LIFE BEGINS WHEN YOU STEP OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Laura and Gene called in September and asked me to sell their bungalow house in Portage Park. They owned the home for 10 years. Laura received a great job offer in Portland that will fulfill their long-awaited dream to move to the west coast where Gene sees many opportunities to build his business. I met with them two months ago to talk about selling. At the time, they expressed concern about a low appraisal value, from a couple years ago, at a value that wouldn’t bring them enough to settle their loan. After walking through their home and researching the current market, I made recommendations that would easily reconfigure the space, such as doing some painting and updating their bathroom, that would likely bring them more value.

They mentioned they were hoping to buy in Portland but weren’t sure how to pull that of long distance. I mapped out a strategy and timeline for selling and buying long distance. I researched and found them a great realtor that I trust who is with Keller Williams in Portland.

We put their home on market and scheduled an open house for the weekend they were planning on a home buying trip. They were delighted when I brought them two offers within a week. Their Portland realtor kept looking for a home for them and found one that they loved. She sent them a video and them made an offer.

I met the appraiser in Chicago, gave him the comparable sales with lost of details on all the improvements they made over the years, and happily the home did appraise out at the sale price. They closed earlier this week and are moving into their new home on Thursday. Life begins when they stepped outside their comfort zone.

Maggie Finegan, Move with Maggie, making your dreams a reality.

IRVING PARK SINGLE FAMILY HOMES MARKET REPORT

Irving Park Single Family HomeIRVING PARK MARKET REPORT as of April, 2016

RECENT MARKET CHANGES
The market is shifting in Irving Park. According to Midwest Real Estate Data, the average sales price of 4 bedroom, 4 bath homes in Irving Park is $610,000. There are many more rehabbed homes coming on the market this year, including two new or rehabbed homes just put on the market in the mid to upper $500K ranges.

The overall observations and feedback from recent showings and open houses in the neighborhood.

Competition: Very recently buyers are seeing more new or newly rehabbed homes for sale, and we are seeing price reductions on those homes. While these homes may be slightly smaller or on smaller lots, they do offer the most current features and finishes. This goes beyond paint color, into cabinetry, amenities such a master baths with dual sinks and separate whirlpool tubs in addition to showers. Buyers viewing these homes begin to develop a taste and preference, and it may become their new standard. Here is a recent home for sale in the neighborhood.

A recent article in Illinois Association of Realtors quotes a 2017 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study, stating that Millenials prefer modern or farmhouse styles, while boomers prefer traditional. Both groups prefer white cabinets, grey walls and stainless appliances.

Closed Properties: In studying those homes most recently under contract or closed, the trend is for buyers to choose homes that although slightly smaller than the subject property, rehabbed with new front elevations/porches, and current amenities and features, as well as finishes and color schemes in white, grey and blue. Common elements are expanded master baths as well as stainless appliance kitchens with glass tile or subway tile back splashes, some with high end appliances, and white cabinetry as the new norms.

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE MARKET IN 2017?

We’re a few months into the year and many potential buyers and sellers are wondering, is this a good year to get into the market? Many current homeowners are thinking about the value of their homes, even if they’re not thinking of listing anytime soon.

The information for March provides an overview of what’s in store for the American real estate market this year based on expert predictions and current price and sales data. These forecasts provide insight into current trends and paint a picture of what may happen this year. However, while our market may appear similar to the national market, local and regional factors may play a role in specific forecasts for our market.

If you’d like to know more about our local market, want to know how much your home is worth or are thinking of buying or selling, give me a call. I’d love to discuss the market with you and assist you with all of your real estate needs.

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IT’S ALMOST TAX SEASON

Tax time is right around the corner. While many people wait until the last minute to complete tax returns, it may pay off to get started now, especially if you plan to itemize.

This month’s information outlines several deductions you may be able to claim on your taxes if you qualify. These deductions, including writing off sales tax and your mortgage interest, allow you to reduce the amount of taxes you owe and help you maximize your savings. Page two helps you get organized for tax season by providing a list of tasks to tackle now.

Tax time can be stressful for many people. The more you prepare, the less stressful the process will be.

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FOUR FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOUR NEXT HOME SEARCH

According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, more than half of recent homebuyers said the hardest part of the buying process was finding the right home to purchase. Since a home is the largest purchase most of us will make, it is easy to become wrapped up in finding the perfect place that meets all of our wants and needs. We overwhelm ourselves by focusing on checking off the boxes that will result in our ideal home. That’s a lot of pressure!

This month’s information is intended to take the stress out of finding the right home. Before you begin your search, there are four things to consider—price range, features, location and lifestyle. These four factors will help you focus your search on homes that meet your needs, allowing you to make the best decision for your family and for your wallet.

When you’re looking for a home, you need an experienced professional in your corner to help navigate the process and get you the best deal. If you’re ready to buy, give me a call! I’d love to help you achieve your dream of homeownership.

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Using the Internet in Your Home Search

EXIT STAGE RIGHT – “CHICAGO’S BEST HOME STAGERS!”

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.

TIPS AND THINGS NOT TO DO WITH YOUR LANDSCAPE DESIGN

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.

BENEFITS OF LANDSCAPE DESIGN

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.

WHEN LOOKING FOR A GOOD REAL ESTATE FIT, CALL MAGGIE FINEGAN

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.

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.