VM blog 2015 10 30 (before & after 1)There are many ways Sandy Spatz helps her clients reorganize their homes, condos and offices.

“I think what makes me the happiest is when I check in with them, and they say it’s still working,” Spatz said. “(When they say) ‘I’m using the new filing system,’ (or) ‘my home just flows better.’ Your house should be a sanctuary. That’s my goal, for you to feel really good in your space.”

Spatz, who lives in Andersonville, started her business in 2002, but it’s fair to say that she’s been interested in organizing and re-organizing all her life. She’s worked with clients living in Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Rogers Park, and the Chicago suburbs, helping them move or to create a more stress-free environment.

Over the years, the owner of Step-by-Step by Sandy has had a variety of clients, some of whom have had a more difficult time sorting through their belongings than most. One woman in particular was recovering from a personal tragedy, and “she was scared to let go of anything. She had experienced so much loss.”

After working with Spatz for an extended period, the client lost 50 pounds, started entertaining again, and obtained a job. “She started feeling better about herself and the future and was able to finally make some progress,” Spatz said.

How did she do it? Every client is different, Spatz said, and she takes time to determine what process will work for VM blog 2015 10 30 (before & after 2)them. Are they more visual, meaning it’s helpful for them to have reminders within their sights of what they want and need? Do they have a small apartment or home filled with belongings they don’t need anymore, that they are working to pare down?

“I encourage people to buy a file cabinet and a shredder, but I think the learning comes from establishing a new habit,” Spatz said. “It’s really helping them see and really give 100 percent to try a new system, especially with paper. You have to practice it, learning and asking yourself the right questions. I try to learn how they think and how they live in their home.”

Spatz works with realtors and others when helping her clients move, packing and unpacking boxes and arranging furniture. “If you are able to, the next day, to take a shower, eat breakfast and get dressed for work, then that shows (great progress),” she said.

Different organizers fit different people, Spatz said. “You have to find the one that works for you. It’s a very personal, intimate process. Somebody is going through your stuff with you, and you want to feel comfortable.”

For more information about Step-by-Step by Sandy, visit Spatz’s website at

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.


Chicago BrauhausI’m always amazed by Chicago’s support of free green space for runners, walkers and bicyclists. Before moving here permanently, I visited the city multiple times to get a feel for what it had to offer. Running along Lake Michigan is easily one of my favorite activities here.

On my first full day in my new condo, I ran to Lake Michigan and then turned south to pass Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course before turning back around again. The views of the lake and of all the green space in Lincoln Park make it a worthwhile run even in misty, 45-degree weather. But another great thing about running is that I get to explore the area closer to my new home.

Within a mile or two of my condo, in the neighborhoods of Andersonville, Ravenswood and Lincoln Square, I have access to an incredible number of mixed-use local businesses and restaurants. These include Andersonville Hardware, Old Town School of Folk Music, Dolce Casa Café, Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen, Alley Cat Comics, Ruff N’ Stuff Pet Center (a nonprofit pet store), Chicago Brauhaus restaurant, Bikram Yoga Andersonville, Women & Children First book store, the Swedish American Museum and Brunk Children’s Museum of Immigration, and performance art options like The Neo-Futurists.

Meanwhile, residential buildings seamlessly line the surrounding streets. There’s a blend of stores catering to the Chicago Vietnamese community as well as a Bosnian Herzegovinian American Community Center and the DANK Haus German American Cultural Center. I’m within walking distance of the Metra and elevated trains. Mariano’s, an upscale grocery store, is just several blocks away. Winnemac Park, which includes tennis courts, a playground, a track, and a number of dog-friendly trails, is close by, too. These only add to the vibrancy, diversity, and local feel of Ravenswood, Lincoln Square and Andersonville.

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.


01 Ext - 1136 W Fullterton Unit GWhat Do Dogs Have to Do With It?

Everywhere we look there are different messages about housing prices in Lincoln Park and the Chicago market. And of course my sellers are confused. One day they read that the market is recovering, in fact up by 11% over last year. In another article, it says the market is declining, in that we have fewer properties going under contract than last year at this time.

So let’s focus on specifics. Specifically two bedroom, two bathroom condos in Central Lincoln Park, with garage parking space and deck or patio. Central Lincoln Park is from Armitage to Fullerton and from Clark to Sheffield. In that market, I see seven condos for sale. Twelve have gone under contract or closed in the last 6 months, and with 2 real buyers per month, and only 5 condos for sale, it points to a strong sellers market.

So why isn’t the garden unit selling, with 2 good sized bedrooms, a master suite, an open plan combo kitchen, dining and living room with fireplace. And the unit has a garage. It’s been on the market for 56 days and I am thinking. . . .

My gut tells me that it’s most likely because it is a garden unit. Garden means below grade. With all of our weather changes and flooding in some areas, we are starting to see that buyers are shying away from such units. They purchase garden units when they are a super deal, a great value. The reason is fear that they will be taking greater risk of flooding or break- ins. We lowered our price twice so now, it’s just about getting the right person in. The perfect buyer would be a dog owner who wants to take the dog out easily . Do you know of a dog owner in Chicago that is looking for a new home? That’s what dogs have to do with it!


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.


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


Check out the Spooktacular event on Saturday, October 30, 2010 from 1-5pm on Clark Street from Armitage to Diversey in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.   Halloween Headquarters is located at 2338 N. Clark Street the day of the event.   There will be trick-or-treating, free games, crafts, refreshments, and inflatables as well as a magician, clowns, jugglers stilt walkers and more.   A costume contest will be held at Halloween Headquarters at 4:30pm.

Nothing Without a Company will present “The Big, Bad Spooktacular” at the northeast corner of Clark and Belden with showtimes at 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm, and 4:30pm.

In addition, the businesses along Clark Street will display one-of-a-kind scarecrows from October 16 – October 30, 2010.   You can view the scarecrows on-line and vote for your favorite.   The Clark Street merchants are offering “Spooky Savings” from October 30 – November 7, 2010.   Be sure to download coupons and special offers after October 22, 2010.   Don’t miss out on the “Spooktacular” savings and fun!

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Team