Dec. 6, 2018

Simple Ways to Give Back


The Joy of Giving Back

Giving Back this Holiday Season


As we enter the holiday season, it’s the perfect time to focus on gratitude and giving. Choosing to do something good during this time can be the start of a wonderful tradition for yourself or your family. It can also refocus your attention onto something that feels good and alleviate some of the stress of the season. And there are many ways to give back that don’t require a lot of planning. 


Little Acts of Kindness


When we think of giving back, it’s often to strangers for some cause. How about looking to family and friends? This time of year can be stressful, so simply reaching out to see how a friend is doing can go a long way. If someone is overworked, volunteer to babysit or walk the dog. Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk. Volunteer to drive a friend to the airport or pick them up. Cook a meal for your sister’s family. Host a movie night and chill with friends. Read a book to kids or an elderly relative. Listen closely in conversation and you’ll hear exactly what those around you need at this time. 


Pay it Forward


Another simple, yet clever way to give back is to pay it forward. Get the drink or lunch of the person behind you at the coffee shop. Pay the toll of the car after you. Hand out $5 dollar gift cards to people you interact with such as your bank teller, cashier and coffee barista. Leave a thank you note in your mailbox for the carrier. Add extra tip for the server when you’re out at a restaurant.


Drop off pencils, craft supplies or books at your local school. Instead of food donations, find out if your local food back needs other items, like shampoo, soap, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, and toilet paper. Find a place in your community where you can donate blood. Bring cookies to a local nursing home. Donate your used magazines to someone who is housebound. 


Spend time at your local library helping someone with their resume. Send out holiday cards to deployed military members. Get your kids to donate toys or sports gear they no longer use. Volunteer at your local animal shelter. 


Smile, hold doors open for others and wish them ‘Happy Holidays’ when out shopping. Say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ to strangers. Paying it forward doesn’t have to be monetary. Just a smile, will brighten someone’s day and they in turn, will carry that smile to the next person. 


Find an Organization that Inspires You


There is so much you can do at any time of the year. It can be volunteering time and/or money. The most important thing is that it resonates with your heart. if you’re unsure of where to start, here are some websites that offer opportunities to make a difference in your community. 


Chicago Cares -


One Good Deed Chicago -


VolunteerMatch -


Hands On Suburban Chicago -



Donating to a Cause


In the spirit of giving back, here's a list of organizations we support. Ask your employer if they’re matching donations to causes. And if not, would they consider it?

Salvation Army -

Chicago Food Bank -

Meals on Wheels Chicago -

Peace Hospice and Palliative Care -

The Catholic Charities -

Mercy Home for Boys and Girls -

Boys and Girls Clubs Chicago -

PAWS Chicago -

Chicago Canine Resuce -

The Anti-Cruelty Society -

We find that when we help others, we receive much more in return. We hope that you receive all that you desire. Wishing you a festive season filled with love, laughter and good eats. Happy holidays!

Nov. 6, 2018

Fall 2018 Real Estate Update

By Charese David

How is the Chicago real estate market changing? It's shifting from a seller's market to a buyer's market. 

Looking to buy a home?

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. Meet with a mortgage broker to provide insight on interest rates and what you can afford. I can recommend a few 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 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.

When buying a home, 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. 

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. Go on a school tour so you can get a feel for how it operates. Then map boundaries so you know where to look for a home. 

Buying a home doesn’t need to be overwhelming if you’re working with the right broker. Real estate is my passion. I am dedicated to gathering knowledge and am committed to building client relationships. If you have questions or comments, please us.

Oct. 2, 2018

High Level of Service: My Commitment to Home Sellers

By Charese David

It’s always rewarding when I can help great clients like Jason and Liz Crews. They had a beautiful house in Roscoe Village that I helped them sell. During the initial inspection, we came across some major issues that needed to be resolved before the home could close. Meanwhile, they had moved out of state, so I had to step up and manage the whole process. Luckily, I have a huge network of professionals that I can call on to help in all real estate areas. Part of my speciality when working with clients is my personal service. I want my clients to know that I am with them every step of the way. The real estate process can be confusing if you’re not working with a professional broker to guide you. It is my commitment to clients that they have a clear understanding of what needs to happen and provide reliable referrals to make sure everything goes smoothly. In the end, we were able to resolve the problem and Jason and Liz walked away happy clients. 

Aug. 20, 2018

Chicago Residential Architecture Design

By Charese David

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? 


As I’ve worked with clients over the years, both home buyers and sellers, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different architecture styles. In fact, architectural design is one of my passions. That’s why I decided to give you 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 10, 2018

Urban Outdoor Design Inspiration

An outdoor area is one of the most important spaces in a home. With our shorter warm weather season, a lot of Chicago homeowners take full advantage of the outdoors. An inviting urban oasis for both relaxing and entertaining can feel like a retreat. This is also a key factor for those thinking of selling their home. 


Outdoor Design

From Elle Decor and Elle Decor


There is undeniable value in creating a  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. It draws people in and helps buyers see themselves enjoying the garden. It’s an extension of the living space. If the home or condo is small, it provides an expansive feel.


Urban Outdoor Design

From Apartment Therapy


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.


Urban Outdoor Design

From Elle Decor and Elle Decor


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.


Urban Outdoor Design

From Apartment Therapy


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.


Urban Outdoor Design

From Domino


Renting outdoor furniture for staging can be expensive, so if you work with me in selling your home, I will give staging advice using items that you already have. And if I do recommend purchasing something, I suggest cost-effective items within your budget that you can use in your next home. Please contact us if you have questions. Happy Summer!

Posted in Design Ideas
May 29, 2018

Successful Home Staging - Before and After Photos

Home Staging

By Charese David, Real Estate Broker


One of the things I love about working in real estate is that I get to use my eye for design on a routine basis. There are various ways that I am in touch with the latest home design trends. When I take my home buyers out on a property search, I see properties firsthand and can determine right away the quality of the workmanship. I can explain the history of architectural features and share ideas on how they could potentially renovate a space to make it more livable. When I walk into a property, I get inspired with design ideas. Because of my experienced eye, I am able to point things out that they might not see that could actually make or break a deal. 


I have also been a design consultant, working with developers in the design and layout of property spaces. I can see the flow of how a room will work for potential buyers. As I am out with buyers and privy to conversations that I overhear when showing a property to sell, I know what clients are asking for in a property. 


As I walk through a property with a client who has hired me to sell their home, I am current with what similar properties have recently sold for in their neighborhood and explain to them what I see that potential buyers are looking for. I offer suggestions on how they can make minor, inexpensive updates, like painting, decluttering or adding new lighting, that can have a big impact in the sale. I sometimes also share ideas on moving furniture around to make the space flow better. You’d be surprised by what a few minor design adjustments do to the look and feel of a room. 


In marketing a property for sale, I hire a professional photographer because online photos are the curb appeal - they are what will draw potential buyers to see a property. I’m also an avid photographer and I believe that this helps me frame a room - to envision it in the best light possible. After all, my objective for my home sellers is to get the highest price possible for their property, at the quickest return rate.


When home sellers move out of their property, I will usually recommend that it be staged either virtually in the photos or that they hire a staging company to physically bring in the furniture. This helps potential home buyers quickly envision the room and imagine their furniture in the layout. And sometimes, staging is only in the main living spaces and not throughout the whole home.


Take a look at my before and after video of a River North condo. This is before making the updates:

And after the updates, see how paint can transform a room.

The following photos are of the same River North condo, only they are virtually staged. 

Home Staging

Home Staging

The following Roscoe Village condo hired a staging company to come in with furniture. 

Home staging

Updated lighting can do wonders for the design of a room. Take a look at the updated pendant lighting above the island in the After photo compared to the pendant lighting in the Before photo. 

Now you can see how minor updates can make a big difference in preparing to sell your home. If you're thinking of selling your home and need design guidance, please contact us.

Posted in Design Ideas
March 13, 2018

Real Estate Services for Home Sellers


Are you interested in hiring an experienced real estate broker to help with the sale of your property? Chicago real estate broker Charese David shares tips for home sellers.
March 13, 2018

Real Estate Services for Home Buyers


How do you find the right property in the right neighborhood within your budget? Chicago real estate broker Charese David shares tips for home buyers. 

March 7, 2018

Why Hire a Real Estate Broker?

Chicago New Construction Home

By Charese David, Real Estate Broker


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 2017 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 $190,000 last year (up from $185,000 the year prior), and significantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $250,000.”


And there are other things to consider before embarking on your real estate journey. As a part of my daily routine, I research the market to track prices and trends through online broker resources and in real estate publications. I know neighborhood news, zoning changes and am up-to-date on new policies, rules and ethics pertaining to brokers. 


When working with clients, I hear what buyers expect in a property and am able to translate this to my home sellers. As a photographer for many years, I am personally involved in the property photo shoots. These photos will be posted online and are critical to the success of attracting the right buyer. With my eye for design, I am able to offer expert staging tips, remodel ideas and repair advice to my home sellers. 


By consistently networking with other real estate professionals, I am able to keep tabs on influences in the market, trends and the economy. If I have any questions, I know exactly who to contact for answers. And driving the Chicago neighborhoods every day, I see new construction homes, rehab projects, property conditions and am on the lookout for any changes, such as new businesses moving in.


Here are what I consider the 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 in a property to catch things you might miss 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, an 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 questions.


Real estate is my passion. I am dedicated to gathering knowledge and am committed to building client relationships. If you have questions or comments, please contact us.


Feb. 8, 2018

2018 Home Design Trends


This year, think beyond staging your home like a showroom floor. There are many options to create personalized touches to freshen up any room. From new accessories, such as pillows or photo frames to new floors or bathroom tile, these options can fit a range of budgets. Here is a collection of style and design inspiration for 2018.


floral patterns home design

From CountryLiving and Houzz


Bold flower prints in exaggerated proportions and contrasting colors can evoke a new kind of elegance. Look for this trend in wallpaper, textiles, art, accessories and statement rugs.


geometric patterns

From Decor Aid and HuffPost


Geometric motifs are not a new trend, but as with floral prints, expect to find dramatic, bold, oversized prints in home decor. Find these beautiful designs in anything from accessories to tiles. 


home color trends

From House Beautiful, Refinery29 and PopSugar


Serene pastels can create a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere. Think of soothing colors such as rose, violet, lavender and calming blues.


Rich reds and earthy tones, like deep burgundy, caramel brown, bold yellow, bright coral, burnt orange and rusty terracotta are warming up homes this year. These colors add a coziness without interfering with a clean design aesthetic.


The classic combination of black and white can balance some of this year’s bold and daring design styles.


home color trends

From HuffPost


Jewel tones and deep saturated gem colors, such as cobalt, emerald, onyx and cranberry add depth to a room. These accent colors can be found in drapery, bedding, rugs, accent walls and wallpaper, furnishings and pillows.


home design trends

From Refinery29 and House Beautiful


Vibrant color palettes and mixing metals with different finishes creates a custom feel, in contrast to the staged look of home stores. 


home design trends

From HuffPost and Country Living


Golden brass tones are replacing brushed silver in the bathroom, kitchen and throughout the home. Create brass and copper touches with pendant lighting and sconces, photo frames, serveware sets and other furnishings, such as coffee and side tables. 


home design trends

From The EveryGirl and House Beautiful


Look for velvet in upholstery, drapery, and accent pillows this year. The multi-dimensional fabric adds softness and luster to home decor.


home design trends

From HuffPost and Refinery29 


There is a shift in buying fixtures from local artists and small businesses. Artisan lighting adds a personal touch to any room. 


The urban farmhouse trend creates a hybrid style of casual and edgy. Create nostalgia in the bathroom with a farmhouse inspired bucket (trough) sink.


In other vintage trends, Terrazzo flooring with its scattered marble pattern is becoming popular again. Expect to see a rise in statement floors in the bathroom, laundry rooms and entryways.


home design trends

From House Beautiful 


Natural elements in the home changes the focus from the tech world to the natural world. Materials such as stone, copper, concrete, and granite on floors, walls and pottery create a balanced and organic design style.


home design trends

From Refinery29 and Country Living


The newest lifestyle trend, from ancient Japanese philosophy, is Wabi-sabi. It is about accepting imperfections, as well as the unpredictable nature of life. This translates into loving the blemishes, dings, dents and scratches in your home.


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

Posted in Design Ideas