Real Estate on Chicago's North Shore: Lake Forest... Lake Bluff... Kenilworth... Winnetka

The Rules
If you follow my blog, I often share some thoughts about real estate.   One of my more popular posts was a two-parter called, The Rules.  

Check it out -- I find these "rules" usually true!

The Rules 

The Rules (continued)
View or Print: The Rules
Q. What criteria would you use to pick an real estate broker?
Good quesion.  There are so many terrific agents in our market and just about everyone knows at least one person who works as a broker.  

The first thing to understand -- this broker is going to be representing you and your interests to the buyers, other agents, attorneys, lenders, various venders and support personnel.  Clearly you want an agent with great communication, negotiation and interpersonal skills.  But even more important, you want to work with someone that has utmost integrity with whom will you feel comfortable confiding personal and financial information; someone with the ability to manage a fairly complicated transaction from contract to close.  

This is serious business -- ones home is often the most important asset in peoples' lives.  Just because someone is a good friend or neighbor or relative, doesn't necessarily mean they're a competent and professional real estate agent.   Look for the person who will represent you and your interests professionally and ethically.  While this is a very personal process, selecting an agent is a business decision.  A good agent does not take offense with your business decision and understands that you made the best choice for your familly. 

The New York Times had a good article worth reading,  "Who's got your back"

Another interesting article: Do You Need a Listing Agent and a Buying Agent?

I think both articles are worth reading. provides some additional thoughts worth reading:
How to choose a listing agent?
Finding a real estate agent
Q: Is an older home a better value than a newer home?

Yes and no; one needs to look at each house individually.  Some of the older homes are phenomenal – beautifully constructed with plaster and lovely hardwood floors.  They have withstood the test of time.  That said, there are many old homes in such poor shape, that they should probably be razed.    Even if the initial price seems like a “great value” – is it really a good value if it turns out that the purchase was a money pit? 

While it’s enticing to buy a “new” home, some of the new construction homes are terrible.  The materials used are substandard and the designs lack imagination.  They sometimes command a premium because they are “new,” but new construction does not necessarily mean better construction.  The value of the property begins with the value of the location. 

An old home in a great location is going to have a greater value and long-term resale capability than a new home next to the toll road.  That new home will only depreciate in value over time, because of its less than optimal location.

I would encourage every buyer to keep their minds open to both older and newer homes before they make a decision. Value is not necessarily a function of the age of a house.  It also involves the location and condition of the property.

I wrote about this on my blog

Q: What are the best questions to ask when scoping out a home?

First, buyers need to ask themselves is, “Is this home is in the right location for us?”  Too often, people only look for the house they like.  Then afterwards, they want to move, because they don’t feel like the neighborhood is a good fit for them.  I always encourage my buyers to first hone in on neighborhoods and areas where they want to live and then look for properties in those locations – not the other way around.  

The next questions would be this, “Does the house have good flow and bones?  Has it been well maintained?”  I would much rather work with a house that has a nice floor plan and great upside potential, than a house, which might be new or beautifully decorated, but is limited in space or size.  It’s easy to fall in love with a beautiful home – it takes imagination to see the potential of a home.   

Buyers should also examine their lives and how they want to live in the house. Understanding and visualizing their next chapter will help buyers focus in on what features they want in the house.

For example, they might ask, “If the kids are going off to college, does it really matter to us if the house has a finished basement?  Actually, do we even need a basement?”

Consider re-sale value.  If you believe you are going to be in the house for a long time, it's not quite as important.  But making sure you have a house that can be easily resold should always be in the back of your mind.  

My bottom line is this - look for upside potential rather than immediate gratification with a house.   Find a solid home in a great location and long term you can’t go wrong.  

Q: How important is professional photography when listing a home?

Personally, I think it’s critical in our market to have superb photographs with every listing.  While a few agents are great photographers and have the appropriate cameras with a wide-angled lens, I think it’s a better marketing strategy to use a professional photographer.

According to the National Association of Realtors 2010 Profile of Home Buyers and Home Sellers, 99% of homebuyers are using the Internet in their search for homes. Having a great online presence is key when selling a home today. 

One study was done several years ago.  In the analysis of more than 100,000 listings in the Boston metro area and Long Island, N.Y., the results showed that homes with professional photographs sold anywhere between $934 to $116,076 more than those shot from cheaper, point-and-shoot cameras. Also it found that homes with professional photographs, on average, were viewed 61% more online than others in that price range shot with a lower-end camera.  

On one occasion, I had some buyers who wouldn’t even look at a house that had lousy online photographs!  If I hadn’t been insistent, these clients would never have toured the home, which they eventually bought. 

Hiring an agent, who presents and can deliver a vibrant and comprehensive online listing strategy, should be a major selection criterion that sellers consider.  Using a professional photographer can only enhance that online strategy. 

Q: How do I zip through cleaning my house for a last-minute showing?

Touring homes is a rather sensual experience for buyers.  So when getting your home ready to sell, think about the five senses:
SIGHT –neat, orderly and uncluttered. 
SMELL – stale odors and cigarette smells can be deal killers.  Fresh and fragrant flowers do wonders!
TOUCH – eliminate stickiness on railings, etc.
SOUND –pleasing music is always nice.
TASTE – some sellers provide snacks.  Personally, I prefer water.   Buyers are tired and often thirsty when they are looking at houses.  Bottled water is always appreciated.

Living in a house and selling a house simultaneously can be a real challenge.  It’s much easier to handle last
minute showings when there isn’t much cleaning up to be done.  Everyone in the family needs to be engaged. 
My quick tip for the sellers is to put laundry baskets in everyone’s bedroom and a couple in the living areas. 
If you get a request for a showing, throw loose items into the laundry baskets and put them in your car as you leave for the showing.  Get the kids involved… they need their own basket to fill.

Another tip is to keep a box of disinfecting wipes in every bathroom.  Instruct everyone that, after they use the bathroom they need to wipe down the sink and countertops so they look sparkling.  

Assign a wastebasket and a bathroom to every member of the family.   Their job is to empty the basket before they leave the house in the morning and to make sure the bath towels are hung and looking nice. 

If there’s a request for a showing, all you need to do is fill the laundry baskets and do a once over with the vacuum cleaner.  It’s much easier to handle quick showings, when you make it a family project to keep the house ready.  

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Ann Jones
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