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
Feb. 3, 2017

Questions to Ask Before Hiring 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 fact-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. 

Charese has had years of experience in developing relationships with her clients. The following are the questions that she suggests you ask a broker.

Q: How long have you been a real estate broker?

A: I’ve been in real estate since 2005, almost 12 years. 

Q: Do you own your home?

A: Yes, even before I was a broker, I was interested in real estate. In 1992, I bought my first condo in River West. I was president of the association for four years out of the nine years that I lived there. It was built in the 1870s, so I learned a great deal about vintage buildings. In 2001, I graduated to owning a single family home in Roscoe Village. This home was built in 1896 and I’ve completely renovated it. I then started investing in other real estate opportunities that I could renovate, rent and/or flip for resale. With my extensive renovation knowledge, I have a vision of how homes can be updated to suit my client’s needs. I have a list of reliable contractors that I can refer to you. And with my experience of managing buildings, I have a resource for understanding ROI and rental expectations. 

Q: How are you different from other real estate brokers?

A: As I mentioned, I have a lot of personal experience with owning and renting my own homes. Since 1986, I’ve lived in many different neighborhoods in Chicago. Through the years, I’ve watched the diverse real estate development cycles. I have a deep understanding of the city. It has fueled my passion for different architecture styles. I share this historical knowledge with my clients.

Along with this, I have an eye for design, staging and renovation. My design skills include photography - I’m able to look at home or room and see it from a different design perspective. I can come up with a lot of inspiring ideas for my clients, whether they are selling or buying. 

Prior to becoming a real estate broker, I was the director of sales for a media company for 16 years. In 1991, I opened the office in Chicago to expand and grow the business. Through this experience, I gained invaluable sales negotiation skills. 

Each client I work with has unique needs. Buying or selling a home can be emotional, so I take extra care in developing a relationship in which they know they can rely on me. I work closely with them to understand their objectives and think outside the box to offer ideas and solutions. It’s extremely important that each client gets this type of individualized service. When I work with a client, our relationship goes beyond the real estate transaction.

Q: Do you have references?

A: Yes, I can offer references - email me at

And here are online reviews:

Yelp reviews 

Zillow reviews 


Q: How long have worked with your real estate agency? Why did you choose to work there? How is it different from other agencies?

A: I’ve been with MenardJohnson since 2006. It’s a small, boutique real estate agency in Roscoe Village that has been in business since 1976. The longevity truly is a testament to the customer service and expertise of the managing broker, Al Johnson. If you need to know anything about real estate, ask Al. He has seen Chicago change in unimaginable ways. Because of this experience, he brings a wealth of knowledge to every transaction. I have learned so much from him and continue to learn from him daily. 

Q: Did you have a career prior to working in real estate?

A: Yes, for 16 years I was director of sales for a media company.

Q: Why did you pursue a real estate career?

A: I got into real estate because I enjoy building client relationships. Buying or selling a home is a big decision and to see someone achieve a personal goal is beyond gratifying. I feel success for my client when I watch their dream come true. It’s amazing to experience that. The relationship is very different compared to a corporate relationship.

Another reason I’m in real estate is because the market is always evolving. There’s never a day that’s the same. As a broker, I have to keep up with the changes. And I love to constantly learn about the Chicago real estate market. Plus, having a passion for it inspires me to continually evolve.  

Q: Are you personally involved with all aspects of my real estate transaction or do you work with a team?

A: I am personally involved in the whole process. I do not gather your information and then hand you off to a team member. I think that in those situations there can be miscommunication. It’s important to me that we work together to realize your goals. I am always available to my clients and am committed to having the process go as smoothly as possible. 

Q: How do you market a property that you’re selling?

A: First of all, I provide a customized strategic approach to meet your specific goals. When I work with clients, I create a Custom Analysis that entails in-depth research on the property, taking into consideration variables such as school districts, location, renovations, the structure, age of the property and so much more.

Once we have the property value, I hire a professional photographer to take photos and create a floor plan of your home. The photos represent curb appeal. If someone likes the way your home looks online, they’re going to be excited to come see it. After I list your property on the MLS, other real estate websites, such as Zillow, Red Fin and Trulia pick it up and advertise the listing. It also gets advertised through email newsletters, social media and my extensive personal network. 

Q: What are your fees and commissions? 

A: This depends on the transaction. If you work with me, I can give you financial details on everything, including cancellations and what fees you’re responsible for according to our contractual agreement. Everything we discuss is confidential.





Jan. 10, 2017

Tips for Home Buyers and Sellers

Are you thinking of buying or selling in 2017? Top real estate broker in Chicago, Charese David, shares her expertise on preparing for the real estate market. Now is the prime time to start the planning process as the first quarter of the year is typically the best time to buy or sell in Chicago. This includes the spring real estate market, which starts around the Super Bowl (February 5, 2017) and usually winds down in June.


Q: Any general advice for people considering buying or selling this year?


A: Take your time. This is a big decision and not something you want to rush into. Get organized, do your prep work before you start the process. If you are buying, meet with a mortgage broker to provide insight on interest rates. I can recommend a few very good mortgage brokers, if you’re looking for one.


Interview real estate brokers. Check out broker reviews as this will provide good insight. Zillow and Yelp reviews are great to browse, along with references from past clients. Research their credentials to determine if they are a good fit for your home buying or selling goals. This real estate professional should have a wide range of knowledge about the Chicago market. They will help you understand the nuances of the property values.


If you are buying, your real estate broker can share information about the history of the area, zoning restrictions (for fixer upers), local commerce and community events and media. They can tell you if an area is sleepy community or one that has a more social atmosphere. And even if you have your neighborhoods narrowed down, your broker may offer suggestions in alternate neighborhoods where you can get more bang for your buck and possibly a bigger return when you go to sell years down the road. 


If you are selling, ask your real estate broker if they can do a Custom Analysis on your home. This is more than an MLS review of tax records and comparables. It involves in-depth research, reviewing specific property details versus just pulling generic numbers. When I work with clients, I take time to research their property, taking into consideration variables such as school disctricts, location, renovations, the structure, age of the property and so much more.


Q: How should home buyers prep for house hunting?


A: Research the neighborhoods that you would like to live in. You can start by searching prices online to find properties that fit within your budget. Once you’ve narrowed down the area(s), spend time in the neighborhood(s) at various times of day. Hang out in coffee shops, wander the retail and grocery stores, eat lunch or dinner in the restaurants, grab a drink at a local pub and explore public transportation. 


Get a good sense of the type of people and establishments in the area. How safe is the neighborhood? Ask around, research online - real estate brokers are technically not allowed to discuss safety issues, making it important to get a feel for the community as a whole. 


If you have young children and you’d like to enroll them in school, check out the CPS (Chicago Public School) website for school rankings. Call the school and ask specific questions about the teachers, classroom size and community involvement. Then map boundaries so you know where to look for a home. 


Q: What about prepping for selling a home?


A: Take a look inside and outside your home. Are there things that need to be fixed? Call a handyman to make the repairs. Be willing to invest money so your home will show at its absolute best. This is also the time to purge by donating items that you don’t use. Organize your home, clear the clutter to allow potential buyers to envision themselves in the space.


As a part of my process, I work with my sellers to assess their property in determining the property value and how to update it to sell. I give advice on cosmetic changes such as light fixtures or paint, minimal investments that will improve your chances of selling your home faster and for asking price. I know what buyers are looking for, what the market demands and the current trends. My experience includes both new homes and home renovations, so I am up to speed on the latest styles and technology.


Another part of my process in working with sellers is to help them understand what is going on in the market and what to expect when you actually go to list your home. If you’re selling in order to purchase a new home, find out how the timing can work in your favor or against you.


There is so much to understand, take the time to do it right! And find the right team of real estate professionals to help you. Feel free to contact me at if you have questions. 



Dec. 7, 2016

How are North Center's Rising Home Prices Affecting Families?

In a recent article, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) expressed concern over the Chicago North Center neighborhood's increasing housing prices. With enrollment down in both Bell and Coonley elementary schools in 2016-17, Pawar pointed to the housing market in driving young families away from the neighborhood. Price points for single family homes are becoming too high, as most families can’t afford over $1.2M. 


Purchasing a multi unit building used to be a great way to offset costs of a home because the family could live in one unit and then rent the other unit. Those types of buildings are few and far between as a lot of them have been purchased and converted to large single family homes. Once a building is converted, the home value can increase to over $1.3M - out of the price range of the average buyer. 


If this trend doesn’t change, five years down the road the area’s top-rated schools might become under-enrolled and as a result, under-financed. Families need financial balance through affordable housing in Chicago. Otherwise they will move to the suburbs where they can spend less on a larger home and enroll their kids in great schools.


How did housing prices increase so quickly in North Center? The policy in place in recent years was to encourage developers to build larger, non-starter homes to ease density issues and overcrowding in elementary schools. This has created fewer affordable housing options for young families. Pawar’s solution now is to allow developers to build more entry-level units and focus on diversified housing.


Q & A with Charese David, Real Estate Broker


Q: What are your thoughts about Ald. Pawar’s comments?


A: Ald. Pawar makes a good point - people want to live in the city, in quaint neighborhoods, near good schools, but they’re getting priced out by both rising home prices and higher taxes. I’ve started to see families moving to the suburbs. If the attrition continues, then school enrollment will decline along with the city’s population. 


Millennials with high debts can’t afford or don’t want to invest in these bigger homes. When they changed the zoning to limit density, they limited developers as to what they could build - less units and lower building heights. We ended up with these bigger single family homes and converted two flats that are now too expensive for a lot of buyers. We’re losing diversity in the neighborhood because it has become unaffordable for middle class families. This neighborhood is now a completely different demographic from what it was in the early 2000s. 


I saw the demand for three to four units buildings ten years ago. In some neighborhoods, developers are allowed to tear down a home and build these multi unit condo buildings. But in North Center and Roscoe Village, there are heavy restrictions. New condominium buildings are only on main streets. There are a few older multi unit buildings on side streets that already existed before the zoning changed. If new multi unit dwellings were allowed, it would create more affordable housing and ease the tax burden on the homeowners. It would also allow for more foot traffic to help local businesses.


Q: How much can an average buyer afford?


A: When you look at the housing market and what families can afford, the sweet spot is $800K - $1.1M. Some can afford more, but not everyone wants to spend much more on a home. They want a comfortable lifestyle, without being house rich, cash poor. 


Q: What are families looking for in a home?


A: They are looking for four bedroom homes. They prefer single family homes with a small yard, but would consider a four bed condo with outdoor space. 


Q: What’s the solution?


A: Allow developers to build two to three unit buildings with condos that have four bedrooms and three bathrooms. Most families have two children, so this is ideal. Another way to help the lagging enrollment is to enlarge the boundaries for schools. Once a boundary is increased, more people would look into moving into those districts with solid school report cards.


If Pawar’s changes to policy take affect, the North Center and Roscoe Village communities could have a completely different neighborhood in the next fifteen years - a thriving, diverse community.