Reality TV vs. Reality Realty


By Christine Groves, Licensed Broker, Realtor®

Like a lot of people, you can find me watching one of those great real estate shows featuring home buyers and home renovators. As a real estate professional, my family finds it humorous that I continue to think of real estate during my down-time, but those television shows are so entertaining. Buying your first home, home transformations from outdated to updated, property flipping, DIY projects, etc. is great reality television. However, the perception of what the process is really like differs greatly. So many of my clients are surprised at the reality of the home buying and home renovation process that I thought it best to clarify 3 glaring differences between reality television and the reality of real estate:

  1. TIMELINE – In a half hour or hour television program, the journey of a homeowner or home buyer is portrayed from start to finish. Viewers wait for the happy ending when a home is transformed from blah to beautiful, property virgins find the perfect home to call their own, and investors flip a revived home for a tidy profit. Most shows take you through this nail-biting process over the course of days or weeks, when in reality all good opportunities take time with lots of potential delays and trials of patience. Home buyers do not typically see three homes and then pick one, designers and contractors do not usually transform our homes in a week, and investors don’t ever buy a home to renovate and sell at a profit 30 days later. In reality, a home search can take a lot of homework and seeing several homes before finding what truly works for you; a home renovation can take months of planning, contractors, and dust; a home flip is far more complicated and risky, taking great resources and determination. One of the biggest investments in life is not supposed to be as easy as television glamorizes.
  2. BUDGET – The idea that you can completely redecorate a room for $1,000 or convert a “hot mess” ready to list for $10,000 or gut kitchen, bathrooms, and load-bearing walls into dream spaces for $40,000 is too good to be true for most people. All good things come with a cost and the majority of us don’t have sponsors and limitless resources to finance our transformations. Whenever considering a home project or renovation, you must have enough of a budget for quality materials and quality contractors. Shop for bargains, obtain several estimates and referrals, and work with people that respect your budget. Be prepared for unforeseen additional construction costs and changes to closing/moving expenses. Real estate is a long-term investment and not an area to cut corners.
  3. DETAILS – So many of my clients say to me “buying/selling a home is so much more complicated than I thought” which is followed-up by their appreciation for having a real estate professional’s help. Buying a home is not as simple as “I want that one, do you take credit cards?” Renovating a home is not “please transform my home, I will be back next week.” All good things come to those who wait…..which means hard work, big decisions, and patience. Ratings for reality shows would drastically drop if you had to watch hours of documents, legal issues, market statistics, permits, lender underwriting, phone calls, emails, etc. The key is to find the right professionals to guide you through a complicated process and maximize your outcome.

Real estate demands realistic expectations. Do your homework and work with experienced professionals. Instead of waiting for a camera crew to show up and make your dreams come true, you need to make things happen by hiring the right people for the job and making well-thought decisions. The end result is actually better than what you see on television because it’s your home.


What made Abraham Lincoln’s house a home?

Image via NPS.

Image via NPS.

By Amy Eiduke, Communications Director

Abraham Lincoln is regarded as one of our history’s most influential and infamous leaders. And today, on his birthday, it seems appropriate to pay special homage to this great man. But, instead of reliving all of his great political feats, I wanted to know what made his house a home. Can you just imagine him eating dinner with his family or shooting the breeze with his neighbor or meeting with political figures in his parlor? All of this could have actually happened or perhaps he found other ways to create a safe haven for himself and his family. While we take a moment to speculate, here are a few interesting facts I uncovered:

  • Lincoln’s Springfield home was the only home that he ever owned. He bought it with some land for $1200 in 1844.
  • He lived in the house with his wife, Mary Todd L1212incoln, and his family until he was elected President in 1860.
  • The Lincoln home almost burned down two times. The first fire occurred over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday of 1854/1855. The second fire was the result of a lightning strike, which burned the roof near the north chimney
  • The home was originally one story but the Lincolns expanded it to a full two stories in 1856 to meet the needs of their growing family.
  • Three of the four Lincoln sons were born here, and one (Edward) died here in 1850 at nearly four years of age.
  • When Lincoln won the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination, he received a delegation of party officials in his parlor.
  • Mary Todd never returned to the family home in Springfield after the death of her husband. She instead lived in Chicago and Europe until returning to her sister’s house in Springfield later in life.
  • Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, donated the family home to the State of Illinois in 1887 under the condition that it would forever be well-maintained and open to the public at no charge.
  • President Richard Nixon signed the legislation authorizing the establishment of the Lincoln home as a National Historic Site using the same desk Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address.

Interested in learning more? You can visit his home in Springfield at any time. Admission is free, but tickets are issued on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here to learn more.

The LEGO Movie Debut

By Amy Eiduke, Communications Director

After counting down the days and checking the calendar endlessly, today is the day! The opening of the much anticipated LEGO Movie! Ok, maybe this movie premier is not as much of a priority in your household, but in mine, with two young boys, you can’t hold back the excitement.

LEGOs were invented in 1949 and have grown into a remarkable toy empire. In fact, have you seen the design for the new Lego experience center set to be built in Billund, Denmark? It’s amazing! Why are these little interlocking blocks so popular? Because they are fun, creative, innovative and can be completely unique to you. The possiblities of what you can create are endless – airplanes, animals, cars, bridges and of course, homes. Quite a few architects’ careers have begun with Legos. Legos also help make a house feel like home – I love sitting around the table building with my sons.

Take a look to see how Legos and home can be a perfect combination:

James May created a full-sized Lego house. Click here to see the entire house.

This homeowner created a Lego replica of their house with no detail spared.

Lego Island and other cool was to repurpose Legos from Apartment Therapy. Image via Cool Hunter.

Lego Island and other cool was to repurpose Legos from Apartment Therapy. Image via Cool Hunter.

Check out how these artists repurposed old toys in their home… the Lego kitchen island is quite impressive.

Here’s a home that was inspired by and built for Legos.

So whether or not you go to see The Lego Movie, take a moment to be inspired and let your creativity go wild!

Have You Heard About Spokes?

By Brooke Balco, Communications Specialist

We’ve added a new consumer search tool called Spokes to our website. It helps home buyers see how far a potential home is from the important places in their life – work, family, the gym, etc.

Visit, search for a home, the new Spokes search tool is on the Property Search Results and on the Details page of each listing (see the graphic to the left.)

Watch the video, then be like Joe, and use Spokes to connect to everything important in your life…it’s the home search that revolves around you!

5 Home Seller Mistakes to Avoid

5 Home Seller Mistakes to AvoidBy Lana Simon, Communications Specialist

When my husband and I decided to move to a bigger home, we then found ourselves in first-time seller shoes. We were faced with the daunting process of selling our condo in order to purchase our new dream home. We had a nail-biting experience of hoping our place would sell. We cleaned all the time and did minor repairs to make it spic and span! We received the good, bad and ugly offers, but in the end, we finally got the winning deal.

Here’s some of the things we learned to avoid and will certainly put into action when we find ourselves in the market again.

1. Overpricing your home.
We all want to get a high selling price for our home. But, it’s important to be realistic about its value. Our Realtor provided us with comparative information and priced our condo correctly. We ended up getting multiple offers and chose the one that was the best for us.

2. Ignoring curb appeal.
Whether you like it or not, people do judge a book by the cover and they will judge your house the same way. Think about how the outside of your house looks and how you can fix it up. Give your front door a facelift with some paint or plant some colorful flowers out front. And, of course don’t forget to put those nasty garbage cans away. With a few minor changes you can catch a buyer’s eye when they drive by.

3. Overdoing home improvements.
You don’t have to break the bank remodeling your kitchen or bath before listing your home. Simple updates can make a big difference, such as changing out faucets and cabinet hardware to freshen the look. We made minor repairs when we were selling and updated our appliances. When we were done, my husband and I said we should have done it sooner so we could have enjoyed it, too!

4. Not getting your home inspected before listing it.
When it comes to selling, nobody likes surprises. To avoid potential red flags, have your home inspected before you list. In addition, have all disclosures in place so everything is out in the open. You need to be upfront about issues with your house and know the condition of the roof, furnace or hot water heater.

5. Not depersonalizing your home.
As a pack-rat, it was a real challenge for me to de-clutter our place. Our agent recommended that we store what we didn’t need. So, I packed up some boxes and brought them to my parent’s basement. When selling, make your home a clean slate, so buyers can picture themselves living in your house. It’s important to remove your photos and personal items. It’s not an easy task, but at least you’ll get a jumpstart on your packing.