Dec. 29, 2017

Tips for a Healthy Home

Healthy Home


Top real estate broker in Chicago, Charese David, shares ideas on 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 Charese at (312) 399-1271 or


Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Posted in Real Estate Tips
Dec. 6, 2017

10 Home Design Ideas for the Holidays

holiday living room

Photo credit: Elle Decor

The holiday season is a wonderful time to celebrate with family and friends. Besides the delicious food and drink, it’s fun to create design touches throughout the home that sets the stage for holiday gatherings. Creating a warm and cozy atmosphere can be simple and add a little sparkle during this festive season. 


Real estate broker Charese David has a designer’s eye when it comes to staging a home. If you need design advice or perhaps you’re wondering if a rehab project will add value to your home, contact Charese at (312) 399-1271 or She has contractor resources and excellent guidance on how to add value and style to your home. 


In the meantime, Charese hopes to ignite your imagination and inspire you with these design ideas, some DIY, to create inviting spaces throughout your home.




Spruce up a doorway or area of ceiling with mistletoe to add rustic charm. Don't get caught standing under it, unless of course you want to! Just follow this step by step guide to create a beautiful greenery touch, certain to be a conversation piece.



Snowflakes are a fun and an inexpensive way to create a delightful design for your ceiling. Simply cut out and hang cardstock snowflakes using tape for easy installation.


candle displays



Mix and match figurines and greenery with candles of different shapes and sizes. Use contrasting colors for dramatic displays.




You won’t be able to roast marshmallows, but with this flameless fire pit you can bring fun and ambience to any room. When it’s cold outside, using string lights will make it feel warm and cozy inside.


These spheres of twine are modern, yet playful. They will add warmth and light to any space, including as table decoration or creatively placed on the floor.


A wreath is a standard holiday accent. With winter greens, herbs and pops of color, they are a beautiful way to bring nature indoors. Many stores carry different styles, from modern to traditional. Or create a wreath tailored to your own style.


There are different ways you can showcase a wreath from the placing it on a door, to including it in a holiday display with candles and other decor, to hanging it above a table as an interesting chandelier. 



Dressing a table in a tasteful way just might make the food seem more appetizing! Centerpieces are a key ingredient to gorgeous dining experiences. There are an abundant of styles that can appeal to anyone, from the more elaborate forest design to a clear glass sparkle.


Wishing you a festive season filled with love, laughter and good eats. Happy holidays from all of us at Menard Johnson!


Posted in Design Ideas
Nov. 21, 2017

Luxury New Constructions Homes Virtual Open House

Al Johnson opens 4 luxury homes for virtual tours for the Thanksgiving Holiday

New construction is a force in our local area real estate. Over the Thanksgiving holidays Al Johnson shows what a luxury home looks like today. Denny Development builds quality homes and represents the best in the market. See the homes in Roscoe Village and North Center currently available with great photography, 360 photos to explore whole rooms, floor plans and interactive elements. We will show 4 homes over the next week. Click on link to register 

Nov. 1, 2017

Advantages of Buying a Home in Winter

Chicago Real Estate Broker Charese David


Top real estate broker in Chicago, Charese David, shares her expertise on opportunities of home buying in the winter.


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! 


Good luck and as always if you have questions, I am here to help. Contact me at (312) 399-1271 or


Sept. 27, 2017

Prepare Your Home for Fall

Chicago Real Estate


Cooler temperatures are on the way marking the beginning of the fall season. This is the perfect time to take inventory of regular maintenance and make a list of things that need to be fixed around your home. Even if your home is running smoothly, regular maintenance is important. Preparing now before the snow and cold can save costly repairs and aggravation later. The weather can change quickly, especially in Chicago!  


Fall 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
  • Turn off outdoor water spouts
  • Store seasonal furniture / grill
  • Sweep the chimney 
  • Test smoke detectors, CO monitors and inspect fire extinguishers
  • Check doors and windows for drafts
  • 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, contact Charese David at or 312-399-1271. 

Sept. 5, 2017

What’s Your Home Really Worth?

2348 W Roscoe


Getting an accurate property value can be challenging when using the online home estimators. The online tool may not be pulling property details from up-to-date information. Take a look at our comments about the Zillow Zestimate. 


For an accurate home value estimate, go through a real estate broker. And even then, it’s good to dig a little deeper to find out how they are getting the information. A lot of brokers will generate an automated report from the MLS based on a zip code search. This report may include property sales that are already six to twelve months old and may be comparing single family homes to condos. On any given street of the dense, urban landscape in Chicago, properties can vary drastically from new construction to homes that are over 100 years old. This can make the price difference extremely different. 


With our diverse neighborhoods and hectic pace of market trends, the Chicago real estate market is complex. At Menard Johnson, we have decades of experience in the market and a deep historical knowledge of trends. We offer a custom market analysis of your home that goes beyond a basic MLS report.


The Menard Johnson custom market analysis takes the following details into consideration:

  • Current market trends - how in demand is your type of property?
  • Historical trends - what real estate cycle is Chicago currently in?
  • Current news - what local and state government news is affecting the market?
  • Location - what are the neighborhood trends, public schools and transportation?
  • Type of property - what is the size of your home in relation to other properties in the neighborhood?
  • Property condition - what is the condition of your heating, air, plumbing, electrical, roof, ventilation, appliances, etc?
  • Overall style - what is the style of the kitchen cabinets, countertops, bathroom fixtures and flooring?
  • Floorplan - what are the room sizes, storage spaces and general layout?
  • Update and upgrades - what types of improvements have been made to the property since the purchase?
  • Building materials - what type of construction is the home’s interior and exterior?
  • Comparable properties - what have similar properties in close proximity sold for in the past six months?
  • Current homes - what’s the price of current comparable properties on the market right now?

Want to get an accurate and up-to-date property value? Or are you wondering if a rehab project will add value to your property? Contact Charese at (312) 399-1271 or email at


Aug. 1, 2017

Angels With Tails Adoption Event


Angels with Tails Pet Adoption


The Angels with Tails adoption event in Roscoe Village on Sunday was a huge success. Fifty-five puppies and dogs from PAWS Chicago found their forever homes! 


Our team at Menard Johnson are big time cat and dog lovers and with every home closing, we send a donation to PAWS. That afternoon, we hosted a sweepstakes in front of our office with fabulous prizes from local businesses. 


Here are the winners of those prizes:


Wendy Clayton: Gift certificate to Call of the Wild school for dogs 


TJ Galullo: Dog daycare from DSPA 


Catherine Fisher: A FREE visit to the Roscoe Village Animal Hospital 


Renee Richardson: Grooming from George Groome




Special thanks to these businesses and to Senior Loan Officer Todd Fischer for hanging out with us. And to everyone who came out to support PAWS Chicago!


July 3, 2017

How to Prepare to Sell Your Home


Denny Development Home Chicago


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. 

Posted in Chicago
April 4, 2017

Is a Zillow Zestimate of your Home Value Accurate?



Spring is the best time to sell a property in Chicago as more buyers are looking for homes. One reason is that families house hunt in school districts tailored to their children’s education. With the influx of buyers, it can be a little frustrating for home sellers when online tools like the Zillow Zestimate estimates a property value lower than the sales price. Buyers may question the higher sales price.

There are various reasons that a Zillow Zestimate might be lower than a sales price. Vital information such as interior and exterior home renovations may not be included as the algorithm is pulling off the previous sale of the home. This can cause inaccurate descriptions, like square footage and/or room count, that drive home estimates down. Another factor is that home values are based on past sales and if the market is significantly hotter, those sales may not be an indicator of the current market.


How is a Zestimate determined?

According to Zillow, it is calculated by past sales price, the mortgage records attached to those sales and prior tax assessments - publicly available data. They include psychical features like bedrooms and bathrooms, age and location that weigh the variables to determine the estimate. This information is key, but they are pulling it from public records that may not be up to date or may have been inaccurate from the beginning.


Can your home Zestimate be updated?

Yes, there is a way to fill in a more accurate description of your home. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your estimate will be on target, but at least it can increase the value. Plus, you can creatively add information to entice buyers. Here are some tips on How to Increase Your Home's Zillow Zestimate.

If you have questions or would like a custom property value assessment, contact Charese at (312) 399-1271 or email at A custom property value assessment will help determine an up to date market value based on current sales of comparable properties.

Posted in Real Estate Tips
March 2, 2017

Spring Cleaning Tips for Homeowners


spring cleaning

Photo Credit: Ask Anna


Spring is a great time to freshen up your home by decluttering and cleaning. With warmer weather already here in Chicago, you might want to make a plan before summer sneaks up on you. Once summer is here, there’s no staying in the house! 


Whether selling your home or doing regular maintenance to dust off winter, Charese has a few great spring cleaning tips to get your home ready for a fresh, new season. 


Make a Plan

  • Start early in the spring, to complete the list before summer.
  • Walk through each room and make two lists – one list for the things you can do and the other for handyman repairs.
  • Organize your list into manageable chunks of time to prevent burn out. 
  • Purchase cleaning supplies. 
  • Hire a handyman for more labor intensive repairs.

Interior spring cleaning ideas:

  • Go through closets and storage to remove the clutter. Donate items you haven’t used in awhile or maybe even forgot about.
  • Deep clean areas such as baseboards, carpets and rugs, walls, light fixtures, windows and window treatments/curtains and appliances. 
  • Clean behind and under furniture. It may even inspire you to redesign the layout of the room.
  • Take a look at your utility room, laundry room and garage to see if you can organize the space in a better way. Think about the way you move around in the room.  

Exterior spring cleaning ideas:

  • Clean up the yard including raking old grass, putting down grass seed, and trimming back trees and dead branches.
  • Consider curb appeal, plan your garden and landscaping.
  • Check sewers for drainage. 
  • Dust off your lawn mower.
  • Power wash the walkways, decks and siding.
  • Take a look at the gutters and have the roof inspected. 
  • Service the furnace and air conditioning.

Do you need referrals for your home repairs and/or landscaping? Call Charese at (312) 399-1271 or email

Posted in Design Ideas