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

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North Shore Market Update: November 2011

We continually hear the economists say that we’re in a “bump-along” recovery, meaning that the economy is bumping up and down along a rocky bottom and has not quite turned the corner yet. And that’s just what the numbers are showing us when it comes to North Shore home sales. Last month sales were up and prices were down vs. last year. This month it’s reversed with sales down 14% and prices up 7% vs year ago. The only trend that seems to be consistently improving is market time, which is down to about five and a half months.

North Shore Market Update
November 2011 vs. Year Ago

North Shore Market Data: November 2011Source: MRED LLC – Data for single family detached homes. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed

Wondering what your neighbor’s house sold for? Just email us with the address of the property and we’d be happy to send you that information (caveat: only if the transaction has closed. Until then the information is not available).

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Should I Buy or Rent on the North Shore?

Person with a questionThere has never been a better time to buy a home than right now. Interest rates are near historic lows, prices are affordable and there are plenty of homes to choose from. And yet, people continue to be wary of buying a home these days. Declining home values, tightened lending standards and job insecurity all contribute to their discomfort. Many people who would have bought without a second thought a few years ago are now choosing to rent instead of buy.

I read something surprising in a Wall Street Journal article by Amy Hoak: research suggests that renting has almost always been a better option than buying, from a financial standpoint. Really? But then I read the caveat: only if the renter invests all the money they save from renting. Ah…we all know that no one actually does that. Home ownership has always been a forced savings plan for Americans, allowing them to build equity as they pay off their home. That is until the housing meltdown when so many people ended up with negative equity.

Now the pendulum is swinging back in favor of buying in many cities, including Chicago. As demand for rentals has risen, so have rents, which are projected to rise about 4% this year. Home prices, on the other hand, have continued to fall, and interest rates are projected to hover around 4% in the near term.

Ms. Hoak offers these considerations if you are trying to decide whether to buy or rent:

  1. Don’t rely on national statistics. Examine the housing market in your own area. Stan Humphries, the chief economist at offers a nifty ratio you can use to gauge housing affordability. To calculate the price-to-rent ratio, divide the purchase price of the house you would buy by 12 times the monthly rent of a comparable house. If it’s near 20 or above you may want to keep renting, but if it’s below 15 it may make sense to buy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy Birthday North Shore Views

2yearsoldToday North Shore Views is two years old.

Looking back, I didn’t realize how rewarding a blog could be. My goal was that it would become a resource for my current (and potential) clients, and that it would help me build my business.

At the time there were a lot of abandoned real estate blogs out there, left for dead by agents who concluded that “blogging doesn’t work.”  But there were others who argued that, “Yes, blogging does work, if you keep at it. But it’s a long term strategy so don’t expect results over night.”

I found the latter more persuasive so I took a leap of faith and plunked down the money for the Real Estate Tomato to design the site and  train me on how to use it properly. And then I got down to work creating content, because, as anyone in the blogosphere will tell you,  “content is king.” As of today I have 290 posts and 47 pages on my site.

After two years here’s where I come out on this whole blogging thing. Read the rest of this entry »

North Shore Lakefront Homes

Evanston lakefront home

lakefront home winnetkaNorth Shore Chicago lakefront homes are on sale! If you’ve dreamed of having your own little piece of paradise on the lake, now is the time to buy it. Never in recent memory have there been so many lakefront properties available as there are right now, and at steeply discounted prices compared to a few years ago.

Between Evanston and Lake Bluff there are 23 active listings on the lake, ranging in price from $2,5000,000 to $12,000,000. Like homes in every other price range, these lakefront homes have seen declines of 20-30% in value since the market peaked in 2006. In the case of these homes that translates to a price drop of a million dollars or more. The grandest and most expensive home is the Schweppe Mansion in Lake Forest, an English style brick home on 5.3 acres dating from 1917, but fully restored in the 1980’s.

These homes run the gamut of architectural styles, from traditional Georgians and Tudors to Contemporaries and Mid Century Moderns. Some date from the early twentieth century and were designed by noted architects like David Adler or George Maher. Others are new in the last ten years and have been designed to take full Lakefront home Lake Forestadvantage of their beachfront location, with walls of windows and lake views from every room. Almost all have a private or semi-private beach and many have boathouses, pools and beautiful gardens.

You can search for available North Shore lakefront homes here. If you have questions about any of them or would like more information, feel free to  give me a call at 847-687-5957 or email me. I’d love to help you.

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North Shore Market Update: October 2011

North Shore home sales for October 2011 were 29% ahead of last year, putting year to date sales 2% ahead of last year. All markets showed gains in October except Wilmette and Northfield. Glenview had the strongest performance, with an 85% increase over 2010.

Market time has steadily decreased in recent months and averaged 157 days on market for homes sold in October. Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glenview and Highland Park were all 150 days or less. Lake Forest is the one market where days on market has consistently stayed around 200 days or more.

While trends for sales activity and market time have improved, median pricing has declined for the last three months. Only Glencoe, Highland Park and Kenilworth (tiny base) showed improvement over October 2010.

North Shore Market Update
October 2011 vs. Year Ago

North Shore Housing Market Data October 2100Source: MRED LLC- Data for single family deatched homes. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed

Wondering what your neighbor’s house sold for? Just email me with the address of the property and I’d be happy to send you that information (caveat: only if the transaction has closed. Until then the information is not available).

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Pumpkins and Politics on Lawndale

Candidates in Wilmette

Every year I look forward to seeing how the Weyermullers have decorated their yard for Halloween. For over ten years they’ve been lampooning local and national politicians with life-size statues and vignettes about some of the more controversial policy issues. They will happily skewer either or both political parties but say they draw the line on sex scandals. So you won’ be seeing any Anthony Weiner statues this year.

And the fun is not limited to politics. Being die-hard Cub fans (one can only assume) there’s always some “commentary” on the Cubs’ latest season. This year there’s a Cub fan rising from the dead with his heart in his hand and a sign that reads: “The Cubs yanked my heart out”  And, of course, there’s a statue of the Cubs’ new President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein.

Here are some shots of this year’s Halloween display. See if you recognize anyone…

BlagoCharlie Sheen

Rahm EmmanuelBarack ObamaCubs fan with heart ripped outTheo Epstein

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John Hughes’ Lake Forest Mansion For Sale

John Hughes' Mansion in Lake Forest, il

The Lake Forest home of director, screenwriter and producer John Hughes has just been listed for sale by his widow.

Chicago’s North Shore was not only Hughes’ home but the location for many of his popular films:

  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was filmed in Highland Park, Glenbrook North High School and at the Winnetka Branch of real estate brokerage Koenig and Strey on the corner of Chestnut and Elm.
  • The Breakfast Club was filmed at Maine North and Glenbrook North High Schools.
  • Sixteen Candles was set in Evanston with the wedding scene shot at Glencoe Union Church.
  • Home Alone was shot in and around Winnetka and Wilmette.
  • Uncle Buck was filmed in Highland Park, Glencoe, Lake Forest, Northbrook and Winnetka.

The 17 room Tudor mansion where Hughes lived from 2003 until his death in 2009 sits on 2.1 acres just a block from Lake Michigan and Forest Park. Designed by Edwin Hill Clark and built in 1930, the 3 story house is over 11,000 square feet, with 6 bedrooms, 6 baths, 6 fireplaces, a pool and (natch) a media room.

Located at 855 E. Westminster Ave. the home is being offered at $5,890,000 and is listed by fellow Coldwell Banker agent, Ann Lyon. You can get more info and see more photos here.

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Winnetka Home Sales by Elementary School (Jan-Sept 2011)

You can always come to this site to get home sales data for your own North Shore community. But even in a village like Winnetka, market activity and prices can vary significantly by neighborhood. So, once or twice a year, I try to get even more granular and show the data for three individual elementary school neighborhoods (Greeley, Hubbard Woods and Crow Island). Note: some Winnetka homes are in the Avoca School District (District 37), but this is a relatively small area. And a few Winnetka homes (part of Indian Hill) are in Wilmette’s District 39.

Since Greeley’s footprint is exclusively in East Winnetka, it has the highest median and average price of the three schools, but had the lowest number of sales (32). Crow Island has the biggest footprint, with the highest number of homes for sale and the highest number of sales year to date.

As for distressed sales, Crow Island has had three foreclosures and one short sale so far this year, while Hubbard Woods has had one of each and Greeley has had two short sales.

Home Sales by Elementary School
Year to Date through September 2011

Winnetka Home Sales by Elementary SchoolSource: MRED- Data for single family homes. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed

Interestingly, though Hubbard Woods had the lowest median and average price, it had the single highest priced sale ($5,375,000 for 1133 Taylorsport). Greeley’s highest priced home was $5,150,000 for 722 Prospect, Crow Island’s highest priced home was $3,275,000 for 261 Linden.

And, although people don’t think you can actually buy a single family house in Winnetka for this little, there were eight homes in Crow Island that sold for under $500,000 (including one for $227,000), four in Hubbard Woods and one in Greeley.

You can go to Market Statistics for more details on homes sold in each neighborhood. You can go here to search for homes for sale  in Winnetka.



The Other Reason Your Home’s Not Selling

Sorry we're closedPrice and presentation are the two reasons we usually think of when a home doesn’t sell. It’s either too high priced or it doesn’t show well.

But there’s another reason, one that sellers don’t always realize can be an obstacle to getting an offer: buyers cannot get in to see the house.

Maybe the owner places restrictions on showing: 24 hour notice required, no showings between 12:00 and 3:00 pm, etc. Home owners may think that these are reasonable restrictions…can’t the potential buyer just rearrange his schedule or come another day? Well, maybe and maybe not. In a strong seller’s market, you can probably get away with it, as there are more buyers competing for fewer houses. But in today’s market, when buyers have plenty of other choices, they may not bother to come back at a more convenient (for you) time.

Here’s a situation I ran into last Saturday: my buyer client was in Wilmette for the afternoon and wanted to tour some of the homes she’d seen online that fit her criteria. When I called to make appointments, the listing agent for one of them told me that she couldn’t show it that afternoon because she was showing property in the city, where she was based, and the owner required her to accompany all showings. Could we come on Sunday instead? No, we couldn’t. My buyer was not going to schlepp all the way back to Wilmette the next day just to see one house.

The home in question has been on the market for over a year. It’s an unremarkable house and still somewhat overpriced, but it has two more things working against it: the requirement that all showings be accompanied, combined with the fact that the agent is not based in the area and is not available to show it on short notice. My guess is that that seller is getting about half the number of showings they otherwise would have and have therefore cut their odds of selling in half.

My plea to sellers: please make it as easy as possible for agents to show your house. The inconveniences you suffer while it is on the market will pay off in the speed of sale and the price you net.

57 Money-Making Tips to Prepare Your Home for Sale

North Shore Real Estate Report: January-September 2011

Sales of single family homes on the North Shore were flat for the first nine months vs. year ago. Actually three fewer houses sold this year which rounds to flat. That doesn’t sound very promising but, considering that sales were down 11% through the end of June, this is more positive than it appears. Remember that in first half of 2010 we had the effect of the home buyer tax credit, which we did not have in 2011.  Sales for the July -September quarter were up 19%, bringing us to even for the first three quarters.

The communities driving most of the sales growth this year are Glencoe (+40%), Winnetka (+10%) and Kenilworth (+28%). Glencoe’s strong growth this year followed last’s year’s anemic performance, where it only grew 3% through September of 2010.

The median home price for the North Shore declined 2% for the first three quarters, which isn’t too bad when you compare it to other markets that are still falling more dramatically.

Market time continues to decline across the board indicating that sellers have gotten more realistic in their pricing and buyers are getting off the fence.

North Shore Real Estate Report: January – September 2011

North Shore Real Estate Report-YTD 2011Source: MRED – Data for single family homes. Deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Wondering what your neighbor’s house sold for? Just email me with the address of the property and I’d be happy to send you that information (caveat: I can only access the information if the transaction has closed. Until then the information is confidential).

Contact Anne West - Your North Shore Real Estate Connection

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