height.

What are you favorite local shops for furniture and decor?
Pagoda Red, Golden Triangle, Jayson Home & Garden, Restoration Hardware, Primitive and of course Holly Hunt.

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why?

 Image courtesy of tripsavvy.com

Image courtesy of tripsavvy.com

Lincoln Park is wonderful for the gardens and is one of the only free zoos in the United States!

What types of services do you offer?
We offer a full range of services from Architecture, Interior Design, Fine Art Advisory, Turn Key Services are also available in which we provide move-in ready residences for our clients. 

Colleague Spotlight: Shea Soucie

Today I am pleased to share an interview with Chicago interior architecture legend Shea Soucie. In 2000, she partnered with Martin Horner (they once studied together at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris) to create Soucie Horner, a highly successful full-service interior architecture and design firm. I am a huge admirer of their luxurious and glamorous work, and am grateful to Shea for sharing her thoughts on the blog! 

Please share a little about your design philosophy.

We believe good design can actually define lifestyle—the lifestyle our clients lead now, or the lifestyle they aspire to lead in their new home. It’s not about us having a “look” we’re known for. It’s about getting to the heart of what individual clients are passionate about—how they like to spend their time, how they interact with their families, how they entertain—all those things drive our designs and result in intensely personal homes. 

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

We just completed a project in Naples, Florida, for a long-time client with a deep appreciation for all manner of architectural styles. He had the passion to transform his dream of incorporating that variety in a single-family home. It includes aspects of Florentine palazzos, Swiss chalets, and Low-country fishing huts—it was an interesting challenge and turned out beautifully.

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends?

We don’t consider ourselves trend-watchers. We’re more about classic, timeless design—though we certainly like to take fresh approaches to our work on a project-by-project basis. Certain things, in my mind, will always be in style, and those things will always excite us—rugs and decorative accessories that are handcrafted by skilled artisans, for example, that can really give a room soul.

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

Again, I don’t really like to call them trends—but I will say there are some things that are getting my attention. People—our clients, at least—are starting to think in terms of curating furniture collections just as they curate art collections. That’s becoming an interesting shift to me. We saw a lot of cinnabar colors at Art Basel in Miami, which was also interesting.

What are your go-to classic design favorites?

We like to incorporate custom SHIIR rugs in every project we can—they’re highly nuanced designs hand-woven in luxury fibers like cashmere and silk by artisans who learned the skill from their parents and grandparents. We also like to use Lynda O’Connor’s pillows—she makes them out of antique textiles that are interpreted in a uniquely modern way. They’re one-of-a-kind artworks.  

What are your favorite local shops for furniture and decor?

RedefinedThe Golden TriangleRevival, and Pavilion.

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

Let a room breathe – don’t fill every inch with furniture. Use glass tables you can see through, and furnishings with legs that show open space beneath. And of course, mirrors are a great way to bounce light and views around and expand the feel of a room.

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why?

I go to different neighborhoods for different reasons. The Southport Corridor has terrific food options. Logan Square is always fun to spend time in. And I love the theaters and architecture in Uptown. 

What types of services do you offer?

We’re actually comprised of three business divisions: luxury residential interior design, commercial project development, and custom products including lighting, furniture, and textiles. But if you’re asking about our interior design division specifically, we do everything from plan and elevation analysis and specifications for furniture, fabric, color, materials, and lighting, to product procurement and expediting and move-in and installation. We also provide household staff training and landscape consulting services.

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.”