Housewarming Gifts Ideas Your Loved Ones Will Use

– Guest blogger, Shannon Smith, Marketing Coordinator

Shannon Smith

Shannon Smith

I have received a tremendous amount of house warming invitations and have found the process of buying gifts to be quite tricky. While gift cards allow recipients the opportunity to get exactly what they want without making the gift buyer scramble to find specific requests on registries, it also comes at the expense of appearing less personal. Furthermore, registries have proven to be less impactful when several people give the same gift due to registry glitches. With that being said, I’ve decided to pass along a few practical yet memorable gifts that your friends & family will love. 

See our Housewarming Gifts Pinterest board for even more fun ideas!

Tasting Plate

These tasting plates are perfect for keeping dips from turning into a saucy mess! This gift will allow your loved ones to serve rounds of baguette, toasted pita or savory chips to complement up to four different dips!

Recipe in a JarSurprise your friends this year with a homemade a recipe-in-a-jar. Suggest they make their first meal at home memorable while you pick up the tab!
saucy mess! This gift will allow your loved ones to serve rounds of baguette, toasted pita or savory chips to complement up to four different dips!

U-Socket USB Wallplug

Laptops, tablets, computer, phones and even wireless headphones can be recharged using USB cords. By doubling the versatility of the power line and building the transformers right into the wall outlets with this U-Socket USB Wallplug you can give the gift they won’t be able to live without!

ECOEXTREME DancingThe Eco Extreme waterproof case with speakers works with every mp3 player and cell phone. The rubberized protective body is great for those who love to sing while they clean!

Personalized Cutting BoardThese unique custom cutting boards are designed with one side that can be used as a decoration in the kitchen, while the other side can be used as a traditional cutting board with both sides being functional in their own way.

See our Housewarming Gifts Pinterest board for even more fun ideas!

We Have a Dream

Guest blogger: Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Strategist

Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his groundbreaking “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington to a packed audience. Dr. King chose many of his poignant words and phrases with the utmost care and precision, but did you know he also put aside his speech after 10 minutes? Phrases such as “I have a dream” and “a cancelled check” were unplanned. “I have a dream” is said to have been in response to gospel singer Mahalia Jackson saying, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” This incredible combination of words and phrases helped to change the direction of the Civil Rights Movement and left an indomitable mark on history and today we celebrate that milestone.

One of our mottoes is “we believe in dreams.” And today, Dr. Martin Luther King reminds us just how BIG those dreams can be. 

Homes Ready for the US Open

Guest blogger: Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist

Twitter is exploding in every language about the #usopen. People chatting about Serena Williams defending her title, the sudden retirement of Marion Bartoli and eagerly waiting to cheer on their favorite players. All this tennis talk makes me think of the incredible tennis courts I occasionally see while perusing our listings. To me, a tennis court is the ultimate in luxury. And what better way to get ready for next year’s open, than by practicing on your very own court?

Here are some of my favorites:

See more on our Pinterest Tennis Courts page.

Kids and Technology: Setting Boundaries

Tips for Controlling Technology Usage for Kids

Guest blogger: Lana Simon, Communications Specialist

Back to school time is always exciting in our home. It’s a new beginning, a fresh start and a new way to grow together. This is also a great time to set new house rules and boundaries.  I’ve noticed that video games, social media and technology have become more prevalent in our house.

My kids are hooked right into the technology age, but how do I set limits and keep them safe?

Kids always want to be older than their age and want all the latest technology that grown-ups  have.  “Mom, I want a smartphone,” says my nine year old son. I take a deep breath and reply, ”Maybe down the road, not now.”

My son and daughter each have a computer with internet access in their rooms.  My five year old daughter uses the computer for playing music, educational games and computer painting projects.  She will occasionally ask her big brother to show her something.  She will often go into his room, pull up a chair or squeeze on his and watch in amazement as he navigates the internet

My son on the other hand has become hooked.  YouTube, Minecraft, Pokémon and more.  He has even started to make and post his own YouTube videos.  He even follows other YouTube groupies.  He now has his own email account that my husband reluctantly helped to set-up.  He has been communicating with friends that he just saw an hour earlier.  On the plus side, he can send emails to his grandparents and cousin who live out of state.

Ok…let’s step on the brakes and slow this down.

With this in mind, my husband and I have set some rules.  My son is not to post his image, name, age, where we live or anything personal.  He is to show us if he receives any contact by a stranger.  Plus, now that school is starting, we will restrict his time on the computer.  We will also monitor his grades.  If he begins to slip in any areas, the computer privileges will cease.

Kids are bombarded with so much information and they want to take part in it all. On one hand, it’s great that they embrace the technology and want to learn about it.

I on the other hand, I love when my children want to snuggle up and read a book together.  At least, I have a few more years of that!

Here’s a few tips to keep your kids’ technology use under control:

  • Remind kids that use of technology is a privilege, not a right.
  • Set a family media policy—decide who can use which forms of technology, when and where it’s acceptable, and how you will monitor usage.
  • Establish consequences, both positive and negative, for appropriate technology usage.
  • Establish “technology-free” zones and times in your home when you all “unplug” and concentrate on communicating with each other and enjoying each other’s company.
  • Try a policy of earning technology time.  For every hour of reading, they earn a ½ hour of computer or video game time.
  • Help your children achieve balance in their lives by encouraging them to stay physically active, enjoy reading, and learn to relax and have fun without electronics.

Empty Nest: Repurposing Kids Rooms

Filling an empty nest

– Guest blogger: Brooke Balco, Communications Specialist

Is the nest empty? Have the children gone back to college or live on their own? Now you can finally take advantage of the extra space, make the room more functional and have some fun. 

“Having enough bedrooms for each of your children was a priority when you bought your home,” said Fran Broude, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. “Now that they’re grown and out of the house you can use those rooms in new ways.”

A few ideas to help make the nest not-so-empty: 

The Hobby Room: Create a room for sewing, scrapbooking, or an art studio. With a dedicated hobby room, there will be no longer be a need for using the dining room table for crafts. You can have a room where you can keep projects going.

Home Theater: Enjoy date nights at home with dinner and a movie in a custom built home theater. Furnish with individual recliners or a leather sectional sofa, and be sure to install surround sound to complete the experience.

Game Room: Furnish with a pool table, large TV with the latest video games, or a card table for board games. Add accessories to create an atmosphere of fun.

Storage: A small bedroom can serve as a handy cedar closet. Clear out the bedroom furniture and line the walls of the with cedar plank or panel liners.

Exercise Room: Renew your commitment to healthy living and staying active. Build a home gym or yoga room. Add a treadmill, weight bench or even a corner punching bag. Install wall-to-wall mirrors for the full experience. This space will help motivate you to stay fit.

Home Office: Converting the bedroom into a sophisticated home-office is a gives you your own work space.  An “office armoire” will make the room function as an office, but can be closed to make a desk less conspicuous even if you still need to keep an extra bed.

Guest Room: Create the ultimate guest room. Your guests will not have to sleep on the couch anymore. Design a haven with a new bed, comforter, and pillows. Get creative with color, wall hangings and accessories.

The possibilities for an empty room are limitless.

Back to School! Tips to Create a Study Space

Guest blogger – Amy Eiduke, Marketing Communications

Back to School Series

Growing up, I loved going back to school – new clothes, new school supplies, new friends! Now as a mom of two – going back to school has a different meaning – organizing, coordinating calendars, replacing backpacks, and helping with homework. This year I’m also creating a study space in our home to help my kids stay focused and succeed. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way:

Location, location, location – not just for real estate, location is extreme important when deciding on a study space. Find a place that is quiet and free from distractions. The kitchen table next to the family room doesn’t work with the chaos of making dinner and siblings running around at the same time. We’ve tried it – it doesn’t work!

Be comfy, but not too comfy – set up a desk, chair and computer in a way that will be comfortable for your student’s back, hands, wrists and neck. The couch, while easy to sink into, may be too relaxing to keep them on the task at hand.

Let the light shine in – make sure your student has good lighting in the room and on their desk. They need to be able to clearly see their work to keep focused.

Get the goods – have all the supplies your child needs on hand and ready to go. Supplies can be anything from paper and pencils to a laptop or iPad for your older students.

Keep it organized – Organization is definitely something my boys struggle with. This year my goal is to teach them ways to organize themselves and their space. If all goes well it will help them avoid losing assignments, permission slips and everything else that makes it way home from school.

Proudly personalize – While this is a work space, it should still feel like your child’s space. Hang photos of family and friends, a good luck charm, and some of their good work on nearby walls.

Our Favorite Homes with Pools

Guest blogger: Alicia Eisenbise – Social Media Specialist

Summer may be coming to a close, but we’re not ready to give up sunbathing, swimming or reading poolside. That made us think of all the amazing pools we see every day. These are some of our local favorites which will make you wish that summer would never end. See even more incredible pools on our Pools board on Pinterest.

Indoor Oasis with a Pool, Hot Tub and Waterfall

45 baybrook lane oak brook il

We are in love with this Ginger Creek home in Oak Brook, IL. However nothing compares to this resort-like indoor pool complete with a waterfall cascading from the stone wall. A bar and grill area are tucked behind the built-in hot tub.  See the Pin. Listed by Elaine Zannis

Saltwater pool

464 South Ridge rd Lake Forest IL

This incredible Lake Forest home has been featured on NBC twice. It not only features this magnificent salt water pool and pool house, but the estate also has a tennis court, terrace with outdoor fireplace, theater room, spa room, wine cellar and en-suite bedrooms. See the pin. Listed by Ann Lyon and Julie Deutch.

Pool and Spa with Fireplace and Outdoor Kitchen

1392 West Old Mill Road Lake Forest

This Lake Forest pool and spa features a waterfall and water feature and is surrounded by a gorgeous blue stone patio. The outdoor living space is complete with the pergola, fireplace and outdoor kitchen area. See the pin. Listing by Juli Hallas.

Indoor Lap Pool 

Indoor lap pool

Attention all swimmers! This is no ordinary lap pool. The pool in this Brookfield, WI home is surrounded by a three-story atrium which gives it a spacious, open feel. This unique home also has a hot tub, state-of-the-art theater and sound system, rich detailing with granite, onyx and exotic woods. See the pin. Listed by Katie Falk.

See even more incredible pools on our Pools board on Pinterest

How Long is Too Long for Boomerang Kids to Live with Their Parents?

Each generation has its own distinct personality and challenges, and the millennials are no exception. Millennials were the last set of babies born during the 20th century, and they are a much larger and more diverse group than baby boomers. As this generation settles into the new economic realities of adulthood, many are returning home after college to live with their parents while they pursue their careers and transition into independent adulthood.

In part, this trend is influenced by the challenging job market and stingy economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of young adults living at home, or “boomerang kids,” is at an all-time record high. Many experts agree the economy, including rising debt from student loans and the high cost of living, is the driving force motivating these kids to live at home. But another interesting explanation is the generational mindset shift happening as well, as there is now less of a stigma for young adults to live at home with their parents.

As a psychotherapist, I’m fascinated by cultural shifts in what we consider acceptable and how those beliefs influence our behavior and mental health. The boomerang kid phenomenon is particularly interesting because it is changing how we as a society view homeownership. In the past, recent college graduates accepting their first job has been a lifestyle trigger for a home purchase. Looking at it from a parent’s perspective, having children transition into independent adulthood, in the past, has triggered many empty-nester parents to consider downsizing to a home that fits their needs.

To better understand what this trend means, I partnered with Coldwell Banker Real Estate to find out how Americans feel about college graduates living at home with their parents. We surveyed more than 2,000 adults and found that Americans disagree over how long is too long for college graduates to live with their parents. Millennials age 18-34 think it’s acceptable to live at home with their parents for as long as five years after college. Older Americans (defined as age 55 and older for the purpose of the survey) disagree, believing these young adults, if they do move back home after school, should move out within three years of graduating.

Two Extremes of Boomerang Kids

Just as the millennials are a diverse group, so are the types of boomerang kids who return home to live with mom and dad. There are the kids who boomerang home to live with a purpose and those who return home to become “perma-children.”

“Perma-children” tend to feel like they are living in a state of limbo. Although there is an increasing acceptance to return home to live with parents, these young adults use this time to regress to an earlier stage of development. They fall into old patterns, using the money they earn as disposable income, spending on expensive clothes, cars, dinners and vacations. They have their parents make them dinner and do their laundry, permanently securing their ambivalent status as not-quite-adult yet.

The other group of boomerangers finds a way to use this time to successfully transition from emerging adult to full-fledged adulthood. The kids who live at home with a purpose have a clear goal in mind. They focus on saving money for graduate school or to buy their own homes once they leave the nest. They have a set time period for how long they plan to live at home with their parents, and there is a definite exit strategy set in place. They use this time to help them segue into independent living because this is their ultimate goal.

The Importance of Our 20s

Our 20s are a very important time of life, contrary to the way they’ve been described and sometimes trivialized in the media. According to the leading developmental psychologists of today, these are not throwaway years which are irrelevant.  Instead, this time only comes around once, when the choices made and not made will have an enormous impact on both current and future life opportunities.

The Parents’ Role

The parents of these boomerang kids know this is a crucial time for their children as well, and their reactions to this phase can be just as diverse as those of their children. In fact, our study found that parents as a whole feel it is okay for young adults to live at home with their mom and dad for as long as five years after college – same as the millennials – while older parents (age 55 and older) believe young adults should move out of their parents’ home within four years of finishing college.

Because it seems like it’s taking everyone a bit longer to grow up, this could lead to many parents enjoying having their kids back home again. Parents can fall into a “perma-parenting” routine through helicopter parenting rituals such as mildly indulging their children, while subconsciously preferring having a child home again who needs and depends on them. It’s a way for some parents to temporarily sidestep the empty nest syndrome and deal with the post-active child rearing future they ultimately need to embrace. There is also the group of parents who understand it needs to be a temporary situation. They know the natural progression of events is to help their children move forward in life, which eventually means moving them out.

The ultimate job of a parent is to help their kids live life successfully and independently. It’s also important for these same parents to figure out how to transition into the next healthy phase of their own lives. More than half of Americans, according to the Coldwell Banker study, believe that when children return home after graduating college, it also prevents parents from moving on with their own lives.  For parents to help both themselves and their boomerang kids make the most of this time at home, some non-negotiable rules need to be firmly put into place.

Infographic - Kids live at hom

Click on image to see full size infographic

1) Agree upon a reasonable rent payment – 82 percent of Americans agree adult children who live at home with their parents should pay rent. Too many parents fall into the trap of allowing their adult children to live at home without responsibilities or obligations.

2) Use this opportunity to save money  80 percent of Americans feel it’s okay for adult children to live at home if they are saving money to buy their own home.

3) Contribute to household chores and errands – 92 percent of Americans agree adult children who live at home with their parents should do their own chores.

4) Focus on finding a job, even if it’s for the interim – If contemplating returning to school or looking for work, young adults should take advantage of the time by actively seeking employment opportunities.

5) Parents, understand the importance of helping your child become independent – Don’t derail plans for your future or make fiscal trade-offs which can be detrimental to your own solid financial outlook. Set an end date for this arrangement. Sixty-five percent of Americans agree that adult children who live with their parents should move out as soon as they find a job.

 In the end, the decision to move back home, or allow a child to do so, is complex and extremely personal. One thing that’s for sure is that the time spent living at home should help both the child and parents develop and thrive to their fullest capabilities.

By Dr. Robi Ludwig – Originally posted on the Coldwell Banker Blue Matter Blog

Screech, Screech, Screech…The Sound of Listings Being Scraped

Scraping Listings Guest blogger: Derek Light, Manager, E-Marketing 

Derek Light

Derek Light

Ever been surfing Craigslist or Hotpads and see a familiar listing with an unfamiliar name?  Scraping or stealing listing information, is a problem that seems to ebb and flow with the market.  Scraping seemed to fly under the radar over the past few years but has come back as the real estate market heated up over the last few months.  I want to take a look at few components of scraping, why people do it, if it’s legal and what you can do about it.

Why would anyone want the data?

I wouldn’t be writing about this if the data didn’t have any value.  The reason an agent or brokerage would scrap active listings would be to promote/market, make themselves seem more legitimate and/or get on the buy side of the transaction. Secondly I see listings that are off market and being advertised as for rent.  These listings are typically undervalued for the market; the scam is to get someone to put up a deposit.  Finally people selling homes are valuable to businesses that offer ancillary services.  This kind of scraping isn’t visible and I’ve never heard anyone voice concern over this (please correct me if I’m wrong on this one).

Is it legal to scrap listing data?

Parts of listings are factual and not proprietary, so by rule scraping of all data isn’t necessarily prohibited.  However courts have ruled in a case that pitted Regional Multiple Listing Service of Minnesota (Northstar MLS) vs. American Home Realty Network ( that photos and agent descriptions are proprietary.  While this seems obvious, this was the first case that properly dealt with issue and it was only last November.

The issues I deal with on a day to day basis are scraping of individual listings.  Not only is this a copyright violation but it also violates IDX rules as often the listing is not attributed back to the broker.   This type of scraping is often worse for the agent’s that are victims as they have to spend valuable time trying to get the listing down or explaining to a past client why someone is knocking on their door to rent.

Fighting Scrapers

While the widespread theft of listing data seems to be less of a problem now, it still exists and nothing is going to stop all of it.

MLS’s and brokers have been proactive creating defenses to prevent scraping and have better agreements in place with partners that have created such a large network of channels that the value has been diminished.

There are no silver bullets to keep you listings from being scraped.  Listing agents should be vigilant and set up alerts for all listings.  Should anything pop up you should go to the offending site and flag the listing immediately to minimize any damage.

I would love to learn from you guys!

Have any of your listings ever been scraped?

Do you have any recommendations on how to fight it?

Disney’s Planes Inspired Bedrooms

Guest blogger: Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist, Regional Support Center

It’s opening weekend for Disney’s Planes movie and if you know any small child, they have probably made you fully aware of this by begging, pleading and talking incessantly about the movie and toys. My 5-year old nephew, who adores the Cars movies, hasn’t stopped talking about it for months. I’m sure Saturday we’ll stuff inside a theater with a hundred or so other kids, make our way down sticky aisles and settle in for some animated fun.  After which he’ll probably beg for the bedroom in his new home to switch from trains to planes. Who knows, we may have a little aviator in the making, although we’ve trained him since he was 2 that he “wants to be an anesthesiologist.”

Since kids will be clamoring for Planes inspired bedrooms, we’ve done the design research for you and created a Pinboard inspired by Planes with some Disney cartoon character ideas, do-it-yourself and some other planes bedroom decor ideas.

Here are couple of our favorite DIY ideas:

DIY Chalkboard Airport:

Simply go to your local hardware store, grab a couple Masonite boards and buy some chalk. Voila! You have your very own tarmac or bring the Cars in and make a whole city.

DIY Airplane Paintings

I love this idea and it could be applied to virtually any subject but is especially cute with the planes. Chloe from Everywhere Beautiful will help you bring this adorable idea to life with step-by-step instructions here, but just know…virtually anyone can do it. No art degree necessary!

So, if after this weekend you have a little boy or girl who is obsessed with planes, check out our Planes Themed Kids Room Pinterest board for some ideas for your child’s home decor.