5540 Glenwood LR“It happens all the time,” David Painter said. “I stage the property on Wednesday, and by Friday, it’s sold. And then there are also a bunch of times where a property was on the market for six to eight months, a year, and then I go and stage it and it sells in a week.”

Painter and Bradley Walworth are co-founders of Exit Stage Right, located at 626 ½ W. Barry Ave., 2S, in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. The team of experienced creative professionals has staged more than 50 properties with values from $180,000 to $6 million throughout the Chicagoland area.

They have vast experience in home staging, model home staging, redesign service, move management, professional painting, residential and commercial interior decorating, kitchen and bathroom finishes, furniture design and lighting selection.

Painter said transitional design trends seem to work best. “This means it’s between modern and traditional,” he said. “The reason that it works for staging is that staging should really be middle of the road and really not a definition of the house. You are trying to make people notice the house and not notice the furniture.”

He advises sellers to declutter their homes and remove personal photographs before they put their homes on the market. Furniture and other belongings that would be best to be removed before showing the house can be placed in temporary storage or the home of a friend or family member. All the projects that sellers meant to do but never started or completed, like painting the front door, or cleaning up a closet, should be taken care of.

Sometimes it can be difficult to explain to sellers why their personal objects should be removed. “I just simply say to them, ‘Are you selling these items with the house? Then why are they are important to be there? Your house is a product that you are putting on the market. Everything that I’m telling you to do will help you sell it quicker,’” Painter said.

Exit Stage Right offers different types of staging. If it’s a vacant property, then Painter stages it with his own furniture and accessories that he owns. If someone is living there, “then we try to use their items as much as possible,” he said. “Some things just don’t work, like Dad’s old beat-up recliner. So I will need to bring something in there that will match the other furniture in their home.”

“When you are staging, one thing not to do is declutter too much, where you basically devoid your house of everything,” Painter said. “You do need something to add warmth to the room, like tossed pillows and a little accessory there. Don’t forget about the outside of your house. If you live in a condo situation or you live in a single family home, you need to make sure that the outside of your house looks as good as the inside because it literally is the first impression. So take care of everything, because people do see things subliminally that they don’t catch onto (the first time), that they can’t verbalize as to why they don’t like it.”

Painter also said it’s best that sellers not be at their house or condo when prospective buyers are coming to see it.

The end of summer is a busy time of year for Exit Stage Right. Painter said he is scheduled probably two months out. When it’s not this time of year, he is usually scheduled out a week in advance.

When a potential client contacts him for staging work, he visits the property, makes suggestions on what should be improved and/or changed, and then, once those changes are made, sets up the staging area.

Clients can sign either a three-month or six-month contract. At the end of the contract, if the home hasn’t been sold, then the client has the option of re-signing the contract on a month-to-month basis if they choose to use the furnishings.

“If the home goes under contract and they clear all of their contingencies and the attorney review, then the agent will give me a call and it’s time to pick up the furniture,” Painter said.

For more information, visit www.beststager.com, call Painter at 773-329-8837 or email him at info@beststager.com.

Victoria MartyVictoria 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.


As temperatures rise and we begin to spend more time outside, it’s important to make sure that our families remain safe. It may be nice outside, but summer can be a dangerous time of year around the home.

This month’s information is designed to help you keep your family safe this summer. Page one is all about pool safety. Whether you and your family swim in a private pool or in your community’s public pool, these tips will help to ensure that they stay safe. Page two offers tips to help you find and mitigate the common hazards found around your home and yard.

Pass this information along to your family and friends to help them stay safe this summer.

(Click on image to enlarge)

How to Childproof Your Home


2015 05 18 IMG_4549“The number one ingredient for a beautifully designed landscape is an interested homeowner,” said Kim Kaulas, a landscape artist who has a business in Edgewater.

In that vein, here are some tips on how to improve your yard:

Plants can flourish under the right sun and shade conditions, so it’s important to understand how each impacts your property. Plants that do best in the sun can suffer in the shade, and vice versa. Kaulas said sun exposure is defined by the amount of sun shining directly on the plant.

For assistance in selecting plants that will thrive, a good resource is the plant information center at Chicago Botanic Garden, or visit Gethsemane Garden Center at 5737 N. Clark St. in Andersonville and ask the staff for suggestions.  It’s a busy place on weekend afternoons, so it’s often better to visit on weekend mornings or during the week.

Daffodils and Scilla, two types of early spring flowers, do well when planted under deciduous trees that do not yet have their leaves. Meanwhile, lillies, bee balm, roses and peonies can bear four to six hours of direct sunlight, Kaulas said.

For properties that have more shade than sun and are more apt to develop a woodland look, annuals can add colors beyond typical greens and whites.

“Nothing gives you bright color, color, color like annuals,” Kaulas said.

Gardening is a truly multidimensional art, she added. “Plants look different at different times of the year,” she said. Because of this, select plants that will change throughout each season. Sedum, for instance, blooms in September yet is attractive at other points of the year, as well.

Removing grass and replacing it with ground cover is not always a good idea. Kaulas said ground cover requires continuous weeding. “Know yourself,” she said. “If you are retired or work out of your home or are a teacher with summers off, then you have time to weed. Otherwise, no.”

Day lilies are not low-maintenance plants. They need to be deadheaded once a week, she said. This keeps the plant from going to seed. Serviceberry trees will bloom in the shade, but don’t plant them near entryways or walkways because birds — and their droppings — tend to like them, too.

Mulch amends the soil with organic matter and helps with drainage. But you never want to pile the mulch against the tree trunk as this will kill the tree. Additionally, make sure that brick homes are appropriately tuck-pointed before allowing ivy to climb their walls.

And, soil type matters. Clay soil is full of nutrients but tends to be compacted, preventing water drainage. Sandy soil, however, is excellent for drainage. Adding pine to sandy and clay soil types can improve pH balance, helping the plants.

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.


2015 05 11 IMG_4555See that hosta over there in the corner and that Japanese maple near the entrance of the house? They didn’t settle there accidentally. And they are more than just decoration, too.

According to landscape economist John Harris, good landscaping can add up to 28 percent to the overall value of a house and can cut its time on the market by 10 to 15 percent.

Additionally, a Clemson University study said taking your landscaping to the next level — upgrading, in other words, from “good” to “excellent” in terms of design, condition and placement — can add up to 6 to 7 percent to a home’s value.

“Landscape design is a beautiful mixture of art and science,” said Kim Kaulas, a landscape artist who has a business in Edgewater. “Every site is different, every homeowner is different, and the landscape is always in transition. To me, it’s endlessly fascinating.”

Among other things, well-placed trees and shrubs can provide shade in the summer and lower cooling bills. They reduce carbon dioxide, muffle noise, reduce soil erosion, deflect winter wind, and provide shelter and food for birds.

Outdoor lighting, especially at night, can protect against slips and falls and can paint your home when the sun is no longer in the sky, according to HouseLogic.com.

Lighting makes your property a more difficult target for intruders, reducing burglaries and insurance claims. Some insurance companies even give a five to 15 percent discount on homeowners with reduced or zero claims, the website said.

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.


2015 04 05 Bountiful EateryPeople who know and have worked with Maggie Finegan can’t say it enough: If you want to find that perfect or close-to-perfect real estate space, she’s at the top of her game.

“She really helps you find a healthy home and healthy environment,” said Ed O’Brien, who owns a restaurant in Lakeview. “She’s worked with other people that I know to find their ideal home.” This might be a large bedroom with enough square footage, a really sunny, warm environment that helps you enjoy getting up in the morning, or a smaller space that fits your needs.

Ed O’Brien learned this first-hand after Maggie helped him find a location for his Bountiful Eatery restaurant at 3312 N. Broadway. The fast-casual dining spot opened in July 2012 and specializes in gluten-free meals. Gluten is a protein found in rye, barley and all types of wheat.

“The location itself in Lakeview is amazing,” Ed said, adding that he had been looking for a space for several months. After meeting Maggie at a networking event in Andersonville, she helped guide him to the Broadway Avenue location. “It really fits well with what we do. The space was already built out for us, so we use it as is, pretty much.”

Ed focuses on serving meals that help to mitigate stomach problems and, for those with celiac disease, small intestine damage. But his interests in a balanced, healthy lifestyle extend beyond the kitchen. That’s likely one more reason why he has meshed so well with Maggie’s approach to real estate sales.

However, there’s more to a home or condo than just its size or access to sunlight. “What makes a healthy home?” Maggie asked. “It’s more about avoiding what is unhealthy. Good ventilation, a well-ventilated attic, lack of clutter, solid surfaces rather than carpeting where possible, and lack of mold, dust, pet fur and dander make a real difference.” She recommends using natural or green cleaning solutions.

In the bedroom, where most people spend roughly eight hours a day, Maggie recommends using natural fibers in bedding. If you have plans to repaint, use low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints. According to Consumer Reports volatile organic compounds are solvents that get released into the air as the paint dries. They can cause acute symptoms, including headaches and dizziness.

In the bathroom, clean off any mold in the bathtub or shower, dispose of any unused or outdated medications, and avoid aerosols that contain harmful propellants. Instead, Maggie recommends using deodorants, air fresheners and hair styling products that contain a pump delivery system.

In the kitchen, use glass or Pyrex products instead of plastics. Choose filtered water and look into whether the pipes that provide your water supply are lead-based. These can cause risks, especially to children and pregnant women. If water lead levels exceed 15 parts per billion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using bottled water or filtered water. Meanwhile, replacing lead pipes can be costly, so when remodeling or purchasing a home, it’s best to consult a plumber.

If the property has a garage, make sure it is ventilated, especially if it’s attached to living quarters. Properly dispose of toxic chemicals and limit the use of synthetic weed killers. Using natural fertilizers like mushroom mulch can make a difference, too.

Meanwhile, Ed will be giving a talk on how he decided to start his business at a Business Networking Lunch ‘n Learn event on Wednesday, May 13, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ranalli’s of Andersonville, 1512 W. Berwyn Ave.

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.


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.


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.


3315 N. Claremont

I recently visited three homes for sale in Chicago’s Lakeview and Lincoln Square neighborhoods, and the hands-down winner as a true luxury home, in both amenities and finishes, is 3315 N. Claremont in Lakeview.  The home sits on a lot and a half, with sunlight streaming in along the home’s entire southern exposure. The living room, dining room, kitchen, and great room all benefit from this, and the home features a well-situated deck off the kitchen and beautiful perennial gardens.  The current owners completed a gorgeous renovation of the first floor living, dining, and family rooms, as well as installing a wonderful Euro-style kitchen with chef’s stove, high-end appliances, and lovely tile and quartz countertops.  Offered at $1,149,000.

3447 N. Claremont

Also in Lakeview, 3447 N. Claremont is a 5 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath home in the Chicago Public School’s Coonley district, a highly rated North side public elementary school.  The location is excellent and the home features nice decks and backyard spaces, but due to the highly personalized multi-colored palette of paint and wallpaper, it may be more difficult for buyers to envision this property as their home.  This property may sell more quickly if the color scheme was neutralized.  Offered at $1,050,000.

The last home on the tour, in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood, is 2540 W. Winona. This home, although featuring many green upgrades including a tankless hot water system, also has a garage located below grade and under the house, which some buyers may not care for. The big plus is that the home is on an extended lot, and is a blank slate for a new owner to install landscape plantings and hardscape to their own taste. This will definitely appeal to buyers who can picture the yard as a wonderful place to escape, once plants and trees are in place. In addition, the home’s finishes and amenities approach luxury.  Offered at $749,000.


With interest rates still at historic lows and prices not yet rising, investors are finding unprecedented deals on properties in neighborhoods like Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Andersonville, Edgewater and Lincoln Square. By purchasing foreclosures and short sales- typically buildings with highly motivated sellers- investors are able to build their real estate portfolios for less cash up front.

The key to any smart real estate investment decision is location, location, location, which drives rent, rent, rent.  To quickly evaluate the desirability of a property’s location, check the walk score– properties within six blocks of an el or Metra rail station are usually most popular. Neighborhoods close to the lake, biking and running paths, or downtown are appealing to first time renters, which include north side areas like Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Andersonville, and Edgewater. In addition to a prime location, renters love features like outdoor balconies or patios, or in-unit washers and dryers.

Search here to find the best deals on foreclosures and short sales, or contact me for a free guide to investment properties!


There are many choices for buyers planning to relocate to Chicago. Working with a knowledgeable real estate agent can guide and help to focus your search, based on your lifestyle, location preferences, amenities desired, and needs for access to transportation.

The City of Chicago is on a grid system with State Street and Madison Avenue being the starting point. Streets are numbered going north from State and Madison. There are 77 official neighborhoods in Chicago, each having its own unique number. For those wanting the downtown lifestyle, there are five areas to focus on. They include Loop-Downtown, Gold Coast, Streeterville, South Loop and West Loop.

Price per square foot varies and the average square feet in a 2 bedroom varies, depending on proximity to the Loop, building amenities and features and finishes of a condo. Amenities within a building such as swimming pools, and health club will also determine price. And of course newer buildings with higher end finishes and features will be higher in price. Parking, in unit laundry and private outdoor space tend to be large determining features.


Loop: The median sales price for 2 bedroom 2 bath condos sold in last three months is $325,000. Units are relatively small. Lakefront condos, neighborhood is best known for access to major cultural museums, opera, Broadway Theater, upscale shopping. Michigan Mile includes many upscale shopping destinations, Water Tower Place. Housing stock consists of mostly condos in high rises, plus hotels. Some very high end such as Trump Tower.

Near North: Median sale price $345,000. Includes neighborhoods such as Gold Coast, Streeterville, part of Old Town: Offers upscale shopping, dining, great access to services, lakefront condos in high rises.

West Loop: Median price $310,000. Condos in general are larger. Bargains can be found here, especially west of Greektown/Halsted. 7-10 minute drive or plentiful cab or buses to downtown. Loft spaces with soaring ceilings, great light. Proximity to loop, also to University of Illinois and Rush Medial University. The 1301 W Madison building is a good value. The University Village area offers townhomes and spacious condos, under $400,000.

South Loop: Median price $299,000. Established neighborhood five minutes from the Loop. Some bargains can be found here, in the Dearborn Park area; Housing stock includes low to mid rise townhouses and condos, midrise to highrise. It’s an established neighborhood with shopping and elevated train transportation to airport nearby. Closer to the lake is mostly high rises.


Lincoln Park: Median price $265,000. Lakefront and starts at 2400 north (Fullerton). Known for its proximity to the lakefront, bike paths, wonderful zoo, restaurants. Includes the DePaul area. Housing would be high rise.

Lakeview: Median price $324,000. Begins at Diversey (2800 north) and the lake. Located just north of Lincoln Park, starts at the lakefront. Offers mostly high rise and some mid rise buildings. Some older buildings offer more spacious units. Lakefront is mostly high rises. Elevated train stops.

Andersonville/Edgewater: Median price $230,000. Starts at 5200 north and the lake. Includes hi rises to mid rises to low rise walk ups in lovely rehabbed vintage buildings. Some newer construction units with indoor parking, decks, and garages available in the $300K range. Proximity to lakefront beaches, bike paths, shopping and dining in nearby Andersonville. Elevated train stops.

Ravenswood/Lincoln Square: Median price $252,000. Starts at 4400 North and 2000 West. It’s a walk able, historic and with lovely housing stock. Home of Lill Street Art center and Old Town School of Folk Music. There are some newer construction extra wide units with indoor parking and balconies very affordable.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team