SELLING YOUR HOME? IT’S TIME TO FOCUS ON CURB APPEAL

BEFORE

BEFORE

Spring is just around the corner. For those who are planning to sell their homes or other real estate in Chicago, this means curb appeal matters more than ever.

Thankfully, Kim Kaulas, a landscape artist based in Edgewater who also works in Lakewood Balmoral and Andersonville, has extensive experience helping people maximize small spaces and shade in urban areas.

“I specialize in environmentally responsible practices,” she said. “I don’t use chemicals. I amend soil naturally, and I promote appropriate plant placement to promote their longevity.”

Does it work? Kaulas can’t provide statistics on shortening of market time or specific evidence that curb appeal raises sale prices. But common sense goes far, and making judicious choices to rejuvenate a landscape specifically for curb appeal is a specialty, she says.

AFTER

AFTER

“I consider myself an exterior decorator,” Kaulas said, adding that landscaping involving plant material doesn’t tend to be instantly gratifying. Some plants can take 3 to 10 years to grow in. “Curb appeal choices may include exterior paint colors, paint projects, awnings, container plantings and general exterior aesthetics.”

She works on a consulting basis, charging $90 per hour and prorating the fee to the minute. She has no minimum hourly charge. Kaulas brainstorms a project with the homeowner, suggesting ideas for improving the curb appeal or general attractiveness of the site and outdoor space. Beyond that, the client might commission a formal design. This would include pictures and measurements, scaled drawings and detailed plans. The estimate would be based on the scope of that project. Kaulas does not offer free estimates, however.

She also gets involved in installing those designs, providing quotes based on time and materials. Meanwhile, the client can help her or her staff plant. “And because I charge by the hour, they learn something and then it’s a cost savings, because it’s that much less manpower that I’m charging them for.”

Kaulas does not provide mowing or leaf blowing services. “I recommend that clients interested in those services talk to their immediate neighbors and see who already has their trucks and manpower on their block and who is doing a good job,” she said.

For more information on Kaulas’ services, visit www.kimkaulas.com or call her at 773-761-3668.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

PREMIUM EDUCATION IS JUST A STROLL AWAY: TWO PRIVATE SCHOOLS OFFER CLASSES NEARBY

For parents and soon-to-be parents moving into condos and homes in the Edgewater, Ravenswood, Andersonville and Lincoln Square neighborhoods, there is no shortage of public and private school options for children.

Previously, I wrote about several public schools nearby. This blog post will talk about the Lycee Francais de Chicago (also known as The French International School) and the Rogers Park Montessori School.

The French school is building a new campus, and the Rogers Park school is building a large addition to its current structure to accommodate more students.

2015 02 17 French International SchoolThe French International School is currently located at Irving Park and Lake Michigan, but its new building on Wilson Avenue between Damen and Winchester avenues will open in July 2015. It’s being built on the site of what was the old Ravenswood Hospital. Bilingual education starts at age 3 at this school, which educates children who are between the ages of pre-kindergarten and grade 12.

The French school is particularly interesting to me, as my mother is French and my father is American. My sister and I grew up in a bilingual household. Now that my sister and her husband are expecting their first child, they are seriously considering sending their son here. This makes my mother, who is from the French province of Brittany, very happy. I’m excited because if James goes to the LFC, I’ll be near enough to pick him up from school.

The LFC program, according to its website at www.lyceechicago.org, offers a rigorous dual-language curriculum that integrates the French educational system with a strong American program and the International Baccalaureate. With the help of an engaged multicultural community, students are prepared to become responsible global citizens.

The school was first founded in 1995 by a small group of French and American families with fewer than 150 students. Now, the school consists of nearly 500 families and more than 700 students.

The Lycee Francais de Chicago teaches French language arts and literature, math, science, music, visual arts, physical education, world history and geography, and philosophy in French.

It teaches English language arts and literature, social studies, American history, math (grades 3-5), dance and drama, and computer science in English.

2015 02 17 Montessori SchoolAnother nearby school located in West Andersonville/Lincoln Square is Rogers Park Montessori School. It was founded in September 1966 by 10 Rogers Park parents in a converted space in St. Ignatius parish. Since then, it has moved three times, largely due to its expanding number of students. It is currently located at 1800 W. Balmoral Ave., just west of Ravenswood Avenue, on what used to be the site of Hines Lumber.

Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator. The Montessori method allows young children to develop at their own pace. RPMS seeks to deliver quality educational programming; foster community, respect for self, others, and the environment; and build a strong academic foundation for a lifetime of learning,

RPMS offers classes for children who are between the ages of 2 and 14. The school’s vision embodies eight values. Among these are pride in academic achievement, a joy and thirst for discovery, self-reliance, a sensitive and respectful regard for others, the ability to collaborate, and the ability to think analytically.

“Guiding all our practices is the education and promotion of peace within self, in relationships and within the world,” the school’s website says.

For more information on the Rogers Park Montessori School, visit www.rpmschool.org.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

ART YOU CAN TOUCH: WHAT IT MEANS TO RUN CHICAGO

2015 02 09 Art You Can TouchOne of the best parts about running outside in Chicago is that it’s easier to discover what you might completely miss when traveling by car. I’ve gotten a better sense of my neighborhood, local real estate and even corners that are miles away by zipping up my sweatshirt, putting one foot in front of the other, and wiping sweat from my brow.

The latest cool spots relatively near me are the Native American mosaics on the Foster Avenue Lake Shore Drive underpass in Edgewater and the mosaics at the corner of Argyle and Broadway streets in Uptown.

The 3,400-square-foot expanse of “Indian Land Dancing” tells the history of Indians in Chicago. It also crosses paths with old Indian trails. The goal is to teach the past, not to just put it on display, according to a June 2009 story written by Clare Lane in The Chicago Tribune. The story can be found here: Vast Mural Will Depict Chicago’s Indian Roots

“Art in public space has been enabling in a community,” said Mary Jane Jacobs, a teacher at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago who specializes in sculpture and place-specific art. “The work becomes embraced and that grows richer over time. It grounds people within their own consciousness of place.”

There’s a lot in “Indian Land Dancing” that swells and shimmers beyond comparison, even on a cold, overcast afternoon. But even a glimpse of the yellow-, orange-, and black-tiled sun on the south side of the underpass will brighten your day. Across the street, on the north side of the underpass, a series of waves undulate until they form a woman clutching a swirl of blue, purple and white tiles, the series of circles becoming larger or smaller, depending on your perspective.

Look closer, and you’ll find mini-art within the tiles. Thunderbirds fly through the air, Indians of lore look you right in the eye, and a small tile tells you that the American Indian Center is just one mile west of where you stand. The center is located at 1630 W. Wilson Ave.

The bricolage mosaics were created by lead artists Tracy Van Duinen and Todd Osborne, Edgewater community residents, youth apprentices and American Indian artists. It’s a Chicago Public Art Group project, according to cynthiaweiss.com.

Not too far away, on the northeast corner of Argyle and Broadway streets, a lotus flower, dragonfly and more are spaced out on a wall between two small businesses. The wall belongs to a convenience store owner who gave the economic development organization Uptown United permission to use it, according to a June 2013 story in www.dnainfo.com.

Uptown United President Alyssa Berman-Cutler initiated the project. Longtime Uptown resident and artist Ginny Sykes designed images reflective of Asian cultures of Argyle Street.

Berman-Cutler said Sykes’ work “really does respect the communities” it comes from and doesn’t feel like some massive effort conceived by an artist and then “thrown at the community.” Meanwhile, Sykes adds “a layer of sophistication” that conveys “a fine-arts feel,” Berman-Cutler said in the dnainfo.com story.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

EXCITING CHANGES AT 1618 W EDGEWATER

1618 W. EdgewaterJulia and Scott may no longer live in their 1,300-square-foot condo at 1618 W. Edgewater Avenue, but that hasn’t stopped them from caring about what happens to the property just across the street.

“That there’s a nearly one-acre green space to be developed and managed by the city is exciting,” Julia said of a new neighborhood park planned for the south side of Edgewater from Ashland to Hermitage avenues. “I’m a mom of a small child, and the idea of having a park is sort of lovely.”

She was talking about plans to demolish the former Edgewater Medical Center across the street, build residential and retail properties, and enable the development of green space just west of the shuttered medical center located at 5700 N. Ashland Ave.

In January, a parking structure tied to the former medical facility is scheduled to be demolished, making room for single-family residences. Other work is expected to continue after that project begins, Julia said. This includes 39,874 square feet of donated park land just to the east of the single-family residences. The former hospital will be converted to 13,975 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, including indoor bike parking. Residential units will be upstairs. Additionally, WBEZ has been following the Edgewater Medical Center plans.

Edgewater Medical Center closed in December 2001, the building left vacant and has continued to decay ever since. Since then, community members have formed Friends of West Edgewater Park to advocate for a redevelopment plan for the shuttered medical center that, according to the group’s Facebook page, is “an appreciable neighborhood park, is forward-thinking, is sound, and is in keeping with the scale and fabric of the community.”

“There aren’t a lot of parks in Andersonville, and Andersonville is becoming more of a destination for buyers,” Julia added. “Some have kids and some don’t, but everyone loves the green space and everyone loves the light that a green space can bring to a neighborhood.”

Scott and Julia now live just east of Lincoln Square, in a larger property that gives their family — they are now expecting their second child — more room to grow. Their 1618 W. Edgewater Ave. condo with a vintage feel offers two bedrooms, one bathroom, brand new stainless steel appliances, exterior parking and a private deck.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

DOGS NEED TIME TO ADJUST TO A MOVE TOO

AshbyI may be adjusting well to living in Chicago, but my dog is having a tough time. If there were a poster dog for separation anxiety, my shepherd-mix would be it. Ashby is normally calm and quiet when I’m near her. But when I step out to run errands without her, she turns into a bundle of nerves and begins to bark incessantly.

First, I tried a Thundershirt at Jameson Loves Danger in Andersonville. A tight-fitting shirt that wraps around a dog’s torso, the Thundershirt essentially swaddles canines, calming them and making them feel more safe and secure. The employees at Jameson Loves Danger were very nice and helpful; they were gentle and kind with Ashby, who stood quietly while one employee wrapped the Thundershirt around her chest. The Thundershirt was somewhat successful; it made Ashby a bit more reserved. However, when I was gone for two hours later that night for a community meeting, Ashby again barked continuously.

I needed a quick and effective solution. It came in a barking collar that I bought at PetCo Animal Supplies, in Lakeview. For about $99, my super alert and intelligent shelter dog learned rather quickly that what was allowed in my house in Southern Indiana is far from acceptable in a Chicago condo complex.

After just one bark, the collar emits a warning sound. Two barks, and Ashby gets a mild shock. Three barks in a row, and she gets an even bigger shock. While this method isn’t ideal — I don’t want Ashby to be hurt in any way — it’s effective. What’s more, Ashby is now essentially monitoring herself. By following me around closely, she’s still able to communicate that she’s hungry or needs to go out. And she’s still able to get off one or two barks when she hears something she thinks is odd or threatening. But all in all, Ashby is a much better condo citizen now.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.

THE PLEASURES OF LIVING IN EDGEWATER & ANDERSONVILLE IN CHICAGO

Edgewater lakefront from 5455 Sheridan 36th floor In the space of just two days, I experienced the best that Edgewater and Andersonville have to offer. Even after 12 years as a realtor, I am inspired by the beauty of our lakefront and how easily we can enjoy it. Took a client to see her condo prior to closing and the view from her unit at the 5455 N. Sheridan building was spectacular. Green space all the way to Navy Pier and views of the beautiful beachfront at Foster are truly amazing.

 

Foster beach surreyMy family and I went to Foster beach this weekend. We rented a surrey large enough for all six of us, including grandparents, parents and kids, for an unbelievably wonderful family event. As we pedaled along the lake and through the park from Foster to Montrose harbor, the laughter and conversation we shared as we rode past the beaches and family barbeques representing all nations, was truly amazing. No texting, cell phone conversations or looking at videos at all. Living in Edgewater is the best.

Urban Gardening in Andersonville, Chicago

peonyAh… yes, spring comes early to the lakefront neighborhood of Andersonville in Chicago. The daffodils are already blooming in some areas, and the tulips are at least showing their green. Reminds me that I need to tend to my urban gardens to prepare them for a show in the summer. It’s time to cut down all the dead stuff from last year, rake it out, spread some mushroom mulch. Chicago Botanic Gardens has an April checklist of steps to prepare your gardens.

Time to get those clay pots out of the garage and plant them with spring annuals that can tolerate alternating cold and warmth. And then there are the perennials. I love how Kelly describes the charm of perennials. They come back every year, even if you don’t remember where you planted them.

And then there’s the lawn furniture and barbeques. Time to dust off the table and chairs, get out the cushions, and give that barbeque grill a wire brushing. And don’t forget to invite me to that garden party.

ANDERSONVILLE IN CHICAGO WELCOMES SPRING

water tower posterI decided to take a walk down Clark Street in Andersonville in Chicago in honor of the beautiful spring weather.  Spring has finally arrived. The DIVVY racks are full of rental bikes once again, the planters are starting to fill up with flowers.  Tomorrow there is a neighborhood clean- up day, so we’ll meet at the corner of Glenwood and Winnemac, do some raking and planting,  and there will be a mini green fest too.  There are Save the Tower posters in shop windows announcing a campaign to save the blue and yellow water tower that is our neighborhood icon.  It all reminds me of why I love living in walkable, sustainable, friendly Andersonville, and why it’s such a special part of Edgewater community in Chicago.

HOW MUCH IS THAT CONDO WORTH?

Make an offer on the condo of your choiceThe Move with Maggie Team is working with many buyers.  They are finding great values in Chicago hi-rise condos located on the lakefront, from Edgewater to Lakeview, Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast and downtown.  We are often asked, how much is that condo worth, and what should we offer?

Those are challenging questions.  In the past, determining value was based on 1) size of unit, 2) condition of kitchen and baths, and 3) floor level, view and amenities.  As realtors we arrived at an opinion of value based on that data, and it was a relatively smooth process.

Now, with increasingly tight lending guidelines, and a market that includes distressed/non traditional sales, we are seeing prices that are all over the board within any given condo building.  In addition, prices are increasingly influenced by a condo building’s physical and financial condition, as those factors affect a condo unit’s mortgageability.

As professional realtors, we explain to buyers why it’s important to look beyond views, and the fancy finishes and features that you see on the televised house hunter programs, including quartz or granite counters in kitchen and bath and high end appliances.

We dig deep to obtain the information that is very important in determining the soundness of a condo building, and the financial stability of a condo association.  We do this diligence early on, before a buyer makes an offer, so that we do not tie them up in a transaction that may not qualify for financing, especially if too many rentals in a condo building can make it difficult to obtain a mortgage.

As realtors, we contact listing agents, condo property managers, and condo officers, to obtain the numbers, such as the percentage of units that are rented and how much is in reserves. .  We also inquire as to any capital projects that may be on the horizon, and how they will be financed.   Sometimes the information is readily available, other times it takes days to obtain. That is how we, as professionals, serve our clients, and strive to become their real estate consultants for life.  So once you find that great condo, give us a few days to do the appropriate research for you.

HOW’S THE ANDERSONVILLE AND EDGEWATER HOUSING MARKET?

We are seeing a brisk market, especially for condos with two bedrooms. Buyers are purchasing well-appointed two bedroom condos within 10 days of going on market. In February and March of 2013, the Move with Maggie Team listed six condos for sale in the area, and sold (went under contract) in an average of 10 days or less. Four of the six had multiple offers and they sold on average for 98% of list price at time of offer. We are seeing buyers willing to pay very good prices for well-appointed condos. However, condos that are not staged or well-appointed tend to sit on the market for longer periods of time. Condos without some sort of deck, patio or balcony, or without parking (not even rental parking), are sitting for longer periods of time or in some cases needing price reductions in order to sell. Our one bedroom condo market has not bounced back as quickly, most likely because given our low interest rates hovering around 3.75%, buyers can purchase a two bedroom for what they would have paid for a one bedroom. Andersonville continues to be a popular destination for professionals, boomers, and retirees seeking housing in Chicago. Be sure to check out movewithmaggie.com for recent sales and property that is available.