#FlashbackFriday – Home is a Flower Garden

By Janice Ruzich, Marketing Manager, Central Region

Flashback Friday - Home is a Garden

My childhood home

I’ve been thinking a lot about the growing up in our little house in Country Club Hills since we began the process of preparing my Mom’s house to be put on the market. Mom lived in the same house for the last 47 years. We tried over the years to get her to move closer to us or move into a condo but she wasn’t going to budge! This was her home. As it is for so many people, her house represented her independence.
As we were packing up the house I came across bags of seeds from her flower garden. This brought back memories of my sister and me pulling weeds on a Saturday afternoon. Why did I complain so much? Now I love nothing more than to work in my own peaceful garden – even if I’m pulling weeds! Maybe that’s the point – creating your own beautiful garden in your own home.

Moms Garden Phlox

Mom’s garden phlox

As we cleared out the bedroom I shared with my older sister, Bonnie, I had to show my husband the closet. We shared one closet! I guess we didn’t have as much stuff back then. I still remember thinking my brother was lucky because he had his own room! But our room had two sunny windows and faced the corner where the school bus stopped. I remember how often I would hear the bus coming and dash out the door just in time!
Our little house had three bedrooms and one and a half baths for five people. My husband was not impressed. His family had one bath for six people! We all seemed to manage just fine though.

Back Yard Ice Rink

Backyard ice rink

But not everything was small. We had a huge yard to play in. I remember my cousins from the city coming to visit and saying how they loved to come out to the country! There was enough room to swing on our swing set, play catch or build a snow fort. I remember the awesome snow fort we built after the blizzard of ’67. (Yes, I’m that old!) I don’t think we actually called it “awesome” back then. That was back when I looked forward to snow. And I remember a few years in a row when my little brother Jimmy flooded the back yard to play ice hockey. All the neighborhood kids would come and skate until they were called in for dinner.

Our terrier mix dog, Sammy, loved to run around in the backyard, sometimes dig up the flowers – and escape under the fence! Coincidentally she had two litters of puppies in that house. They were so adorable. I miss that dog.

Garden Phlox and Lilies

Garden phlox and lilies

And of course there was plenty of space in the yard for my mother’s beautiful garden. There are beautiful Peonies, tall Phlox, Lily of the Valley and other old fashioned plants passed down from my great-grandmother to my grandmother to my mom. These beautiful specimens are still in the garden. And I have them in my own garden right now as well. I’m hoping to pass some cuttings down to my son, Josh and his wife for the garden in their new house.

Mom’s garden has become overgrown over the last couple years. But the flowers and plants are there waiting for the right person to love the garden and make it beautiful again. I am confident the new owner will add their own touches to create their own beautiful garden.

Chicagoland Luxury Home Sales Increased Nearly 50% Year over Year

By Brooke Balco, Communications Specialist, Regional Support Center

In October, with 25.6% more luxury home listings taken than October of 2012, property sales nearly doubled according to a new report by Coldwell Banker Previews International®, the luxury division of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

The results are based on Multiple Listing Service data of all homes sold in October 2013 for more than $750,000 in the Chicagoland area*.

“It’s exciting to see so many new luxury listings hitting the market,” said Fran Broude, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. “Homeowners who are thinking about selling don’t necessarily have to wait until spring to list their home.  Serious buyers are in the market year round.”

A total of 336 luxury homes in the region sold in October, up 48% from a year ago when 227 high-end properties changed hands. On a monthly basis, sales were 6.7% lower than September’s 360 property sales.

The number of new listings taken in October was 725, up 25.6 percent from 577 in October of last year.  Other indicators that show positive market trends year over year are decreasing market times and increasing median sales prices.  In October, the average amount of days for a property to be on the market before selling was 71, down 18.4 percent to last year.  Median sales price increased to $999,950 up 2 percent from October of last year and from September 2013.

The upper end of the luxury market showed strength as well with 30 property sales over $2 million in October, up 172 percent from October of last year.  The most expensive sale in the Chicagoland area was a 6,000 square foot new construction home located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.  It was listed for $4.2 million and sold for $3.9 million.  Coldwell Banker’s Pamela Rueve was the selling agent.

*Based on information from Midwest Real Estate Data LLC for the period 11/1/2010 through 10/31/2013 for Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

Thanksgiving Traditions

What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition? We asked that question to some of our Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage family and we love their answers. What is yours?

“My favorite Thanksgiving tradition is the pattern of the day that I have created over the years… I start the day reflecting on everything good in my life, followed by watching some of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. These activities are a prelude to cooking a couple of classic comfort dishes to pass at our family Thanksgiving dinner. I love cooking stuffing, and green bean casserole and sharing a traditional dinner with my family.” – Judy Hearst, Regional Vice President, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Southeast Wisconsin

“My tradition is simple-to be with my family, relax, and be grateful. It is my favorite holiday for those reasons.” — Kathy Kalnes, Regional Vice President, City Region

“For past Thanksgivings, my family was never big on turkey. Instead, we would go out to the grocery store, and each kid would get to choose his or her meal for the night. For me, that meant a whole lot of popcorn shrimp. In recent years we have gotten a lot more traditional with a big meal (including deep frying a turkey this year), but one tradition has remained…Black Friday shopping.

Every Friday after Thanksgiving, we fire up Amazon and get our Christmas shopping done the tech (and non-freezing way). Christmas movies and music go on the whole time, and we stay in pajamas and eat all day. It is always a great way to kick off the holiday season.” Chris Haran, Director of Strategic Planning and Initiatives

“Waking up in the pre-dawn hours to the heavenly aroma of onions, celery and carrots sautéing in butter for my mom’s fantastic sausage apple stuffing. Early on she only used the cavity of a 20lb-25lb turkey to prepare it but later acquiesced to the clamor for more and made a side dish as well. The stuffing from the bird was the best hand’s down.” — Jim Moran, Regional Vice President Relocation Services

“Weather permitting. All the cousins play a game of touch football. We also all know to bring our baseball gloves for playing catch.” — Rich Rogala, Digital Strategist, City Region

“My father has 6 brothers and one sister who each alternate hosting a potluck Thanksgiving in their home each year. Every family member is responsible for bringing their signature dishes. Some memorable dishes are my mother’s potato salad, my uncle’s fried turkey , my aunt’s macaroni and cheese and my grandmother’s peach cobbler. This is my favorite holiday because it is the one time of year that you are guaranteed to see everyone in the family.” — Shannon Perkins, Marketing Coordinator, Regional Support Center

“Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because the focus is on family, food and reflecting on all the good things you are grateful for in your life. I of course love the eating part, but my favorite part is after the food when we all sit down and play board games together and laugh. It makes me feel 10 again. Nothing beats good wholesome family fun. And pie. Don’t forget the pie.” — Lala Mahoney, Social Media, Online Marketing Specialist & Transition Coordinator, North Shore Region

“My family kicks off Thanksgiving in the morning with a friendly game of football and Bloody Mary’s (I may or may not stand on the sideline cheering on with said Bloody Mary in my hand). Once we are in our holiday best, we gather around the table and write down on a leaf what we are thankful for. We all then add our leaves to a tree which becomes the centerpiece for our Thanksgiving spread.” — Ann Marie Wulfram, Senior Graphic Designer, Regional Support Center

“After dinner – we get out the newspapers (we each have our own copies) and map out Black Friday shopping plan. We don’t necessarily buy a ton we have so much fun watching the crazy people out there and then go to breakfast.” — Lisa, Regional Support Center

What is YOUR favorite Thanksgiving Tradition? 

Tips for Hosting Thanksgiving in a Small Space

Space Solutions for Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner

By Shannon Perkins, Marketing Coordinator,  Regional Support Center

The task of hosting holiday celebrations should not be limited to homeowners. While this may prove to be challenging for renters, proper planning makes it possible for things to go smoothly. In addition to preparing as much of the meal ahead of time as possible, it is important to have small snacks on hand for the crowd before dinner. Below are a few tips that can help apartment renters prepare to host thanksgiving dinner.

Delegate tasks

A good hostess knows that delegating tasks is just as important as preparing meals. Consider having friends and family bring a dish as it may cut down on the amount of storage needed and post dinner cleanup. Be prepared to delegate the following items:

  • Drinks
  • Bread / rolls
  • Pie
  • Salad
  • Side dish
  • Appetizers

Finding space

Having company in a small and cluttered home is a recipe for disaster. In order to have a large event in a small area, it is imperative to make the most of your space.

  • Rearrange furniture and look for new possibilities in each room. Use your largest space as the dining room or major seating area.
  • If your apartment has a nice view, think about arranging the seating near the window. A focal point such as a picture or mirror can make tight space appear larger.


  • Trying to find an extra table may be difficult if you are not accustomed to hosting large parties. Ask guests that do not cook to assist by lending useful furniture. Renting these items may also be an option.
  • Thanksgiving dinner can work well if you make your bookshelves, counters and tables serve multiple purposes. A tall bookshelf would work well for serving drinks and appetizers, as well as a bar area. Trays can also be a wonderful way to serve extra guests, particularly if they are sitting on a comfortable couch or chair.

When everyone is finally sitting around your table , enjoying their delicious meal you’ll be thankful your hard work paid off… and that Thanksgiving only comes once a year!

Homes Fit for the Victor’s Village

Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist, Regional Support Center

If you’re a fan of the Hunger Games, you know that today Catching Fire, the second book in the trilogy, is released in movie theaters. The story returns to Katniss and Peeta six months after their win in the 74th Hunger Games, which means they should be living in the Victor’s Village. In the books, the Victor’s Village is a gated, luxurious community filled with gorgeous homes given to the victors for surviving the Hunger Games.

We’ve yet to be introduced to this luxurious subdivision in the movies, but while I was reading the books, I imagined grand stone homes decorated with unique, intricate architectural details and large living spaces fit for a king. In my imagination, the following spectacular homes would be perfect for Katniss or Peeta. What do you think the new Victor’s Village will look like?

Google Authorship: Your Picture in Search Results

Google Authorship

We’ve all seen it. You Google something and magically a person’s image appears by an article, website or blog. Now, your photo could pop up by your listings in the search results if you set up Google Authorship.

Why set up Google Authorship?

  1. It gets you noticed. Photos catch the eye and increase visibility and clicks.
  2. Content claimed by an author is viewed as more credible than unclaimed content.
  3. Most people and/or companies haven’t set up Google Authorship yet. So break through the clutter.
  4. People trust a friendly face. Get your face in search results.
  5. Google Authorship can improve clicks by 30 to 150%! (Source: Catalyst)

Once you’ve set it up, Google automatically displays your image by any content you have authored.

Click here for a tutorial on how to set up Google Authorship.

SMD-RES-NOV_p1Please note: it may take Google a couple hours or a several weeks to show your image.

Click here to download the entire Social Media Digest for November. 

Videolicious: Create and Share Your Own Property Videos

Videolicious & Coldwell Banker

Videolicious is now available to Coldwell Banker agents for free. This branded version, includes unlimited video length, unlimited photos or video clips, full music library and branded ending shot.

1. Download the Videolicious App to your iPad or iPhone. Open the app, sign in (using your Coldwell Banker email address). If you have problems signing in, email Videolicious@ColdwellBanker.com.

2. Choose your photos and/or video clips.

3. Tell your story. You can now narrate the video, clicking on images to the right
as you talk.

4. Select your music and the sound level from tons of musical selections.

5. Now share your video via email, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or FTP, all at the touch of a button.

SMD-RES-NOV_p1Watch the video below for a brief overview of this new tool. 

Click here to read our full November Social Media Digest.

ROYGBIV – Color Trends for 2014

By Amy Eiduke, Communications Is it time to start freshening up one or more of your rooms? Whether you make changes before holiday gatherings or to liven up the dreary days of January, a new color can change your room from drab to fab!

Keep in mind you don’t need to paint all your walls to change things up, sometimes just a few accent pieces such as pillows, drapes or artwork can make a world of difference. Here are a few colors moving to the forefront in 2014:

Yellow brightens the day. Add energy and happiness to any room by using this cheery color. This year we will see more yellow with red undertones rather than the green-yellow we’ve seen the past few years.

Blues will rule. A positive color, blue brings a clean feel to any room. From bright blues like aqua to monochromatic schemes of mid-tone blues to the increasingly popular teal, blue will be seen everywhere.

Purple penetrates the picture.  Passionate, elegant and pretty, purple continues to step into the spotlight. Choose your shade and amount of color carefully not to overwhelm your space.

Grey remains a fave. From a dark sophisticated grey to a light airy version, this neutral can be used as a base in your interior design or the featured color throughout.

No matter what color you choose it should fit with your personal style. You will be the one enjoying the space so make sure it’s something you love and makes you feel at home.

Clean Your Refrigerator Day Checklist

By Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist, Regional Support Center

Clean your fridge day

November 15th is “Clean Your Refrigerator Day.” If you’re like me, this probably doesn’t sound like a holiday you want to celebrate, but it is a reminder to get this chore out of the way before the holidays. The fridge is one of those places you visit multiple times a day, but rarely makes it to the chore list as much as it should.

If you’re selling your house, remember people look in, under and behind the fridge (eek!). So for refrigerator-cleaning-procrastinators, like myself, here is a checklist to break it down into easier tasks to tackle:

  1. Purge: Unplug the refrigerator, then empty out the contents and get rid of anything past its expiration date. Put everything perishable into coolers.
  2. Drawers: Remove the drawers and glass shelves set in the sink to soak with sudsy warm water. Let glass shelves get to room temperature before washing.
  3. Inside: Spray the sides, top, bottom and wire shelves with a multi-surface spray and wipe down. Use an older toothbrush to scrub the seals and seams.
  4. Under:  Slide a duster with a long handle under to remove dust and dirt.
  5. Behind: Don’t forget to pull out the refrigerator a bit to sweep and mop.
  6. Outside: If you have stainless steel, a little bit of distilled vinegar on a microfiber towel rubbed in the direction of the grain works best. For other surfaces, multi-surface cleaner and paper towels will suffice.

Now replace all the food, plug it back in and enjoy the rest of “Clean Your Refrigerator Day.” I think you deserve it.

*Additional trick: If you have a stubborn stains on a white fridge exterior or interior, then turn to magic erasers – they can be your best friend.

Balancing Real Estate, Family and the Holidays

Guest blogger: Christine Groves, Licensed Broker, REALTOR, Groves-Realty.com

Balancing Work, Life & the Holidays

Years ago, pre-children, I was a full-time career woman. For the first years after having children, I was a full-time at-home mom. Either is a lot for anybody. For the past couple years I have become both. I am do not accept anything I do at less than at 100%, so the biggest challenge of my life is to achieve the proper balance between family and work.

During the holidays this becomes especially challenging because you throw in more family activities, parties, gift shopping, cooking, school breaks, traveling, snowy weather and work which must progress as if you do not have a life outside of it. Thank goodness the real estate business tends to naturally slow down a bit this time of year, but for those clients that are still active, real estate never sleeps.

These are the three principles I live by to strike a balance:

1. TIME MANAGEMENT – Organizing my time and making lists keeps me sane during the holiday season. My calendar is my best ally. By managing all your appointments, work and personal, you can actually enjoy the holidays as well as be a focused Realtor. Usually by early November, I put all the important dates in my calendar for the kids’ school activities, time off, and plans for where and how we are celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I also have all my listing appointments, closings, and legal deadlines for work. Each week I also plan errands and personal time. One week it may be gift shopping, another week sending family cards and work cards, another week doing special family outings and traditions, another week for decorating, and time to catch up with family and friends.

I also plan for at least one full day each week of marketing and to keep me business going by staying in touch with potential clients. Then you have to leave slots of time for those last-minute calls from clients to do showings, writing offers, handling issues that come up, and new clients. If a demanding client conflicts with an important personal event, then you simply have an appointment and you have to schedule your client another time. This is also the best time of year to exercise your ability to work mostly from home and going out when appointments require. As Realtors, we have the flexibility of having those days where we negotiate offers, make a ton of calls and emails, prepare for listings, bake a batch of cookies, put up the tree, and throw in a load of laundry as a bonus…..all in the comfort of our pajamas!

2. EARLY HOLIDAY PREPARATIONS – An ounce of preparation…procrastination only leads to unnecessary stress so I like to get certain things out of the way before the holidays are in full momentum. Bake freezable cookies, shop for gifts and extras, get prepared for the cold and snow around the home and in everyone’s wardrobe, stock up on food and quick options, get holiday cards ready early or in stages, etc. I also try to get extra chores done before the holiday months or schedule some for after the New Year. This leaves the time to focus on the other tasks and gatherings special to this time of year.

3. CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK – I am definitely a self-proclaimed “Super Mom” and “Super Realtor” who takes pride in doing it all, but this time of year I owe it to myself to overload my schedule. Not everything has to be homemade, you don’t have to attend every event, you do not have to host or volunteer for everything, not every decoration needs to go up, you do not have to shop at tons of different stores for the perfect gifts, and your home does not have to be spotless (oh, that was a tough one to say). Utilize catering, bakeries, online shopping, house cleaners, etc. We tend to be hard on ourselves for things that are not so important to others. Your priority is your time with those you love while still giving your clients great service any time of year.

As we conquer our work goals for the year, satisfy more happy clients, and spend quality time with those we care for most, don’t forget to save some time to savor it all. This is the time of year to appreciate all we have. You not only need time for celebration but time for peace and reflection. Put away the smartphone, put the kids to bed, make your list for the day ahead and enjoy a night of quiet from time to time. We help people all year long but must remember to help ourselves to enjoy it all along the way.