WHY I LOVE RAVENSWOOD IN CHICAGO

I’m on my way to show a townhouse that is for sale on Paulina Street, south of Lawrence Avenue. I am thinking about Why I love Ravenswood in Chicago. Is it the tree lined streets, the lovely stone homes built by old world stone cutters at the turn of the century; or the carpenter gothic frame houses with original “gingerbread” trim?

Maybe. But it’s more about the location.  Ravenswood is ideally situated between Lincoln Square on the west and Andersonville on the south, a great location for shopping, dining, and entertainment.  I can’t wait to tell them about my favorite Andersonville restaurants on Clark Street north of Lawrence. There’s Big Jones, for southern/soul food, Taste of Lebanon where you can get a falafel sandwich for a song, and Calos for great ribs. My favorite shops are the Wooden Spoon (for classes and cooking implements) and the Swedish Bakery.  Let’s not forget there is so much to love about nearby Lincoln Square restaurants and shops.  On Lincoln Avenue, my favorite spots are Café Selmarie for dining al fresco on the Square, Fork for beer, wine and tastings, and shopping at Gene’s Sausage Shop, the Book Cellar.

I wonder if the buyers know that it’s just a 10 minute ride to downtown via Metra Rail, from the station at Lawrence and Ravenswood.  And in the summer, you can hop on Metra northbound and arrive at Ravinia for a concert.  And when the new Mariano’s Gourmet Grocery opens at the Ravenswood Station the area will have even more to offer.

Ravenswood  in Chicago is also served by the Brown line and Red Line elevated trains, as well as busses, especially the express 146 bus.

I’m almost at my destination now, 4620 N Paulina, a wonderful 3 level townhouse in a gorgeous green community.  Where else can you have your own front and back yards, a 2 block walk to Metra, and friendly neighbors.

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

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO BOOST YOUR CONDO OR HOME’S CURB APPEAL

A good place to start is to pretend that you are a buyer and stand in the street and look back at your building. Nothing looks worse from the curb—and sets off subconscious alarms—like dirty front windows, hanging gutters and downspouts, missing bricks from the front steps, cracked sidewalks or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%. Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house.
Here is a list of eight common tasks that will add to the value of your home and give you the curb appeal you seek.
1. Get started with the front of your house. In this instance a book is being judged by its cover. Wash windows inside and out, wipe cobwebs from eaves, hose down the downspouts, and don’t forget garage doors and parking lots.
2. Wash the dirt, mildew and general gunge off the outside of your buildings. REALTORS® say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses.
3. Clean up the yard and garden. A well-manicured lawn with fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal. Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots. Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass and be sure to mow regularly.
4. Clean the carpeting in your condo entries and hallways, and don’t forget the walls. Fresh paint in entries and on walls makes a huge difference. Shampoo the hallway and stair carpets twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Be sure hallways aren’t littered with multiple pairs of shoes outside the unit doors.
5. Make sure the name labels at the lobby door buzzers look consistent and professional. Handwritten labels of different styles and colors can mislead a buyer to assume it’s a building with a lot of turnover.
6. Glam your address. Add a plaque with architectural house numbers to make your building stand out. Give your old mailboxes a facelift – paint them. These days, your local home improvement center or hardware store has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. You can expect to spend anywhere from $10 to $200 depending on the type of address plaque you purchase.
7. Add a color splash to please the eye of would-be buyers. In spring, plant a tulip border. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or chair on the front porch if there is room. These colorful touches won’t add to the value of our house: appraisers don’t give you extra points for them. but beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your home sell faster.
8. Frame your back yard, deck or patio, adding a border or low fence. Be sure to maintain the gates in clean and working condition. Replace and tighten loose latches.
Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Real Estate Team

PLANNING YOUR RELOCATION TO CHICAGO

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.

DOWNTOWN AND CLOSEST PROXIMITY

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.

NEIGHBORHOODS BEYOND DOWNTOWN

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

Planning to Invest in a Condo in 2012?

Have you been planning to invest in a condo in 2012? Here is a short list of things to consider before you make an offer.

  1. Look beyond the condo features and fancy finishes. Take a close look at the masonry/tuck pointing, roof, common hallways, exterior stairs, parking lots and garages. If these areas are not well maintained, they can be a source of major special assessments, and can make it difficult to sell in the future. If you are not familiar with these items, ask your realtor, she will be an expert in this.
  2. Look for a condo that is updated, with kitchen and baths no older than 5-10 years. Otherwise, when you plan to resell the unit in the future, you will have to spend money to update the kitchens and baths. Appraisers consider the age of updates when determining value, and anything 15 years or more is not considered updated or in excellent condition.
  3. Take a close look at the condo association financials and meeting minutes. Look for the amount of condo replacement reserves, annual operating expenses, and budget vs actual expenses for the prior and current years. A good rule of thumb is for the condo to have an amount at least equal to 10% of their annual operating expense in reserve, and the annual income from assessments should more than cover condo common expenses and a contribution to reserves.
  4. Size up the condition of the common hallways and look into the percentage of units rented. A building that is approaching 50% non owner occupied may be one that is not mortgage able in the future when you want to sell.

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

FREE NORTH CENTER HOLIDAY CRAFT AND BAKE SALES CONVENIENT FOR NORTH CENTER, LINCOLN SQUARE, AND RAVENSWOOD RESIDENTS

As the holidays approach, consider patronizing two local school holiday craft and bake sales for homemade gift items and baked goods that make great gifts.   Coonley Elementary School located at 4046 N. Leavitt will be holding its Annual Holiday Market from 10am-4pm on Saturday, November 20th and from 11am-3pm on Sunday, November, 21, 2010.   Vendor applications can be picked up in the school office or received via e-mail from one of the following contacts:   For the Holiday Market – m_meera02@hotmail.com or 312-622-3402.   For the Bake Sale – marialucila@sbcglobal.net or 773-354-3830.

St. Benedict parish will be holding its Annual Elf Shop Christmas Bazaar and Craft Fair in the high school gym located at 3943 N. Bell from 9-4pm on both Saturday, November 20th and Sunday, November 21, 2010.   Vendors can contact daralis@stbenedict.com or call 773-588-4351 or 773-539-0066, Ext. 275 for more information.

Both locations are within a block of one another on either side of Irving Park Road which makes for double the variety and shopping fun with the availability of many tasty treats.   Residents of North Center, Lincoln Square, and Ravenswood can get into the holiday spirit and support their local schools, crafters, and bakers right in their own backyard and buy locally.   Here is your chance to make a dent in your holiday shopping list.

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Team

FAMILY FRIENDLY MIDNIGHT CIRCUS IS COMING TO WELLES PARK IN LINCOLN SQUARE AND CHASE PARK IN UPTOWN NEIGHBORHOODS OF CHICAGO

Ladies and Gentleman!   Step right up into some Fall fun at your nearest Chicago neighborhood park.   The Midnight Circus is coming to town to help selective Chicago parks raise money for their programs and initiatives.

The Midnight Circus features acrobats, aerialists, clowns, contortionists, and a dog in the outdoor park setting which aims to please and entertain all ages.   In the event of rain, the circus will move indoors to the park’s fieldhouse.

The Midnight Circus will be entertaining in the heart of Lincoln Square at Welles Park on Saturday, September 18, 2010 at 2pm and 5pm and on Sunday, September 19, 2010 at 1pm and 4pm.   Chase Park in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood will host Midnight Circus on Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 2pm and 5pm and on Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 1pm and 4pm.   The ticket price at all park locations is $15.00 per person with children under the age of 2 admitted free of charge.   Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more.

Don’t miss the magic and circus fun!

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Team

LINCOLN SQUARE VON STEUBEN PARADE AND GERMAN-AMERICAN FEST

Step in time to the annual Lincoln Square Von Steuben Parade this Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 2pm.   The parade steps off at the CVS on Lincoln Avenue at Belle Plaine and heads north on Lincoln Avenue to Eastwood.   From Eastwood, the parade heads westward to Western Avenue and then north on Western Avenue to Lawrence Avenue where it turns east and finishes up at the entrance to Lincoln Square.

This is one of the nicest neighborhood parades in the city of Chicago and culminates in Lincoln Square during its annual German-American Fest.   Lincoln Square’s annual German-American Fest will be held from Friday, September 10 – Sunday, September 12, 2010 in the heart of Lincoln Square at Lincoln Avenue, Leland Avenue, east of Western Avenue.     The German-American Fest is sponsored by the United German American Societies of Greater Chicago.

The Von Steuben Parade is sponsored by the 47th Ward Alderman Gene Schulter’s office.   For more information, please call Alderman Schulter’s office at 773-348-8400 or visit their website.

Come on out at celebrate the German-American traditions of Lincoln Square and enjoy some traditional costumes, music, food, and beverages while you are at it!

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Team

FREE FAMILY FRIENDLY CONCERT IN THE PARKS AT LINCOLN SQUARE’S WELLES PARK IN AUGUST

Enjoy the outdoors in Chicago during the last weeks of summer.   The Chicago Park District Performances in the Parks program provides the venues during the summer and early fall months at various parks throughout the city.   Residents of Lincoln Square, North Center, and Ravenswood don’t have far to go to Welles Park (2333 W. Sunnyside) to enjoy free family friendly outdoor music.

All performances are held in the gazebo at Welles Park behind the fieldhouse.   Music lovers bring chairs and blankets to relax and enjoy the music.   Participants of the Welles Park Parents Association (W.P.P.A.) baseball program often enjoyed the music on Tuesday evenings as they played baseball in the nearby fields in June and July.

The remaining weekly Tuesday Concert in the Park schedule for August at Welles Park is as follows:

August 17th – Jazz Ambassadors features jazz music

August 24th – Louis & the Hunt features folk/rock music

August 31st – Tom Waits tribute music by Big Time features pop/rock music

All concerts begin at 6:30pm and are free.   The Welles Park Concerts in the Park are generously co-produced by Alderman Gene Schulter of the 47th ward, Welles Park Advisory Council, Old Town School of Folk Music, Martyrs Restaurant and Pub, Metro, and the W.P.P.A. baseball program.

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Team

BATTER UP FOR CHICAGO’S NORTH CENTER AND LINCOLN SQUARE BASEBALL FAMILIES!

Youth league baseball season is in full swing!   Chicago’s North Center, Lincoln Square, and Ravenswood residents don’t have to go far to enjoy their fill of America’s favorite summer pastime – baseball.   These north side neighborhoods enjoy good youth baseball programs that draw participants from all over the city of Chicago to build a sense of community and camaraderie of the families involved.

The Welles Park Parent Association (WPPA) emphasizes baseball fundamentals, good sportsmanship, and the knowledge of the game.   Children begin as Rookies at ages 5-6, become Juniors at ages 7-8, Minors are for ages 9-10, Majors for ages 11-12, and Seniors are 13-14 years.   The Liberty Division involves players ages 15-18 years old.   The WPPA program is well known for its solid baseball program and has established a good reputation.   Most games are played at the five baseball diamonds at Welles Park located between Montrose Avenue and Sunnyside just west of Lincoln Avenue.   Other parks utilized for WPPA games are Winnemac Park (Damen and Winnemac) and Legion (Bryn Mawr and Virginia).

Hamlin Park (on Damen Avenue between Barry and Wellington) enjoys a strong and reputable youth baseball program operated by Hamlin Park Baseball Association (HPBA).   They recently received a donation from Cubs Care to renovate three of their baseball diamonds to better weather rainfall and blowing dust.

Horner Park at California Avenue and Irving Park Road has another good youth baseball program that serves many children of Chicago’s north side neighborhoods including a Challenger Division that is designed for mentally and/or physically challenged youth ages 5-18.   Horner Park North-West Little League conducts house play.

All three youth baseball leagues are co-ed and stress baseball fundamentals while cultivating a love of the game.   For North Center, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, and Roscoe Village families, there is a baseball diamond within walking distance or at least a short drive.   The children who participate in youth baseball programs come together on their youth baseball team, building new bonds with their teammates and forming lasting ties to their communities.

If you want to know what life is like in the summertime in the city of Chicago, stop by your nearest ballpark and take a look around you.   There is nothing like watching a child hit the baseball for his/her first hit or making his/her first catch in the outfield.   Batter up!

Ann Marie Walker, ABR, Move with Maggie Team

LINCOLN SQUARE IS ONE OF CHICAGO’S NEIGHBORHOODS TO WATCH

Lincoln Square is quickly becoming a new destination within Chicago’s neighborhoods.   It will have the soon to be developed transportation center at Lawrence and Ravenswood, including a major grocery store, retail, condos and most importantly parking.

The charm of Lincoln Square is in its history and small-town friendliness while still offering big city shopping, entertaining and dining.

It is a walkable, green, friendly community anchored by Lincoln Avenue and surrounded by three lovely, large parks-Wells Park on the South, Winnemac Park on the east and River Park on the west. Auto traffic is restricted on the Square. In the summer you can enjoy Concerts and Movies in the Parks, swim at River Park, play ball, jog or walk your dog. Take in the wildflower gardens and nature preserves at Winnemac Park. And Wells Park is home to the wonderful Folk and Roots Festival in July.

There are many fun places to shop, dine, and discover.   At the north end of Lincoln Avenue you take cooking class at Chopping Block, eat at Gene’s Sausage Shop, and enjoy European pastries and al fresco dining at Café Selmarie.   Stop in at Book Cellar to meet an author for a book signing. Pamper yourself at Merz Apothecary or Renessence Salon. Keep walking and you see women and children’s boutiques, the Old Town School of Folk Music, and don’t miss Wells Park, which has a gazebo that reminds me of Paris, a large indoor pool, and ball fields.

Take a walking tour of local gardens, look around and see architecture from turn-of- the century homes to contemporary condos.   There are many choices in housing, no matter what your circumstance, from small apartment buildings to homes to condominiums.  Once you live in Lincoln Square, you won’t feel the need to flee to the burbs for shopping, greenspace, and family activities. Although if you must flee, in the summer you can take Metra to Ravinia and enjoy amazing concerts and picnicking.

Maggie Finegan, Move with Maggie Team

Image courtesy of Urban General Store