Jan. 6, 2020

Home Selling Tips

Menard Johnson Real Home Seller


Do you want to sell your home this spring? It's time to start planning. We have a few tips to get the ball rolling.


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.


Once you find a real estate broker, ask for 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 we work with clients, we take time to research the property, taking into consideration variables such as school districts, location, renovations, the structure, age of the property and so much more.


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. For more tips, check out How to Prepare to Sell Your Home.


As a part of our process, we work with home sellers to assess the property value and how to update it to sell. We 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. We know what buyers are looking for, what the market demands and current trends. Our experience includes both new homes and home renovations, so we are up to speed on the latest styles and technology.


Another part of our process in working with sellers is to help them understand what's 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.


If you have any real estate questions, please contact us.

Posted in Chicago
Jan. 6, 2020

Home Buying Tips

Menard Johnson Real Estate Home Buyer


The busy spring market is right around the corner. If you're in the market to buy a home, you may want to start your search now. Interest rates are low and inventory is down, so it might take a little more time to find the perfect home. If you're on the fence about a property you're viewing through online photos, go see it. There's a chance it has more to offer than what you see in the photos. Keep an open mind about exploring neighborhoods you haven't considered. You might find the perfect home for a great price in an area that turns out to be the right fit for your lifestyle. 


Here are simple tips to get you started:


Take your time. Buying a home 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 determine a price range you’re comfortable with. We can recommend a few good mortgage brokers, if you’re looking for one.


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. 


A real estate broker can share information about the history of an 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, a 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 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. 


If you have any real estate questions, please contact us..


Posted in Chicago
Nov. 4, 2019

Winterize Your Home Checklist

Winterize Chicago Home


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


Property Checklist:

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

If you need excellent and reliable resources, such as a handyman, furnace repair, landscaping or any type of real estate advice, contact us at (773) 472-6016. 

Oct. 11, 2019

Modern Eco Home Design in Chicago


Imagine the efficiency of cutting your heating and AC bills in half or even more, especially in Chicago weather. That’s possible with a sustainably designed home. The custom built home at 3339 N Leavitt Street in Roscoe Village is a gorgeous example of this type of design. It’s not only highly efficient, it also has stunning design features. 


What is an Eco home design? In general, a green home is built to reduce energy consumption and waste. The home at 3339 N Leavitt Street has the distinction of the Chicago Green Initiative Silver Award. Homes that receive this award have a substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of people and the planet. According to USGBC, green building is the practice of designing, constructing and operating buildings to maximize occupant health and productivity, use fewer resources, reduce waste and negative environmental impacts, and decrease life cycle costs.


This home has a highly energy efficient solar inverter system that powers the electric, heat and AC. It was built with insulated concrete forms (ICFs) that offer well-insulated, airtight, energy-efficient building enclosures. ICFs work well in Chicago’s volatile weather because of the strong impact resistance. Translation: huge savings in monthly energy bills.


The unique home at 3339 N Leavitt Street is now on the market. This 4 bedroom, 4.1 bathroom builder’s custom home is an innovative example of sustainable home design. It truly is the future of home design. 

Sept. 5, 2019

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 four 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. 

Posted in Chicago
Sept. 5, 2019

Green City Farmer's Market

Real Estate Broker Charese David visited the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. It's open every Wednesday and Saturday from 7am to 1pm on the first Saturday in May through the last Saturday in October.

Posted in Chicago
Aug. 7, 2019

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.

Posted in Chicago
July 10, 2019

Things to do in River West

By Charese David, Chicago Real Estate Broker

A great way to relish the Chicago summer is to explore our neighborhoods. River West is a fun destination to show out-of-town guests or hang out with friends. With all the great restaurants and unique shopping along Ogden Ave, Grand Ave and Racine Ave, there’s a lot to do. My favorites Italian eateries are D’Amato’s Bakery, Bari, La Scarola, and Piccolo Sogno


For the cool antique stores, head west on Grand Ave past Ashland Ave and check out Urban Remains, and The Painted Lady, just to name a couple. It’s fun to spend a few hours roaming through the neighborhood. Then head to the West Loop to Aba’s roof top for a delicious Mediterranean meal. 


If you have questions or comments, please contact us. Enjoy summer!


June 3, 2019

A Perfect 36 Hours in Chicago

By Charese David, Chicago Real Estate Broker

Summers in Chicago are amazing and the perfect time to host out-of-town guests. I love showing people this city - it has so much to offer. I have my favorite spots, so I decided to share my perfect 36-hour Chicago itinerary when guests come for a visit. 


Day 1: Late afternoon arrival. Spend the evening locally, starting out in my neighborhood, Roscoe Village. First stop, Lush Wine and Spirits for a nice glass of wine on the outdoor patio. Then stroll along Roscoe Street to visit some of the shops. 


At 7pm, have dinner reservations at Turquoise Cafe to enjoy Turkish food or Le Sud for Southern French cuisine. These are two of my favorite restaurants in Roscoe Village. Dine alfresco on a delicious meal in the beautiful setting of this lovely tree-lined neighborhood. 


After dinner, venture to Southport Corridor for dessert at Jeni’s Ice Cream - a real treat. Wander the street, taking in the evening sights and sounds of Southport Avenue. Then head back to my house for a nightcap in the backyard. 


Day 2: Start the day with a hearty breakfast at my favorite diner, Tempo Cafe in the heart of the Gold Coast. After breakfast, hop on Chicago’s First Lady for a 90-minute architecture boat tour. It’s a great way to learn the history of landmark buildings along the river and a fun way to see the city.  


Once the tour is done, stroll up and down Michigan Avenue to take in the shopping and tourist  scene. Along the way, head south to Millennium Park to see the Chicago Bean, of course, to take a selfie or get a shot of the Chicago skyline in the reflection of the sculpture. The whole area is just wonderful, with so many different things to see and even relax in the gardens. 


Next it's time for a snack and luckily there are a lot of choices in the area. My picks are across the street at either Remington’s or the Gage for a taste of “refined, rustic American fare complemented by innovative libations.” Then it’s off to the Art Institute of Chicago to wander through the amazing and varied art collections. The building itself is fantastic. 


There are a couple of options to choose from after the museum. Either head back to my house to relax or stop by the Lincoln Park Zoo on the way home. The great thing about the zoo is that it is a beautiful area to wander through and it’s free. On the way home, pick up snacks and drinks to hang out in the backyard before dinner. 


For dinner, our choices are either in the West Loop at La Sirena Clandestina for Latin / Brazilian cuisine. Or Mexican food in Andersonville at Octavio Canitna. After dinner, end the evening under the stars in my backyard. 


Day 3: Before the guests leave, wander to John’s Place or Commonwealth for a delicious brunch of American comfort food. And if there’s enough time after brunch, stroll and shop along Roscoe Street before departure. 


There are so many great restaurants, cafes, shops and tourist attractions in Chicago - it’s hard to narrow it down to 36 hours. The cool thing is that there really is something for everyone. That’s why I love it here. And why my guests keep coming back.


If you have questions or comments, please contact us..Cheers to new fun-filled adventures in Chicago!

May 9, 2019

Springtime in Chicago

By Charese David

It’s that time of year to have some fun! Chicago is the place to be as the weather gets warmer. There’s a new vibrance as outdoor patios and backyards come alive with laughter and revelry. It’s the time of year when the city hosts festivals, garden walks, farmer’s markets and summer picnics. I can feel the change in the air. Chicagoans know how to take full advantage of this season!

I love this season because of the beauty of urban gardens and flower planters. Flowers make me happy. And being outside in the colors of nature has been shown to help people relax. As I drive through neighborhoods and down Michigan Avenue, I’m in awe of the gorgeous landscaping around our city.

One of my favorite places to buy plants, herbs, flowers, shrubs and trees is Gethsemane Garden Center in Andersonville. They even have patio furniture and garden gifts. It’s so inspiring to walk though the rows of colors and smell the freshness of spring. I’ve always found the staff to be super knowledgeable for any garden project. See above for my recent video at Gethsemane. After a long winter, this is my retail therapy!

For more inspiration, here’s a story from our archives, Simple Steps to a Beautiful Urban Garden.

If you need gardening advice or reliable landscapers, contact us. Happy Spring!

Posted in Design Ideas