Three reasons your home isn't selling

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I know the feeling: you’ve listed your home and are expecting it to sell quickly…and then it doesn’t. It sits. And sits. And sits. My philosophy for all clients and all transactions is that the market will be what it will be, and it is my job to react and adjust my plans and tools accordingly. Today I am sharing my top go-to tips for making sure my clients never experience that feeling.

Reevaluate your competition
For an appraiser, a property is consider a comparable or “comp" when it was sold in the prior six months. Therefore, your property’s comps will change often. I review my listings comps every few weeks. I am looking at the price at which similar properties sold, so that we are always aware of where we stand.

Pricing against comps is not a perfect science since no two properties are exactly the same. When evaluating I take into account age, location, finishes, square footage, and a number of other details that go into a home’s value.

Look critically at your photos
I work with only the best professional photographers for one simple reason: beautiful, compelling photography is critical! My clients know how much goes into prepping for photo day. We declutter and stage if necessary, ensure we have all the best lighting (adding or removing lamps, increasing wattage, etc.), and paint as necessary. We’re going for a delicate balance of keeping the look neutral, but also giving buyers a vision for what is possible.

Think about price strategically
One of the adjustments we are making right now to accommodate our more balanced market, is thinking strategically about price right off the bat. A few years ago, there was a good amount of wiggle room for sellers. We were in a world of bidding wars, and homes selling over one weekend. Today’s market is very different, and it pays to come out of the gate strong. We are not anywhere near where we were in 2008/2009, however!

Because I have been in real estate for so long, I have seen many market shifts. 2008/2009, was by far the worst I’ve seen, when we were dealing with multiple market problems all at the same time: heavy inventory, unsold new construction, maxed out credit cards, adjustable interest rates all hitting their anniversary and adjusting up at the same time—and tons of Americans unable to pay their mortgage. We had just come off an incredible market too in 2005-2007, when home values were increasing year-over-year.

Today, while we aren’t seeing the huge increases in home value in just a few short years, we don’t have the multitude of issues we did in 2008/2009. Today our issues are high interest rates and local and national elections. As a result, I see the market rebounding relatively quickly.


Success Story: Marcia

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I love when clients become friends! I met Marcia and her husband through a former client turned friend, and now I am lucky enough to call them all friends! One of my favorite parts of being a real estate broker is that my network is ever-growing--I meet wonderful people all the time!

How did you find Millie?
She was a referral from a friend in Milwaukee, where I was living at the time.

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?
She knows Chicago!!!  Every building we were in was familiar to her and she always had insights and details that came from that familiarity.

What was your favorite part of working together?
Millie had the perfect touch with my husband and me, knowing when to pull back and when to nudge us forward. We had some serious issues with the behavior of the seller, but Millie kept reminding us to keep the big picture in mind and not to lose sight of our goals.  We both came to really trust her.

Did you use her team? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)?
Yes. Her associate Mike took me on a number of first showings. He was an absolute delight.  We also used the lawyer she recommended and he was also fantastic ... knowledgeable, efficient and very reasonably priced.

Would you recommend her to a friend?
Without a doubt!

The latest on Lincoln Yards

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Since I have worked in Chicagoland real estate for so long, every once in a while I am asked to serve on real estate-minded community committees. It is always such an honor! By far the most exciting project I am currently a part of is Alderman Brian Hopkins’ Lincoln Yards advisory committee. As you probably know, Lincoln Yards is Sterling Bay’s projected $5 billion development that if approved will run along the river between Lincoln Park and Bucktown.

The vision for the project was initially unveiled at a public meeting on July 18, with high level improvements including new office and retail space, green spaces, extending the 606 Trail, reinvigorating the riverfront, and new transportation (most notably, redoing and relocating the Clybourn Metra station).

After the initial reveal, the general public sentiment around the pros and cons of the projected 53-acre project were clear. On the plus side, residents are rallying around the positive momentum. The need to transition the industrial nature of the corridor into something more sustainable for young families is apparent. And what Lincoln Yards will do well is create an economic hub with clean jobs, improve property values, and provide opportunities for Chicagoans.

However, with the improved access to opportunity and green space comes the potential for traffic and congestion—at least this is what many critics believe since projections assume thousands of new residents and day workers.

According to my friend Christian Ficara, a spokesman for Alderman Brian Hopkins’ office, Sterling Bay and the Alderman’s office are in the process of taking in community feedback, and the developer is making appropriate adjustments to the plan.

“This proposal is massive in scale, and nothing is being rushed. We have one shot at this, and we want to get it right. It's going to take as long as it's going to take to make sure the community feels like they are getting something out of this. We have a long way to go, and are optimistic that we are going to eventually find consensus on a viable project,” Christian told me.

Christian also noted that while the Alderman’s office is open-minded on development, but are focused on finding the right development in this case, and it is too soon to tell if this is the right one.

Sterling Bay is currently in the process of acquiring and incorporating feedback into the revised version of their proposal—going block-by-block to speak with neighbors, and meeting with civic organizations. I actually held a coffee at my home to discuss plans with the rest of my committee members, Alderman Hopkins, and Sterling Bay back in July.

Christian anticipates Sterling Bay will introduce their revised proposal in November. I will keep you posted here as I learn more about this or any other exciting developments throughout the city.

Tips and tricks: Closet design with Crooked Oak

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Last month we spoke about how to maximize your kitchen since we spend so much time in the “heart of the home,” and this week we are talking about closets because who doesn’t love a great closet?! With every morning starting with a trip through your closet, shouldn’t it be exactly how you want it?

For me, it’s functionality above all else. Some of the most beautiful closets I see are built without any regard for lifestyle—too many shelves, or not enough hanging space, or too many small nooks and crannies. Step one is to think about your wardrobe, and how to showcase as much of it as possible. I find it so much easier to dress in the morning when I can see all of my options.

The other thing I see constantly in the world of Chicagoland’s closets is the wrong doors! I just finished replacing all of the bi-fold doors in my home, and it was worth every penny. My new MDF doors paint beautifully and never squeak.

To help provide even more food for thought around closets, I interviewed my friends at
Crooked Oak, an incredible local custom closet builder. They have lots of great information to share!

How long has Crooked Oak been in business, and where are you located?
Crooked Oak has been in business for 15 years and we are located in Broadview, IL. Our company was founded by friends Joel Schellhase and Joe Daschbach. Joel had a background in music producing and bringing his people skills to the table heading in our sales department, and Joe is a cabinet maker that helps our artistic creations come to life!

Can you tell us a little about what makes Crooked Oak closets special?
Crooked Oak closets are special because we are not just a closet company — we do high end cabinetry that is very custom. We have no limitations to what we can do. We can do cabinets with wood finishing, hybrid closets with paint grade exteriors, or acrylic–gloss and laminate interiors to help with cost (but have the solid wood/acrylic gloss exteriors).

Can you describe your favorite closet you have ever installed?
One of our favorites closets installed had the works. We did a high-end paint grade closet that had drawers, a variety of accessories, and LED strip lighting everywhere! Very similar to our showroom closet, which inspired us to showcase everything!

What is one thing people tend to overlook when designing a closet?
People tend to overlook the correct use of space, for example shelves in the corner. We make sure to design the best use of the space so every inch is used!

Success Story: Leo Melamed

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One of my favorite parts of my career is the privilege of working with interesting, successful, brilliant people. Leo Melamed is very high on this list. As the chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in the late 1960s, Mr. Melamed helped to create the International Money Market, futures on US Treasury Bills, Eurodollars, and stock index futures. Later in his career he also spearheaded the creation of the first electronic trading system. Unbelievable, right? It was such a pleasure to work with Leo and his wife!

How did you find Millie?
I was introduced to Millie by her husband, John, whom I have known over a number of years.

What do you think sets Millie apart from other brokers?
Millie is unbelievably dedicated to her profession—a true professional in every sense. She is also tireless! It was amazing to me the amount of energy she put into our transaction. It didn’t matter what they we called, she was always there for us. Watching her work is really a work of art.

What was your favorite part of working together?
Millie’s ability to anticipate my questions was uncanny. It almost became a game! She always knew what I was going to ask next, and truly knows the ropes.

Did you use any of her recommended vendors? (i.e. lawyer, stager, etc.)?
We used her recommended movers and they were very courteous and responsible. We also used her recommended hardwood floor installer and they were very professional.

Would you recommend her to a friend?
Absolutely I would recommend her. When you are a buyer you want an opinion you can trust, and Millie is just that person.

We're hiring - Chief Operating Officer

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High-energy real estate team seeks a vibrant new contributor to hustle and bustle your way through the city and make it sparkle for our clients. You will assist one of Chicago’s top luxury residential brokers as a Chief Operating Officer, handling all reporting, administration, sales, marketing, and transaction management.

This role requires a sales broker’s license or willing to become licensed, an eye for detail, and a can-do attitude for putting out fires and making the impossible task look like just another day at the office.

Interested Sales Brokers please forward your credentials to millie4290@gmail.com.

Kitchen remodel tips and tricks

If you broke down how many hours you spent in each room of your home, what percent do you think would be spent in your kitchen? Most people I talk to say nearly all their waking, at home hours! With that time spent in one room, I spend a good deal of time counseling buyers on what to look for in a kitchen, and sellers on how to showcase their's in the best light. 

Today we also have a very special guest on the blog, Mayan Metzler, Founder of German Kitchen Center, a national kitchen design chain with showrooms across the country--and a new one in Chicago! As a true expert in the space, Mayan has some great tips for those considering a remodel, or working on a new project. 

Think holistically about your project
Before you even begin a project, Mayan recommends considering all the factors that go into creating a new kitchen, and all the people who will work on your project in one capacity or another. For example, when you are importing parts from Europe, shipping alone can be a logistical nightmare. German Kitchen Center built Kitchen Tracker to solve this very problem -- a proprietary shipment tracker of every individual piece of a shipment. 

How many vendors can you handle? 
Also consider where you are going to source everything. Are you going to work with one showroom for cabinets and another for appliances? Always an option, but you may also want to consider one stop shopping to keep this easy. German Kitchen Center is the only multi-brand European vendor in the US. 

European considerations
Mayan explains the difference between a German kitchen simply: a German kitchen is like a German car--it will last forever! According to Mayan, the experience of working with a German cabinet maker is entirely different than working with anyone else. When he calls in a new order, the German cabinet maker wants to see the entire design. When he starts a new order with other vendors, they execute as quickly as possible. It's a subtle, important nuance to note. 

Current trends
Will white kitchens ever go out of style? Hopefully not. Mayan is also seeing a lot of handle-less cabinets, and special cabinet finishes including porcelain fronts! A very exciting trend because it's such a strong, gorgeous material with a natural stone look that people love. 

Mayan also notes that in Europe, nearly all kitchens look modern, though many are within very old homes. Both looks are classic and perfectly compliment one another. Try to step out of your comfort zone!

Thank you, Mayan, for your thoughtful information and advice! I love working with some of the country's best designers, right in our own backyard. 

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.