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

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.


Happy New Year!  Today, we share information on a gorgeous property in sustainable, walkable, wonderful Ravenswood in Chicago, 60640, located between the communities of Andersonville and Lincoln Square.  I just noticed that a two unit building we have been wondering about for awhile is for sale.  I am familiar with this building because I used to live next door.  It is a two unit, three level building on an oversized lot that is 150 feet deep.  Extra deep lot = large building + deck + vegetable garden + yard and two car garage.  The yard has plenty of sun to grow your own veggies.  It is a two unit building so living in one unit while renting out the other one helps with economic sustainability.  You can walk to the new Marianos Fresh Market, opening in spring 2014, and purchase locally grown produce, meats and more the Andersonville farmers market on Wednesday afternoons from spring through fall.


It is located on what appraisers are describing as a “greenbelt“.  Commuting is easy as the Metra Rail station is a lovely short two block walk down Ravenswood Avenue and the train takes you downtown in about ten minutes.  Just as convenient is the brown line Leland stop which is a quick five block walk.  The property is two blocks from the LA Fitness, opening first quarter of 2014 at the corner of Ravenswood and Lawrence.  Ideally situated, you can shop local in nearby Andersonville, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood.  Just a few blocks from the Divvy and I-Go bike and car sharing programs.


So, all around, it is a wonderful place to call home.  Contact Maggie Finegan at 773-502-1673 to find out more about the area or to schedule a showing for this property or other two flats in the area.


Luxury Homes in Edgewater are going green. Green is definitely catching on in Andersonville and Lakewood Balmoral Edgewater in Chicago. A walk thru the neighborhood and you see drought tolerant landscaping, permeable sidewalks and patios, glass curtain walls, rain barrel collection systems, and open front porches.

I toured five homes last weekend on the Edgewater Home Tour, and you will see homes where the owners elected to keep the vintage features and systems that are also earth friendly and energy conscious. Keeping the original hot water and steam radiant heating systems instead of replacing with gas forced air systems that are not green.

There are lots of green features that are hidden in the Luxury Green Homes in Edgewater in Chicago. These include solar powered attic fans, on demand hot water systems, and green insulation. To learn more about how you can go green at home, and receive a copy of just released book Green Your Home, visit my website

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


RISMEDIA, March 31, 2011”According to DIY shopping and support website Trades Supermarket, the improved spring weather means more than giving the lawn a trim for homeowners; it signifies the time to undertake necessary repair and maintenance checks, not only to make sure the house and garden look good and are safe for summer but also to save expenditure on major improvements in the long run.

The strong winds over the winter months may have impacted the safety of areas in and around the home, notes Tommy Walsh, TV favorite and member of the Trades Supermarket team. These impacted areas can include roofs, guttering and fences. Walsh suggests that homeowners ensure wooden fence posts are still intact and embedded properly in the ground, and consider treating them by applying a new coat of preservative. Checking guttering, fascias and roof tiles for damage and movement, as well as clearing out any leaves and debris that have built-up over the winter, are must-do jobs. Walsh adds that ladder work is always a two person job, and that people who are not confident should consult professionals.

According to Walsh, checking for the onset of rot in wood is another important safety check, especially on sheds and decking, which could cause serious injury to people if they collapsed. With decking, Walsh suggests looking at the condition of the posts and making sure the planking is nailed or screwed firmly in place. Shed owners should not only inspect the wood but also make sure the roofing felt has not shrunk or ripped”replacing it if necessary to prevent leaks”therefore avoiding further damage to the wood or the shed™s contents. If decking or sheds are due for a fresh coat of a preservative treatment, Walsh advises making sure the timber is washed down using a stiff brush and lightly sanding before application.

œDoing maintenance checks around the home are jobs that are often put off until ˜next weekend™ but many of these checks are for safety reasons, says Walsh. œYou don™t want to risk any accidents or end up spending more money having to replace things, like your fascias or decking, in the long run.

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


RISMEDIA, March 28, 2011”As winter gives way to spring, the threat of water flooding your basement substantially increases.œMost people believe that after the snow melts that the threat of basement flooding goes away, explains Chris O™Donohue, water damage specialist and owner of Advantage Restoration and Cleaning Services, located in Pinckney, Michigan. œBut snow usually isn™t the issue; it™s the combination of the frozen ground thawing around the foundation of the home and the arrival of heavy spring rains that cause problems.

As soil thaws it is overly saturated with water, and when a spring rain adds few fresh inches, the water finds the easiest path to flow ”usually along your home™s foundation, down to the basement and into your sump pump basin. œIf your sump pump fails, you™ll have a major water damage problem on your hands, comments O™Donohue.

œSump pump failure is one of the most common causes for basement water damage we see, says O™Donohue. œThe number of calls we receive for basement water damage clean up explodes when spring arrives. And a majority of the time the cause is a sump pump problem. We™ve been called to homes with beautiful finished basements that have been filled with 4 inches of water”It™s a heartbreaking site that is very expensive to fix.

A sump pump is a last defense against flooding, pumping out water from the lowest section of the basement before the water level reaches the basement floor level. As groundwater levels rise, it is diverted into the sump hole. When the water reaches what is called ˜the critical level,™ the sump pump begins to pump the excess out through a pipe that leads outside and away from your foundation.

Just a few inches of water in a basement can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage” including sump pump overflow, frozen and burst pipes”has accounted for about 22 percent of all residential insurance claims. The average claim was $5,531. Unfortunately, many homeowners often overlook this on their policy and don™t have adequate protection against such damage.

œThe inability of a sump pump to handle runoff water from major downpours is not covered under a typical homeowner™s insurance policy, nor are they covered by flood insurance, said David Walker with Hartland Insurance Agency. œThis type of coverage must be purchased either as a separate product or as an endorsement to a homeowner™s policy.

A standard homeowner™s policy will not have coverage for a sump pump, or any existing drainage system. This includes a back-up through any drain, sink discharge, toilet, or sump pump failure. According to the Chubb Insurance Group, 37 percent of homeowners have experience some type of home water damage and 51 percent say their losses were not covered by their insurance policy.

The average lifespan of a sump pump is about 10 years, and they do eventually wear out. Fortunately, most sump pump problems can be avoided by a few regular maintenance checks and can easily be fixed by the homeowner.

Here™s a list of common sump pump problems and solutions for each. Before performing any sump pump maintenance, be sure to unplug any electrical power leading to the unit.

¢ Debris In The Sump Basin. Always check to make sure that the sump pit is free from debris. Children™s small toys and debris from items stored around the basin can get into the unit and hinder the float mechanism, causing it to fail. Test the float itself, since they can burn out over time. Fill the pit up with water, making sure it both starts and stops the sump pump as designed.

¢ Inspect The œCheck Valve. Sometimes, the check valve can be improperly installed. The check valves are set up so that when the sump pump shuts off, no water will go back into the sump pump. The check valve™s arrow should not be pointing toward the sump pump.

¢ Clean The Weep Hole. Some pumps will have a weep hole, usually between the sump pump and the check valve. You can clean this weep hole out with a toothpick or other tiny object. Be careful not to break anything into the weep hole.

¢ Clean the Impeller. This is a small filter that can easily become clogged. If your sump pump has stopped running suddenly, or has been making a whining noise, this could be the problem. The impeller should be connected to the sump pump with bolts and may need a good cleaning to work properly.

¢ Sump Pump Odor. Typical odors are caused from the sump pump trap. The trap always retains some water, but when water doesn™t flow into the basin during the dry seasons of the year, an odor starts to form. You can eliminate the odor by using a bleach-water mixture to cleanse the basin. One part bleach to five parts water will work. You can also fill the basin with water until the sump pump engages, cycling the water and helping to eliminate the odor.

¢ Install a Back-up Power Source. Purchasing a sump pump back-up power supply or a generator is a great idea to avoid overflow when you have a power outage. Most power outages are caused by heavy thunderstorms that bring huge amounts of rain very quickly. This is when you need your sump pump most. If you lose power the back-up system will take over to get rid of the water as the basin fills up. There are also water powered back-up systems that tap into your home™s water supply to provide the energy needed to run the pump. It is good to invest in the purchase of a back-up system now, rather than face the costs of a flooded basement.

œIf more people would maintain their sump pumps like they do their automobile, they could save a lot of money and stress, claims O™Donohue. œA water damage restoration situation can really turn the lives of a family upside-down for a few weeks. Preventing the problem by checking the condition of their sump pump should be on their spring to-do list every year.

For more information visit

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

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You can just feel Spring in the air.   Time to get working in the garden and make some decisions. Lately, I’ve been researching organic gardening in Chicago which can be difficult to navigate on a first try but not hard to overcome.   Even those who have experience find organic gardening hard to do.

First, let me explain organic gardening.   Basically, you are not using any chemicals for fertilizer and pesticide. If you’ve been spoiled by the convenience of gardening products, this can be a transition.   When making the switch, you have to make your own fertilizer and rely on a natural process to get rid of pests.

The first rule in organic gardening is to check your soil.   Make sure it’s healthy. All gardeners know this, but few really understand what it means. Nourishing the soil and caring for it will take care of your plants providing the nutrients your plants need.

Adding nutrients to the soil comes from fertilizers. Organic gardeners create their own fertilizer from food scraps made into compost, which can also include dried leaves, remains of plants and animal waste if you have pets. Not the most appetizing for us but sweet nectar for your plants.

As much as your plants like fertilizer so do pests. Organic gardeners do not use pesticides like ordinary gardening and farming. They rely upon natural processes, which you can manipulate ocassionally and makes organic plants more susceptible to pests. Experts advise being vigilant and at the first sight of a problem, take care of it before it becomes something that you can’t control.

On second thought, I might start with an element of organic gardening and work my way into a full-fledged organic garden next year.

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


The concerns of most buyers revolve around the abilities: stability, affordability and lend-ability.   Given the current market, you are probably wondering if it is smart to purchase a condo in Chicago as many other buyers question.

So let’s look at a sustainable condo in Chicago, for example, 4531 Magnolia located in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.   First let’s understand what sustainable means to me.   I’m looking at a solid condo association with healthy financials, a well maintained building, and is located in a walkable neighborhood that is becoming more and more desirable as a result of the increasing amenties such as local transportation, shopping and dining.

As you cruise through the Uptown neighborhood you’ll notice many for sale signs.   But let’s take a look at this property in particular.   The condo association has very solid reserves that are well in excess of the required 10% by lenders.   The building has been steadfastly maintained through the years.   Not only is there evidence of leadership in managing the property but also the atmosphere among the owners is friendly.   With a high walking score of 97% this location is just a few blocks from the bus, Chicago’s El, dining and shops.

With a low price of $279,000 and affordable assessments of $200 per month, which includes gated and secure parking, this two bedroom and two newer bath condo with back terrace and front balcony is sustainable.   Boy do we Chicagoans love our outdoor space. Then you add the amenties of central air, fireplace, and bay windows to allow the maximum amount of light most of us sun-starved locals need. And to further show how much this property has going for it, there is a new kitchen that incorporates a sustainable cork floor and high efficiency appliances in addition to the condo being recently painted with low VOC paint.

Now that’s sustainable!

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


The Andersonville neighborhood in Chicago is a great place to shop for local, green and sustainable items, while also taking in a bit of history along the way.

Local residents and homeowners appreciate its main commercial street, Clark Street, just designated an historic commercial district and now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The district runs from Rosehill on the north to Argyle on the south, and there you will find great shopping, dining and entertainment, along with 140 historic buildings. It includes fully intact turn-of-the-century commercial buildings that represent the popular architectural styles of the time.

From its oldest building, home to Gethsemane Garden Center at 5739 N Clark, to SoFo Bar at 4923 N Clark, you will see architectural styles from Neoclassicism, to Revivalism to Art Deco. Neighbors love to shop at Green Sky on Ashland and Berwyn for environmentally friendly gifts, and Green Genes on south Clark for eco friendly children’s toys and clothing. And there’s the farmers market on Wednesdays beginning in June.

A bit more on the history… Clark St. was paved in 1891 and an electric trolley car ran upChicago Clark Street Trolley Clark to Devon Avenue. After the Chicago Fire of 1871, Swedish immigrants who moved up to the area were skilled in building, design and finance, and they built the area that is now an Historic District.   A special thanks to Thom Green, Green & Proppe Design, Ellen Shepherd and the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce for their work in and on supporting this designation.

Maggie Finegan, ABR, Move with Maggie Chicago Realty Team