Your Ultimate Guide to Real Estate on Chicago's North Shore

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North Shore Market Update: 1st Half 2011

North Shore Chicago home sales for the first half of 2011 were down 11% over last year. Seems pretty negative, but there’s a good explanation, which is that there was a home buyer tax credit in effect during the first half of 2010, and this gave the market a pretty substantial boost last year. Better news is that prices are up 4% this year and time on market is down 6%.

As for individual towns, only Winnetka, Kenilworth and Glencoe posted sales gains, and Glencoe’s was a whopping 53% (from 47 homes sold in 2010 to 72 in 2011). What drove that increase? Lots more sales at every price point: 5 more homes sold under $500,000,  8 more between $500,000 and $999,000, 9 more between $1,000,000 and $1,999,999 and 3 more over $2,000,000. Highland Park continues to have the weakest trends, declining 27% in the first half.

Price trends were mostly in positive territory, except for Winnetka (-8%) and Highland Park (-7%).

Wilmette market time was the shortest at 143 days (under 5 months), followed by Evanston with 153 days. Northfield and Lake Forest had the longest market time, at 316 days and 281 days, respectively.

North Shore Market Update
1st Half 2011 vs. Year Ago

North Shore Chicago Market Data - First Half 2011Source: MRED LLC – Data for single family homes. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed

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North Shore Market Update: May 2011

Wednesday’s headline in the Business section of the Chicago Tribune struck fear in the hearts of Chicagoland homeowners who thought the worst was behind them. Chicago area home prices have slumped to a 10-year low, falling for the eighth straight month in March. The S&P/Case Shiller trend lines suggested that the dreaded “double dip” was becoming a reality. Home prices for Chicago had fallen 34% since 2006.

The Case-Shiller Index, which tracks prices in the top metro areas, was reporting numbers for March. Those numbers are two months old now and of limited relevance if one can get May numbers for the North Shore market specifically (vs. the whole Chicago area).

Up here, the picture is not nearly so grim. For the nine North Shore communities we track, sales were up 4% overall and prices were up 6% in May vs. year ago. Compared to last month sales were up 12% and the median price was up 3%.

North Shore Market Update
May 2011 vs. Year Ago

North Shore Market Update: May 2011Souce: MRED- Data for single family homes. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed

Naturally, trends were not equally good for all communities.  Winnetka and Lake Forest have shown the most consistently positive performance  recently, while Highland Park has been consistently weak, both in terms of sales and price trends. In fact, Highland Park is the one town on the North Shore whose trends seem to mimic those of the greater Chicagoland area.

greensubscribeAnne West - Your North Shore Real Estate Connection

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Birdhouse Garden in May

I first wrote about this delightful garden back in April, when there wasn’t much to see.

Here it is again in the middle of May, when the tulips were in bloom and other perennials were starting to sprout. And the birdhouses have come out to join the flowers.

Birdhouse garden on Hunter Rd., WilmetteBirdhouseHere’s how it looked just one month before:

April 13

April 13

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Live Across from Thornwood Park

2345_thornwood ave., wilmette

If you like the idea of having a huge yard for your kids to play in that you don’t have to mow, then this may be just the house for you!

This lovely and liveable home at 2345 Thornwood Avenue in Wilmette has a lot to offer both inside and out. It’s got lots of space and an up to date decor. But here’s what I think are its best and most unique features:

1. It’s right on the park so it has a wonderful view and great amenities, including playlot and tennis courts.

2. It’s a block from Harper School, so if you have elementary school age kids, it’s incredibly convenient.

3. Inside, the home has great flow, yet the formal part of the house is separate from the informal areas of the house.

4. The lower level has high ceilings and large windows so the basement doesn’t feel like a basement.

5. The master suite is spacious, private and comfortable and the other family bedrooms are good-sized also.

6. There’s a wonderful roof-top deck that’s perfect for enjoying your morning coffee or an evening cocktail.

7. Two (count ‘em, two!) walk-in pantries to store all your Costco purchases.

8. Tons of storage space  throughout the house.

I could go on and on but why don’t you take the virtual tour and see for yourself. The home has 10 rooms, 5 bedrooms and 4.1 baths and is listed for $1,225,000.

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Where Not to Advertise Your North Shore Home

Newspaper ad for real estateIt’s amazing what people will continue to do, even when there is overwhelming evidence that it no longer works.

Such is the case with the old “tried and true” practice of advertising homes for sale in newspapers.

The National Association of Realtors has done extensive research on home buyers and sellers, which showed (among other things) that only 2% of home buyers look for homes in newspapers and magazines. Nevertheless, agents and brokerages across the U.S. keep advertising there. Even when they know that it’s not effective, they do it anyway to appease their sellers, who (they believe) want to see their home in print.

Do you want your agent spending money on a marketing tactic that doesn’t work? Or would you prefer they put those dollars to work where there’s at least a fighting chance of being seen by your target buyer?

If you are selling your North Shore home, you need to know where and how to reach your target buyer, so that you and your agent can develop the most effective marketing strategy.  So, where are your prospective buyers looking for homes? According to this research, a combined 47% of buyers look online when starting their home search. (I’ve seen other research showing numbers as high as 90%).

Conclusion: The Internet is where you should be advertising to maximize exposure for your home.

NAR research about how home buyers look for homesSource: NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers -2010

And where on the Internet should you be putting those ads? The sites that get the most buyer traffic are the ones that have the most listings:, Trulia, Zillow, large real estate brokerage web sites and individual agent sites. Any of these offers consumers the ability to access all of the listings in the MLS, and you should be on as many of them as you can to maximize your chances of attracting your buyer.

NAR research about online real estate sites used by homebuyersSource: NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers -2010

Bottom line: Forget newspapers and magazines. The heyday of print advertising for real estate is long gone. Talk to your agent about developing an Internet marketing strategy that will do justice to your most valuable asset.

Oh, and it’s not just about advertising. You should also be utilizing social media to maximize your exposure: blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc. But that’s an article for another day.


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Yes, You Can!…Move to the North Shore for Under $500K

When people think about the North Shore suburbs like Winnetka, they imagine million dollar plus homes like the “Home Alone” house, which just came on the market for $2.4 million.

But nowadays, you can find really nice homes for under $500,000, even in the upscale towns along the lake. In fact, there are 232 houses for sale under $500K in the six lakefront communities of Wilmette, Winnetka, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Highland Park and Lake Forest, which is nearly twice as many as there were at the height of the market.

3134 Wilmette Ave., WilmetteI’ve picked some houses to showcase in each of these communities so you can see what sort of house can be had for the money.  None of them are distressed properties or tear-downs (although there are plenty of those available, too, if that’s what you’re looking for). None of them are my listings. They are just nice houses that offer an affordable way to enjoy the North Shore lifestyle.


This cute house at 3134 Wilmette Avenue is bigger than it looks and is located in the award-winning Avoca school district. It is listed at $425,000 and has eight rooms, four bedrooms and two and a half baths. It has a first 836 Foxdake, Winnetkafloor master with full bath, built-ins, new kitchen appliances, fireplace and newer roof.


This house is located at 836 Foxdale Avenue in East Winnetka. It has seven rooms, three bedrooms and three and a half baths (one of which is on the third floor along with two of the bedrooms). The master has a large walk-in closet. It has a large living room with a wood burning fireplace, separate dining room and a sun room. You can see more pictures here.


612 Exmoor, KenilworthOkay, admittedly it is rare to find a home in Kenilworth for under $500K. It’s a small community and it was originally developed to have large houses on large lots.  But sometimes an affordable home comes on the market (usually west of Green Bay Rd.). This house at 612 Exmoor Rd. listed at $474,000 is a great option if you want to take advantage of wonderful Sears School as well as New Trier.  It has eight rooms, three bedrooms and one and a half baths. The kitchen has been updated and the decor is fresh and young. It’s also an easy walk to the train. You can see a virtual tour here.


619 Drexel, GlencoeThis Tudor home at 619 Drexel Avenue is right out of a storybook. It has tons of vintage details, including arched doorways, paneled doors, basket-weave tile and a gracious staircase. Listed at $464,000 it has eleven rooms, five bedrooms and three and a half baths (including a full master bath). The formal rooms are large and the kitchen has a separate eating area. As charming as it is on the outside, I will warn you that it needs updating inside. But other than the kitchen, what it needs is mostly cosmetic. You can see pictures of the inside here.

Highland Park

Highland Park has the largest number of affordable homes of all the lakefront communities. This home is a 957 Princeton, Highland Parkgreat example of the kind of value you can find in Highland Park. Located at 957 Princeton, this three bedroom home has been recently updated and its listed for $400,000. It has stainless steel appliances and granite in the kitchen, built-ins, a screened in patio, newer roof, and even a home theater in the basement. You can see more pictures here.

Lake Forest

This English Tudor home at 755 Northmoor is charming inside and out. Built in 1929 it is full of vintage features, including beamed ceilings, arched doorways, hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings. It is listed for $489,900 and has six rooms, three bedrooms (one of which is on the main floor) and two baths. It is close to town, the 755 Northmoor, Lake Forestpark and the beach. You can see more pictures here.

If you would like to see any of these houses or find out what other homes are available on the North Shore for under $500K, please call me at 847-687-5957 or send me an email. I would be happy to help you!


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10 Tips for Downsizers with Too Much Stuff

attic filled with stuffNorth Shore baby-boomers, if you are planning to downsize to a smaller place anytime soon, this Forbes article by Ashlea Ebeling is worth a read.

It’s got great advice on how to maximize the return on all that great stuff you’ve collected over the years and how to minimize the tax consequences. Here’s a summary of her tips:

1. Accept that downsizing is tough.

Most people have an emotional attachment to their stuff, even if it has been up in the attic for years. It’s hard to let go of family heirlooms, old scrapbooks or souvenirs from your honeymoon. Give yourself time to reminisce so that you can let go more easily.

2. Find trusted experts.

Make sure you know which things have value beyond your sentimental attachment before you rush off an sell them on Craig’s List.

3. Call an appraiser to get an objective assessment of value.

4. Be wary of family lore.

Just because Grandma said that chair or vase is a one-of-a-kind doesn’t mean that it is.

5. Don’t toss things out prematurely.

Some things that look like trash aren’t (and vice versa).

6. Call an auction house.

For rarer or more valuable pieces this gives you access to a broader (even international) audience than an estate sale would.

7. Donate and deduct.

You can get a charitable deduction on your taxes if you donate something, but you do need to itemize if it is worth $500 or more.

8. Pass your heirlooms down before you die.

You can gift up to $13,000/year tax-free to as many people as you want (and that includes stuff as well as money).

9. Watch out for capital gains.

10. Remember the tax return.



Gas Prices Affecting Where Home Buyers Choose to Live

gas-pricesBack in the good old days of the real estate boom, “bigger is better” was the mantra for home buyers. And it didn’t seem to matter if that bigger home was three counties away and a two hour commute from the office. Now, however,  there is a confluence of economic and social trends that are driving home buyers back toward the cities: a desire for more family time and less commuting time, proximity to shopping, dining and other amenities, an emphasis on efficiency in housing design, and now the high price of gasoline.

Coldwell Banker‘s recently released study revealed that 75% of the 1,188 real estate agents polled said that the high cost of gasoline was impacting where consumer choose to buy a home:

  • 89% said drive time and gas prices are causing home buyers to look for homes closer to work.
  • 77% said more buyers today are interested in having a home office compared to five years ago. In fact, a home office is currently one of the “must have” features for today’s home buyer, according to Buffini and Company.

No doubt rising gas prices are fueling the continued interest in urban living, with 56% of agents saying that more home buyers are interested in urban living vs. five years ago.

  • Of those 93% agreed that one reason is an increased interest in shorter commutes and 81% agreed that desire to reduce spending on gas is a factor.

For those who want to live in the suburbs and not go broke filling their tanks, the answer is to live on the North Shore, where the city is easily accessible via the Metra train. Downtown Chicago is just 32 minutes from Wilmette, 36 from Winnetka, 47 from Highland Park and 55 minutes from Lake Forest. Trains run frequently and there are express trains during morning and evening rush hours.


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North Shore Market Update: April 2011

North Shore Chicago home sales were down 6% in April vs. last year. Evanston, Wilmette, Northfield, Highland Park and Lake Forest all showed declines, but Winnetka, Glenview and Glencoe had positive trends.

Median prices were up 8% overall, driven by Lake Forest, Glenview, Winnetka and Kenilworth.

The North Shore’s average market time dropped below 200 days but results were mixed across towns. Wilmette, Northfield  and Glencoe actually increased but the rest of the markets showed healthy decreases. Northfield continues to have the longest average time on market (384 days), while Evanston has the shortest (135 days).

North Shore Market Update
April 2011 vs. Year Ago

April Home Sales Data for North Shore ChicagoSource: MRED – Data for single family detached homes. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed.


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“Home Alone” House is For Sale

Home Alone HouseThe most famous home in Winnetka is up for sale. That’s right, the house where Kevin MacAllister was left to fend for himself against a band of bumbling burglars can be yours for $2.4 million.

The “Home Alone” house, where the first movie of the series was filmed in 1990, is located at 671 Lincoln Ave. in Winnetka. The stately Georgian stands on half an acre just a short walk from the Village center. It was built in the 1920′s and purchased by the current owners in 1988 for $875,000.

The house is listed by a fellow Coldwell Banker agent, Marissa Hopkins, and you can see the video she made about the house here.

Anne West - Your North Shore Real Estate Connection

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