Sept. 15, 2021

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. 13, 2021

Chicago Residential Architecture Design

Chicago is well-known for its architecture with sleek skyscrapers and ornate buildings that lend to our magnificent skyline. The neighborhoods, too, are comprised of residential housing spanning over a century of design, layout and materials that are characteristic of our beautiful city. 


The “Great Chicago Fire” of Oct. 8, 1871, changed the laws requiring new buildings to be constructed of fireproof materials such as brick, stone, marble and limestone instead of wood. This shifted the architecture of our city. Although, with wood being less expensive than the fireproof materials, there were those who ignored the new laws. And what would Chicago look like if the fire never happened? 


Here's a brief historical context of Chicago residential architecture styles.


Worker Cottage


Worker Cottage

Source: Moss Design


Chicago was booming as the population tripled in size from 1880-1910 with the influx of European immigrants. Railroads fueled industrial growth, such as the meat packing industry, which provided jobs to these immigrants. Built as early as the 1830’s, these utilitarian homes were initially built of wood but more commonly brick after the fire of 1871. They are a long and narrow rectangular-shaped dwelling with a two or three-bay gabled facade. The cottages are one-and-a-half stories with two to three rooms and a raised basement. 


Links to more information:



Chicago Bungalow


Chicago Bungalow

Source: Chicago Bungalow Association


Built between 1910 and 1940, the bungalow circled Chicago’s center from the far north to the farthest south side neighborhoods, creating a Bungalow Belt. More than 80,000 bungalows still stand today and represent one-third of the city’s single-family housing style. As the first affordable home, this offered the working-class a residence with previously uncommon modern amenities such as central heating, electricity and modern plumbing. A bungalow is characterized by it’s one-and-a-half stories, slant-ceilinged attic, brick construction, street facing veranda, and full basement. They were constructed of limestone accents, dormered roof, concrete entry stairs and standardized fixtures. The roots of the bungalow come from the Arts and Crafts Movement and followed the philosophy that healthy living included a connection to the outdoors.


Links to more information:





With the housing shortage after the Great Chicago Fire and the rise of the industrial era, density was a priority. The multi unit greystone buildings with apartment flats stacked on each other were a solution. Although some were built as single family homes. Constructed from around 1890-1930’s, these long narrow dwellings have a limestone facade, sourced from nearby quarries, and the sides and back are made of brick. They have a variety of ornamentation styles, from Gothic features to the most common a simplified Classical Revival. In a typical layout, the front porch opens to the living spaces with bay windows, bedrooms on one side and the kitchen in the rear. 


Links to more information:


Courtyard Apartment Building


Courtyard Building

Source: Chicago Architecture Center


Similar to the greystone, the courtyard building was built in response to the shortage of housing after the fire. Built around 1910-1930, courtyard apartments were rarely taller than three stories due to fire code restrictions that made it more expensive to build higher. Residents share the front entry stairwell as well as the back porch stairs, connecting neighbors through vertical thoroughfares. Each back porch has a small, semi-private outdoor space. This design lends to cross ventilation and shared utilities. The U-shaped front offers green space, which provided an area for residents to interact and a space for children to play. This developed a sense of community. 


Links to more information:



American Foursquare


American Foursquare

Source: Curbed Chicago


Built between the 1890 and the mid 1930’s, the American Foursquare, with its straight-forward symmetrical design, square floor plan and roomy interior, stepped away from the ornate Victorian and Revival styles of the late 1800’s. It’s architectural roots are from the Prairie style and emphasized symmetry and restrained ornamentation. The two-and-a-half story home has an attic dormer centered in the front, a full basement and a low hipped room. Catalog companies, such as Sears and Roebucks, popularized this style by offering mail-order home designs. 


Links to more information:


Two- and Three-flats


Two Flat

Source: Chicago Architecture Center


Chicago two- and three-flat apartment buildings make up a quarter of Chicago housing. Constructed between 1900 and 1920, they were built to ease the increased housing demand as immigrants flocked to the city to work at various industrial corporations. These dwellings offered denser housing and owners could earn extra income form renting out a unit. The facade of these buildings were wood, brick or stone. Interior details were typically representative of the Arts and Crafts style featuring ornate wooden moldings such as functional built-in hutches, cabinetry, bookshelves and pantries.


Links to more information:


The design firm ALSO has created illustrated prints of these historical homes that are available for saleIf you'd like to continue this conversation or have questions, comments or stories about your historic home, please contact us.

July 15, 2021

How Schools Affect Real Estate Values

Chicago Public Schools


There are a lot factors that attract home buyers to specific neighborhoods. Conveniences such as the proximity to the CTA and highways, commute time to work, nearby shopping and dining, distance to Lake Michigan or one of the many parks tend to play a role in the home buying decision. But one of the biggest reasons people choose a neighborhood is because of a good school. Even those without children see the value of a competitive school. The fact is, people are willing to pay more for a smaller house and less amenities to afford to live in these neighborhoods. 


Good schools have enticed people to certain neighborhoods for decades. Everyone wants their child to have the advantage of a quality education. CPS (Chicago Public Schools) has worked tirelessly to increase the level of education it can offer. A portion of our property taxes fund these schools. When there were fewer top-rated schools, parents struggled to enroll their kids in the good ones. The neighborhoods with the best schools tended to be unaffordable to the average home buyer. But that is now changing. 


In the past few years, public schools that were not considered to be competitive, have risen in their rankings. In fact, 5 CPS high schools are ranked among the top 100 in the nation. How did this change? Communities have rallied around the need for higher educational standards. Parents also play a huge role in their involvement and continue to expect good, solid education for their children in both primary and secondary education. 


How do you find a school that fits your family’s needs? 


Numerical metrics — school test scores, rankings, graduation rates are important but only part of the story. Look beyond the numbers at the schools' specialized programs, teaching methods and priorities. We live in a city that is rich with opportunity to learn and diverse in its offerings. Assess your child’s interests in a particular subject, such as math or music, and find schools that thrive in those areas. 


Once you’ve narrowed down your search, call the school(s) and ask specific questions about the teachers, classroom size and community involvement. Speak to other parents who have a child enrolled in that school. Ask questions on the local Facebook page. And search online for information. 


Online Resources:

School Design Impacts Learning 


A look back to the 1920s reflects how Chicago school design changed based on new ideas about child development and health. This was the decade when more public elementary schools were constructed than any other era. Explore the evolution of Chicago's public school designs to learn about rich architectural history. Plus, there were Four Features Of 1920s Chicago Public Schools That Reflect Changes In Education that were innovative in design and helped children thrive.


If you have any questions about Chicago schools, please contact us. 

June 16, 2021

Tips for a Beautiful Urban Garden

The planting season is in full swing in Chicago! Flowers and plants add a relaxing retreat to any outdoor space. With all the amazing, neighborhood garden walks, there's plenty of inspiration. For curb appeal, consider the style of your home so the design will seamlessly move from the exterior of your home to the interior. Here are some simple tips from local garden specialists on how to plant and maintain your garden all summer long!

Urban Garden Chicago

Photo credit: Flowerlife

Window Boxes and Flower Containers

At this point in the season, Joanne Greene, owner of On the Ledge Landscaping says your best bet to designing a beautiful outdoor space is to create a container garden. Using containers are a simple way to add color and beautiful touches to your balcony, rooftop and outdoor patio space.

Urban Garden Chicago 

Photo credit: On the Ledge Landscaping

The first step to a beautiful container is fertile soil with proper drainage. “The soil should be pre-moistened and easily crumble out of your hands–not too wet or dry. And fertilize during the summer,” explained Ananda Breslof, owner of Flowerlife. She advised to water two times a day in the heat–first thing in the morning and late afternoon. Watering midday might lead to scorched flowers.

Joanne Charron, owner of Cartwheel Gardens confirmed this and added that plants in the shade require less water. “If you let the pot dry out, the water will run through–don't think you're overwatering, let the soil soak up the moisture and do it again.”

 Urban Garden Chicago

Photo credit: On the Ledge Landscaping

When combining plants in containers and boxes, Breslof advised not to crowd the planter. “Work with what pleases you. I love combining deep colors with very pale ones–it adds depth to the display. Taller plants provide height and hanging plants create a lush waterfall effect that can be seen mid summer.”

Urban Garden Chicago

Photo credit: On the Ledge Landscaping

Greene added that using oregano as a draping plant at the edge of your container looks gorgeous and smells delicious.

Breslof’s current favorite plants are fountain grasses with punches of color and country flowers. “Using simple clean whites, variegated wild grass and Caladium is an elegant approach for the modern home,” she explained. “Relax and have fun planting, it’s therapeutic and helps you feel calm and inspired!”

Urban Garden Chicago

Photo credit: Flowerlife

Landscape Design

Charron advised to avoid the planting panic of May. “You can plant any time you want–just make sure to water it profusely afterwards if it happens to be a very hot day. June is the best time to plant in Chicago.” She recommended plants in Zone 2-6. “Sometimes the plant requires soil needs we don't have, even if it's a tough zone 4. If you want on-going color in the summer go for tropicals–they last up to the first frost and sometimes beyond.”

Urban Garden Chicago

Photo credit: On the Ledge Landscaping

Maintenance begins with a design and plants that match your skill level in the garden. Greene recommended choosing plants you are comfortable to work with. Simple, functional designs are best. Keep garden beds weed free, often with the aid of weed fabric. Once flowers bloom, “deadhead” or cut back the flowers to encourage new growth. Watering three to four times a week will produce a beautiful landscape garden.  A good designer can add to your plan as you gain experience.

Urban Garden Chicago

Photo credit: On the Ledge Landscaping

At the end of July, Ball Horticultural Company opens it’s trial gardens to the public to offer a glimpse into the beautiful flowers that will be available the following spring. “Look for new DNA stunners that sparkle in your garden–these new shapes, sizes, colors and profuse bloomers create magical gardens–no extra work involved,” Greene explained.

Urban Garden Chicago

Photo credit: On the Ledge Landscaping

Edible Gardens

“The biggest mistake in gardening is not starting because you’re afraid to fail,” said Jen Rosenthal, Owner/Consultant for Planted | Chicago, “read, figure it out, and play with it.”

Growing herbs is one of the best ways to start. Herbs work better when they’re in their own container because some, like mint, will take over a landscape. Some also need more water than others.

Cilantro is a cool weather plant. They key is to cut cilantro regularly to keep it alive, otherwise it will bolt leaving you with coriander seeds. Pinch basil flower heads to prolong life.  Basil needs heat–it turns black with cold damage. If you purchase basil, put it in a cup of water on your counter to prolong the life. Other favorite herbs are sage, parsley, oregano, rosemary and thyme.

Urban Garden Chicago

Photo credit: Planted | Chicago

Vegetables should be planted early to mid June. When shopping for vegetable plants, find varieties with shorter days to maturity, 60-70 days to maturity, when the first fruit is ready to eat.

The soil in Chicago might be toxic. Rosenthal recommended testing the soil or using raised beds with weed block material. EarthBox, with a built-in irrigation system is a simple way to maintain and grow vegetables. If you don’t have a self-watering system in your raised bed, they require deep watering, less frequently. A quick way to check if it’s dry is to stick your finger in the soil two to three inches. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and eggplant need full sun and require a lot of water. A benefit to growing these varieties is that they keep producing fruit.

With root vegetables, you get one fruit and they are harder to grow. If you do grow vegetables such as radish, beets, carrots, onions and scallions, plant them in full sun otherwise they won’t produce the root. Egyptian walking onions and gigantic scallions form flower heads that fall into the garden for multiple, re-seeding.

 Urban Garden Chicago

Photo credit: Planted | Chicago

Leafy greens, such as kale, Swiss chard, lettuce, arugula and spinach are best when planted in the spring and fall when it’s cooler. Some varieties of lettuce can grow in summer, as long as they are in shade during the hottest time of day. You can cut leafy greens two to three times before they lose their flavor and turn bitter. These plants will bolt, which means they grow a flower sprout in attempt to drop seeds for a new harvest.

Apples, nectarines, peach and cherry trees need a lot of room. Consult with a specialist to get spacing advice. Blueberries and strawberries can be grown in big containers. You will need two blueberry plants–they can be two varieties, to cross-pollinate. It’s best to consult with your local garden center when choosing the right plants.




Posted in Design Ideas
May 14, 2021

10 Common Real Estate Myths

Common Real Estate Myths


In doing your own research or listening to stories from family and friends, you might think that you know how the real estate industry works. It’s good to be informed and getting recommendations from people close to you instills trust. But how often do you buy or sell a home? 


While some aspects of real estate have stayed the same for decades, in recent years, technology in the industry is radically changing the way we buy and sell properties. If you’re not a real estate profession, working day-to-day in the field, it’s hard to keep up. In fact, believing certain myths could cost you money when it’s time to buy or sell a home. Check out these ten common myths:


Selling a home yourself will save you money

With all the online resources, it is possible to sell your home yourself. Selling a home is a big undertaking, especially without the help of a real estate professional. In the end, what you save on a real estate commission might actually mean a lower sales price. Find out more in Why Hire a Real Estate Broker?


All real estate agents are the same

There are a lot of really good real estate brokers in Chicago. Although, they’re not all the same. It’s important to have a high comfort level with your real estate broker. You can get referrals from friends, research online reviews and ask the broker for client referrals. The most important thing is the feeling you get from a broker in a face-to-face meeting, so set up an interview and check out our Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Real Estate Broker


A good real estate broker will be actively involved in the whole process, from start to finish. They will be focused on your needs and working in your interest. The realtor makes the deal happen. Plus, the relationship between the buyer's realtor and the seller's realtor is very important because they are the front people for their clients.


The real estate market will only go up

Home prices have been going up in recent years. But remember the economic downturn and sharp decline in 2008? If home prices have gone up, there’s a good chance for a market correction. Although, it hopefully will not be drastic like a decade ago. Remember, owning a home is most beneficial when it is a long term investment. 


Renovation costs will be covered in the sale of your home

Not necessarily, unless you find that perfect buyer with your exact tastes. If a recent renovation isn’t appealing to a buyer, they probably won’t be motivated to redo the renovation and will pass on your property. You’re better off adjusting the home price. As for renovation projects, do them for your own enjoyment at least a couple years before you are ready to sell.


A home will either pass or fail an inspection 

As a home inspector evaluates the condition of a property, they will find things that need to be fixed. No property is perfect. In fact, they are hired by the buyer to do an independent evaluation so they understand the condition of the home. It’s not pass or fail. And the fixes are negotiable between the buyer and seller. An inspector might throw out numbers, estimating the cost of repairs, but you really need to get estimates from professional contractor. Costs will vary from contractor to contractor and many times the inspector is wrong about what actually needs to be fixed. 


Zillow’s home estimate is correct

Not usually. There are various reasons for this. 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. Read more at Is a Zillow Zestimate of your Home Value Accurate? 


Open houses draw the most serious buyers

Open houses draw people who are curious about what’s on the market, inquisitive neighbors and those looking to see how a place is decorated. Serious buyers do come to open houses, but many times they are not ready to put in an offer. I have sold properties at open houses, but more often than not, the open house serves as a great marketing venue to help spread the word.


Start with a low offer on a home

While there is nothing wrong with negotiating, you might alienate the seller. A low offer tends to be insulting and won’t be taken seriously. Start with a fair offer and this will lead to amiable negotiations and cooperation along the way. 


Multiple price reductions or on the market a long time means desperation to sell

In a changing market, property price points will change quickly. It can be harder to determine a fair market value in this type of economy. Price reductions are made to be competitive and aligned with current comparables in the area. If the home has been on the market for some time, it could also be due to the home’s layout, location or condition. It all comes down to demand and price for a certain type of property. 


Multiple offers are an advantage to home sellers 

It may seem like this scenario would guarantee the home would sell for top dollar. Maybe, and maybe not. A bidding war can be stressful for both the seller and potential buyers. If the buyers feel like they’re being played, the seller may end up watching all the leads disappear. Or, if the home is underpriced, there’s a chance that multiple offers won’t bring the price up to fair market value. It can be tricky. 


If you have questions about the real estate market or the “best”solutions to selling or buying a home, please contact us.

April 15, 2021

How Color Sets the Mood of your Home

Menard Johnson Real Estate Home Color


Color affects mood. More than likely, you already know this. But then again, color can be so subtle that you might not even think of the affect that it has on you. The way we use the rooms of our homes has changed quite a bit. With so much time spent indoors, especially since 2020, it’s worth the time to evaluate your sense of feeling in the spaces you occupy. For instance, certain colors can uplift, while others create a relaxing vibe. Doesn’t it make sense to alter the colors of your home to work in your favor?

Bright colors energize, while muted colors calm. Darker shades can be more powerful and elegant. Red, orange and yellow colors tend to be upliftting, creating positive feelings. While shades of blue can feel tranquil and peaceful. Choose colors that you are drawn to. Do you have a favorite memory that makes you feel good? Maybe a trip to Mexico with the vibrant colors of a sunset. Or a stay at a resort with blue, calming waters. Use memories as inspiration. Colors can be used throughout, not only on walls, but also with accents such as paintings, throws, rugs and pillows.

The Many Shades of a Mood

The same color can create different moods. It depends on the shade and how it’s used in a room. But then again, this might not apply because a certain hue may trigger a favorite memory that makes you feel happy.

Warm Colors: red, orange and yellow evoke happiness, optimism and energy.
Cool Colors: green, blue and purple create a calming and soothing feeling.
Happy Colors: yellow, orange, pink, red and pastel colors are happy. The brighter and lighter, the happier, more optimistic.
Sad Colors: blue, green, neutrals like brown and beige have the effect of a somber mood.
Calming Colors: blue, green, lilac, mint, white, beige and gray tend to soothe and relax.
Energizing Colors: bright colors (red, yellow), neons (green), highly pigmented colors (royal blue, turquoise, magenta, emerald green) can generate an energetic feel.

The Meaning of Colors

Red: Passion, Love. Action-oriented
Orange: Energy, Happiness, Vitality
Yellow: Happiness, Hope, Spontaneous
Green: Health, Abundance, Refreshed
Blue: Calm, Productive, Safe
Purple: Creativity, Royalty, Wealth
Pink: Feminine, Romance, Sensitive
Brown: Stability, Support, Practical
Black: Mystery, Elegance, Professional
White: Simplicity, Minimal, Fresh
Gray: Mature, Conservative, Formality

Best Paint Colors for Each Room of your Home

White, Light Neutral: small rooms, kitchen
Blue: office, bedroom, bathroom, living room
Red, Orange, Yellow: kitchen, accent walls
Green: kitchen
Pink: foyer, dressing room, bedroom
Earth Tones: living room

You can now see how the interplay of color can set the mood. Walk through the spaces of your home and see how you feel. What’s the mood of your home?

If you have any questions about real estate, please give us a call. We’re happy to help!

Posted in Design Ideas
March 15, 2021

The Best Way to Determine Home Value

Real Estate Home Value


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? Please contact us for more info. 


Feb. 15, 2021

Protect your Home During a Cold Snap

cold weather tips for home


It’s not uncommon for Chicago to experience an extreme cold snap in January or February. And while not uncommon, it’s best not to be unprepared. There are a few different ways that frigid cold temperatures can cause damage to your home. Follow these simple steps in and around your home to keep things running smoothly. 


Inside your home: 

  1. Set your thermostat to a minimum of 65 degrees. Keep the setting consistent, same temp all day and night. This helps prevent your water pipes from freezing, which can lead to bursting pipes. 
  2. Check your furnace settings to make sure the humidifier is set to match the outside temperature.
  3. Examine your furnace filter and replace if necessary. 
  4. Turn off space heaters when you sleep or leave your home. 
  5. Know the location of the main the main water shutoff valve in your home. Keep the surrounding area clear for easy access. 
  6. Inspect your windows and doors for cracks and air seepage. Invest in a window insulation kit.
  7. Slowly drip hot and cold faucets at night to keep the water moving in the pipes to prevent freezing. In an unfinished basement, keep the laundry sink dripping.
  8. Close your fireplace flue when not in use. 

Outside your home:

  1. Clear snow and ice from sidewalks and entrances to your home. If you use salt, make sure it is child and pet friendly. 
  2. Notice any hazardous icicles in and around the entrances and remove them. 
  3. Check the exterior HVAC and dryer vents to make sure they aren’t blocked by snow and ice. 
  4. Look for ice dams near gutter downspouts, remove blockages. 
  5. Inspect your roof for too much snow accumulation. If you have water leaks or damning, call your roofer. Check for interior water damage. 
  6. Remove snow from wood railings deck and balconies, it may cause warping. 
  7. Examine your trees for damaged or dead branches that could break and fall. 

If you have any questions about real estate or need referrals for home maintenance, give us a call. Hope you’re keeping warm and enjoying winter. Spring is around the corner!

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!