Jan. 15, 2021

Tips for a Healthy Home

Healthy Home Tips

Simple things you can do to clean, freshen, purify and declutter various spaces to create a healthy home.


The new year is a fresh start as many begin by committing to healthy habits, such as a new workout regime or eating strategies that will trim the waistline. In the hustle to get healthy, have you considered how to live in a healthier home? This can involve simple remedies, such as opening a window to let in fresh air (unless it’s winter, of course), or more lasting solutions such as carefully selecting paints, furnishings and cleaning products that don’t contain chemical vapors. 


Now is a great time to create a healthier home environment, especially winter in Chicago as it can start to feel stuffy inside. This year’s New Year’s Resolution: get your home in shape!


Use non-toxic cleaning products

To clean the oven, sprinkle water on spills and add salt when it’s warm, then scrap the area when cool. White vinegar removes grease, soap buildup and is an alternative to bleach. Baking soda scrubs tiles. Hydrogen peroxide removes stains. Diluted lemon juice cleans windows. Borax inhibits mold growth. Consider using a washable shower curtain and liner. 


Clean your kitchen

Use hot, soapy water on your kitchen prep surfaces after every use. Sanitize faucets. Change your sponge every week and when running the dishwasher, include it in the cycle for regular disinfecting. Scrub refrigerator shelves and drawers. Dechlorinate your tap water by equipping your kitchen faucet with an activated charcoal water filter. Eliminate BPA-containing plastic containers, instead use glass and ceramic containers. Check that your non-stick Teflon pots and pans are intact, otherwise replace them. Toss cracked cutting boards. 


Dust regularly

House dust can aggravate allergies and may contain chemicals. Clean dust in  areas that collect buildup, such as entertainment centers, shelves, artwork, photos, light fixtures, and door/window frames. Clear cob webs from corners of walls. Sanitize remote controls. Vacuum a couple of times a week. Sweep and mop floors with diluted vinegar. Establish a no shoes policy while indoors. Buy curtains that are machine washable for regular cleaning. Hire a chimney sweep. Wash sheets, duvet covers and bedspreads in hot water once a week. 


Purify the air

Buy an air purifier or install an electronic purifying system on your furnace. Keep a schedule to check filters on your furnace and replace when necessary. Use a steam humidifier so the humidity levels are more consistent during the cold weather. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Avoid air fresheners which may mask mildew odors. Install a dehumidifier in your basement.


Beautify your home with nature

Plants neutralize the air in your home. The innate connection that we have to nature has proven that plants have a relaxing effect and can improve health and well-being. 


Declutter and toss expired products

Decluttering rooms and spaces actually declutters your mind. Remove items from rooms that are just collecting dust. Clear desktop spaces and clean junk drawers. Check under your kitchen and bathroom sinks and toss toxic cleaning chemicals, old beauty products and items you no longer use. Organize your medicine cabinet and throw out expired vitamins, supplements and pills. Look for expired products in your refrigerator and cupboards. Go through your garage and basement to get rid of old paint, caulk, plaster, remodeling supplies or other products that are dried out or broken.


Throw out toxic pesticides and herbicides

Instead focus on prevention by keeping your house clean. A few weeds in the lawn can be pulled out with muscle power. Throw out mothballs and instead buy cedar chips from a pet store and make a sachet by wrapping them in a cheesecloth. Store clean silks and wool items in a sealed plastic bag. 


If you have questions or need real estate advice, please contact us.


Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Posted in Design Ideas
Dec. 12, 2020

Advantages of Buying a Home in Winter

Menard Johnson Home Buying


In Chicago winter, with colder temps and snow approaching, you might assume that it’s not a good season to be looking for a home. As most are focused on holiday festivities, this opens up opportunities for home buyers. In our connected world with access to property listings, the real estate market doesn’t take a winter break.


Here is insight into the buying real estate in the colder months  …


Less Market Activity 


Fewer people overall looking to buy a home at this time will lead to less competition among other home buyers. This gives you leverage in your offers and lowers the chances of multiple offers and bidding wars. Homes listed at this time may be more open to negotiation.


Flexible Schedules


Although it does seem that most businesses are 24/7 now, the holiday season tends to bring more focus to time off to enjoy festivities. This time of the year may be the ideal time to use vacation time to house hunt instead of using up precious weekends during the year. Plus, mortgage industry professionals see a slow in the market and tend to be more flexible with timelines. 


Motivated Home Sellers 


If a home is on the market at this time, there’s a good chance that the seller may need to sell the home. Perhaps it’s a job relocation, financial hardship or a change in personal circumstance. There is also an incentive if a house has already been on the market for some time. In any case, with fewer offers on the table at this time of year, a seller may be more willing to accept a lower offer and/or be flexible with concessions, like paying part of the closing costs. 


Weather, Weather, Weather …


This is the time of year when weather can play a major role in how the real estate market performs.  Snow, rain and cold keep the less serious buyers away. But if there are homes on the market that seem interesting to you and you are serious buyer, keep a watchful eye.  These are the times when fewer buyers vying for the same home and can help you get the better deal … if there is a deal to be had! 


If you have questions, please contact us. We're happy to help!

Nov. 12, 2020

Your Home Winter Checklist

Chicago Winter Home Checklist


As the weather turns colder and we spend more time indoors, it’s the perfect time to take inventory of regular maintenance and make a list of things that need to be fixed. Even if your home is running smoothly, regular maintenance is important. Preparing before the snow and cold can save costly repairs and aggravation later. The weather can change quickly, especially in Chicago!  


Property Checklist:

  • Service furnace and replace the filter
  • Clean humidifier plates or pads to ensure efficient operation
  • Inspect the roof to see that it’s draining properly
  • Clear gutters and downspouts of debris
  • Check patio, deck or outdoor space for repairs, now is the perfect time to paint
  • Scan brick properties to see if it needs tuck pointing / sealing
  • Change outdoor lightbulbs now, to avoid doing it in the cold weather
  • Test the snow blower
  • Rake, mow and trim landscaping 
  • Add mulch/compost to gardens
  • Fertilize the lawn
  • Plant flower bulbs
  • Disconnect hoses and store them away 
  • Turn off outdoor water spouts
  • Store seasonal furniture and grill
  • Sweep the chimney 
  • Test smoke detectors, CO monitors and inspect fire extinguishers
  • Check doors and windows for drafts, use caulk and weather stripping to prevent heat loss
  • Hire a handyman for bigger home repairs
  • Buy wood and curl up by the fire with a warm drink!

If you need excellent and reliable resources, such as a handyman, furnace repair, landscaping or any type of real estate advice, please contact us. 

Oct. 14, 2020

6 Benefits of Hiring a Real Estate Broker

Chicago New Construction Home


An online search for real estate will bring up a lot of information. So, why hire a broker? At first glance it may seem that buying or selling a home on your own will save you money. But that might not be the case. According to the National Association of Realtor®'s 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, you’ll make more money by hiring a professional real estate broker. “FSBOs typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes; FSBO homes sold at a median of $217,900 last year (up from last year), and significantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $242,300.”


There are other things to consider before embarking on your real estate journey. Professional real estate brokers have a pulse on the market and research trends through online broker resources and in real estate publications. We are up-to-date on neighborhood news, zoning changes and new policies, rules and ethics. 


We know what the average home buyer expects and share this knowledge with our clients who are ready to sell their home. For marketing, we use professional photographers as these photos are critical to the success of attracting the right buyer. We also offer expert staging tips, remodel ideas and repair advice prior to listing a home. 


By consistently networking with other real estate professionals, we understand what is influencing the market, trends and economy. We know the Chicago neighborhoods and are on the lookout for any changes, such as new businesses moving in.


Here are the 6 benefits of hiring a real estate broker:


Education and Experience

One of the main benefits of working with a broker is their knowledge and experience in managing the process. Before hiring a real estate broker, ask to set up an interview. You want to make sure that this person understands the neighborhoods, real estate market and trends. Whether buying or selling, the broker must have a keen eye to catch things you might miss in a property and expertise in negotiation to put you at ease during the process. 


Neighborhood Knowledge and Prices

In a city as big as Chicago, it’s key to understand the neighborhoods from a historical perspective and the current market value. If looking to buy, you want to make sure the neighborhood aligns with your finances and lifestyle. And from a selling point of view, it’s important to know current market values. The broker has knowledge of local and state news that can affect housing prices. When meeting with a broker, they should be able to advise you on your neighborhood picks and clue you into other neighborhoods to consider.


Professional Resources

A good real estate broker will have connections in the industry. Find out how they network with other real estate professionals. This person should also be able to share trusted home repair and remodel resources. For a smooth transaction before and after the sale of a property, a reliable agent will manage the process from setting up the home inspection to putting together the right team to handle the volumes of paperwork at closing. 


Staging Advice and Identifying Home Repairs

Whether you’re buying or selling, a broker should be able to walk in to a property and identify the opportunities and challenges. If more information is needed, they will share trusted resources to help you understand the scope of repairs and how it will affect a property value. When selling a home, a good agent will offer inside and outside staging and design advice. 


Unemotional Negotiation

Buying or selling a home tends to be an emotional journey. For peace of mind, a professional broker will handle all aspects of the negotiation process in your best interest. A good agent will share their honest opinion on your options in order to set up a successful property transaction. 


Time Savings

An experienced real estate broker will understand the buying and selling process inside and out. They will be with you every step of the way, working through the details, freeing up your time for other important things. With trusted resources at their fingertips and experience to have the foresight of potential challenges, they are able to navigate the process, saving you valuable time. 


A good relationship with your broker can benefit you beyond the real estate transaction. You have a trusted resource in all your property concerns. We are dedicated to gathering knowledge and committed to building client relationships. If you have questions or comments, please contact us.


Sept. 15, 2020

Fall Leaf Cleanup Tips

Fall Leaves


Fall is a gorgeous time of year, especially in Chicago, with the bright autumn colors and cooler weather. But it also means dealing with falling leaves. While it might be tempting to avoid this chore, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by cleaning up the leaves. Over time, a thick layer of leaves on your lawn prevents sunshine and might attract mold, bacteria, pests and weed seeds.


Instead, turn your leaves into mulch for your lawn, flower and garden beds. Shredding leaves is less work and a great way to add nutrients to your yard. Plus, adding mulch/compost in the fall is the ideal time. If you don’t have a mulching mower to shred the leaves into tiny pieces, set the blades to the highest setting and mow over them. It’s easiest to do this when they are dry. 


You can also make leaf mold from the chopped up leaves and use it for your garden next season. It’s a great way to preserve the nutrients and minerals of the organic matter. Take the chopped up leaves you mowed over and stuff them into a makeshift bin and pack them down. Then wet the leaves. A chicken wire fence works or even black garbage bags. If you use garbage bags, seal and poke holes in them to provide airflow. Flip the bags every 6 months until you have small, flaky brown bits. 


Remember, your yard will need attention in the fall. Make sure to keep rotting leaves away from the house, especially wood siding, because it can cause it to rot. Leaves can also block water flow and prevent water absorption, this is why it’s so important to clean your gutters in the fall. Wet leaves on walkways and paths can become slippery, especially when they decay. Big piles of dry leaves could become a fire hazard. Clean them up!


Please contact us if you have any questions. Happy Fall!

Aug. 14, 2020

9 Questions To Ask Your Real Estate Broker

Questions to ask a real estate broker

Buying or selling a home is a big deal. It’s important to have a high comfort level with your real estate broker. When searching for a new broker, you can get referrals from friends, research online reviews and ask the broker for client referrals. All of these are important steps, but the most important thing is the feeling you get from a broker in a face-to-face meeting. 

Set up an interview. When meeting with this person, you will get a feel for how they work - similar to when you walk in a house and  know that it’s the right home. By taking a little time with them, you’ll be able to tell if they are really listening to your needs. Pay attention to how they interact with you. 

The best referral is from someone you trust. And even if this person feels confident with the broker, it’s more important about how you interact with them. You want an open and honest dialogue with the broker helping you to buy or sell a home. 

Here are key questions you should ask before hiring a broker: 

  1. How long have you been a real estate broker?
  2. Do you own your home? Please explain your history of home ownership and property investment experience.
  3. How are you different from other real estate brokers?
  4. Do you have references? Where I can view your online reviews?
  5. How long have worked with your real estate agency? Why did you choose to work there? How is it different from other agencies?
  6. Did you have a career prior to working in real estate? If so, why did you pursue a real estate career?
  7. Are you personally involved with all aspects of my real estate transaction or do you work with a team?
  8. How do you market a property that you’re selling? Please explain your marketing efforts. 
  9. What are your fees and commissions? 

Please contact us if you have any questions!

July 15, 2020

Preparing to Sell Your Home


Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate


Whether selling a condominium, loft, multi unit or single family residence, making a strong first impression is key. How do you appeal to the emotional side of those looking to buy a home? By staging rooms so that the homebuyer can see themselves living in the property. Here are a few simple ideas that can ‘wow’ potential buyers. 


Curb Appeal:  This is the first impression of your home. Make sure the front entrance is neat and clean. In a building foyer, toss newspapers and advertisements and sweep the area. If you own a home, keep up with regular lawn maintenance, trim trees and weed gardens. Adding flower boxes or planters to the outdoor area or windows will add softness and color to any type of home.


Interior Lighting:  The brighter your home the better. Use soft light bulbs instead of CFL’s, which can take five minutes to warm up and then become a harsh, white light. Regular light bulbs illuminate immediately having a warm impact on the eyes. Lighting is sensory driven -  the buyer may get a good feeling in your home and not know that it’s the lighting creating the atmosphere. Adding new light fixtures is another easy and economical way to update your home. 


Photos and Artwork:  By keeping walls and shelves sparse of family and personal photos, the buyer can more clearly see themselves in the property. If they focus on photos and artwork, they may get distracted and not see the details of the home. Plants add subtle beauty to rooms, but decorate the space minimally. 


Furniture:  When a home is cluttered, potential buyers are unable to see the space. Declutter your home as much as possible so the buyer can visualize their furniture in the space. 


Clean House: This may seem obvious, but clean also refers to closets, shoes, trash and  boxes. All of these items make an impression. It’s important to keep the home neat and orderly.


Paint and Minor Repairs: Paint has an emotional impact on buyers. You want it to evoke feelings of comfort, so they make a connection with the home. Rooms with light and neutral colors can appear larger and brighter. Fresh paint colors will appeal to buyers who want a move-in ready home. Same with minor repairs. It’s economically beneficial to take a close look at your property and make the repairs or hire a handyman. 


If you work with us, we spend time in your home and offer specific staging ideas, such as moving furniture, removing artwork and photos, replacing light fixtures and painting rooms. For home repairs, we have a list of recommended contractors we can refer to you. These are minimal investments that will improve your chances of selling your home faster and for asking price. We know what buyers are looking for, what the market demands and the current trends. Our experience includes both new homes and home renovations. If you’re selling in order to purchase a new home, find out how the timing can work in your favor or against you.


Another part of our process in working with sellers is to help you understand what is going on in the market and what to expect when you actually list your home. We take the time to do a custom analysis on your home, which involves in-depth research and reviewing specific property details such as school districts, location, renovations, the structure, age of the property and so much more.


There is a lot to understand, so it’s important to take the time to prepare your home to shine! And find the right team of real estate professionals to help you. Please call us at (773) 472-6016 for a custom analysis on your home, for contractor referrals or if you have any questions. 

June 15, 2020

Staging Ideas for Outdoor Patios

Summer in Chicago means getting out to enjoy the beautiful weather. It’s probably no surprise that most homeowners in the Midwest consider the outdoor space the most important space in their home, especially after a long winter indoors. If you’re selling your home, designing your outdoor space to appeal to potential buyers is key.

Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate

[ Source: Room and Board ]

There is undeniable value in creating a relaxing, stress-free zone in our urban environment. Prepping your outdoor space with fresh staging ideas can help you sell your home faster and maybe even for a higher price. As it draws people in, it helps buyers see themselves entertaining friends and relaxing in that space. It’s an extension of the living space. If the home or condo is small, it provides an expansive feel.

Menard Johnson Real Estate Staging

[ Source: Freshome ]

Sprucing up your outdoor space can be as simple as reupholstering or buying cushions and pillows. Update old light fixtures with a fresh coat of paint. Add tea lights and candles, along with an outdoor rug to make the space cozy. Use neutral colors to draw attention to the natural green environment for a more calming feel. For privacy and to separate the space from the neighbors, add rattan blinds and hanging plants off the balcony. Strategically arrange inexpensive flowers and potted plants around the area.

Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate

[ Source: Better Homes and Garden ]

For homes with a small backyard, use accent stones to create a relaxing retreat feel. Purchase tall thin bushes for privacy. Place bamboo lanterns along pathways or string bistro lights around the dining area to create a sophisticated evening atmosphere.

Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate

[ Source:Architectural Digest ]

The style of your home should seamlessly blend into the style of your outdoor space. If you’re on a budget, Home Goods offers inexpensive outdoor accessories. For a more modern vibe, check out West Elm, Room and Board and CB2. To design a traditional space, shop at stores like Arhaus, Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Jayson Home and Walter E Smith.

Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate

[ Source: One Kind Design ]

Renting outdoor furniture for staging can be expensive, so if you work with us at Menard Johnson, we prefer to make suggestions using items that you already have. And if we do recommend purchasing something, we suggest cost-effective items within your budget that you can use in your next home.

Posted in Design Ideas
May 15, 2020

DIY Home Design Ideas


Simple updates around your home changes the atmosphere. Some updates, such as adding color to your garden, painting the front door, replacing an old bathroom shower door or new lighting in the kitchen, can add value to your home. And while others may not notice the new details, they will feel a freshness in the air. Whether you’re thinking of selling your home or ready for a refresh after months spent indoors, here are simple DIY ideas to help you get started.


Menard Johnson Chicago Real Estate



  • Replace cabinet hardware
  • Brighten countertops with under cabinet puck lighting
  • Add a new tile backsplash
  • Refinish kitchen cabinets

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate



  • Refesh tile grout and re-caulk the tub 
  • Replace towel holders
  • Install tile flooring
  • Remove old wall decor
  • Add greenery / plants

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate


Living Room 

  • Update lighting fixtures 
  • Add a ceiling fan
  • Replace window coverings with new window treatments
  • Add moldings around doorways 
  • Reupholster chairs

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate



  • Brighten your bedding
  • Upgrade your lampshades
  • Refurnish or paint furniture, dresser
  • Paint / Wallpaper

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate

Photo Credit: Houzz

Throughout the Home

  • Stencil stairs, walls or kitchen island
  • Replace light switch plates
  • Add a window seat in an alcove
  • Create an office in a closet
  • Convert an attic to a bedroom

Menard Johnson Chicago Roscoe Village Real Estate



  • Install new house numbers
  • Paint the front door
  • Add new landscaping touches
  • Freshen a patio or porch with planters

Are you wondering what types of updates/renovations add value to your home? Or do you need referrals for your home repairs and/or landscaping? We can help. Please contact us for reliable resources.

April 15, 2020

How to Organize a Home Office

Menard Johnson Real Estate Home Office


Now that a lot of people are working from home, the home office has become one of the most important rooms. Especially when sharing space with others. Your home may have turned into a multi-functional place with a variety of activities such as a workout center, classroom, game room, movie theater and conference room. With everyone around, it could be showing it’s inefficiencies. How do you focus with all the activity? Organization is key. 


Here are five tips to help you organize a home office:


Declutter. This is the fastest way to increase your productivity. Go through your whole office and throw out or donate items you no longer use. If you’re continually tripping over something to get to an area, remove it! Hide electronic wires and cords by snaking them behind your desk using cord clips. You want your office to flow. 


Next, clean up your desk. Go through papers and either toss or file. You can organize this quickly by creating two piles: one for things you need to take action on and another pile to review at a later time. Dedicate a space, either on your desk in trays or on a shelf in a bin or in a specified drawer for incoming items, like documents and mail. Then set regular time aside to go through and discard or file. Just as important as cleaning your actual desk is clearing your computer desktop of clutter. Organize electronic files, email and back up important information regularly. Clear the clutter, clear the mind!


Optimize the space. Once you declutter, you’ll be able to see what you have to work with. Going forward, keep clutter off your desk with nearby cubbies, hook and baskets. Drawer dividers are a great way to make sure a “catch-all” drawer doesn’t turn into a mess. Plus, you can access what you need more quickly. When storing items, group them in way for efficiency, such as keeping writing tools in one place and mail supplies in another. 


If you have paper records, use a binder or file system to categorize information such as medical, auto, pet, house, personal, etc. Straighten up book shelves and organize by subject or by color for a design look. Decorative baskets and bins are a great way to create order and a clean look to your shelving. Label shelves, bins, baskets and drawers for efficiency. Plus, if others in the house use the office, it will guide them to where things are stored without interrupting you. 


Create work zones by activity. Your main workspace will be your desk and computer. From there, create a flow to your office. Organize it in a way that makes it easy to utilize your equipment (printer, router, etc) and supplies. Little irritations can disrupt your day! Store items you rarely use. Find an accessible space to hide your router, like in a cabinet, closet or decorative basket. Different work zones can include a reference area (filing cabinet, shelves, binders), print area (printer, paper), and supply area (closet, shelves, drawers). Think of the way you move in the room and organize it to make your life easier. 


Utilize wall space. Maximize a small office with floating shelves. For bigger office spaces, floor-to-ceiling modular shelving blends naturally with the room and the extra space between shelves will open it up. Use push pin, magnetic or cork boards to organize your paper and see important notes at a glance. Create a wall pegboard with floating shelves, hanging baskets, notes and inspiring decor.


Personalize your office. You can do this by using decor from around your house or purchase new items such as artwork or a small water feature to inspire flow. Enhance your focus by painting the walls a blue color. Blue evokes a feeling of trust, logic, communication and efficiency. For creative types, yellow stimulates positivity, creativity and happiness. If you’re looking to mix it up, you can paint the walls one color and then add artwork and accents of a secondary color. Consider your light sources. Natural light is best, but you can create an overall natural feel by diffusing ambient light with lamp shades to avoid the direct glare of overhead lights. Certain scents, such as mint, lemon, lavender, rosemary, cinnamon, are also known to stimulate focus.


Home office design that flows with your routine creates efficiencies in subtle ways. Taking small, consistent steps in keeping an office organized will go a long way in setting up an environment for productivity. It clears the mind to focus on what’s most important, the task at hand.

Posted in Design Ideas