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 Buying your first home, home transformations from outdated to updated, property flipping, DIY projects, etc.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.

Super Bowl Sunday Funday

By Shannon Perkins, Marketing Coordinator

I am a bit ashamed to admit that I am the stereotypical female who knows very little about football. In fact, the only reason I paid attention to the Super Bowl last year is because I tricked myself into believing it was a Beyonce concert. This year I’ve decided to celebrate the Super Bowl by making sure everyone knows how to prepare a hearty spread of dips, snacks and drinks while they cheer on their favorite team.

Make a signature drink

It’s expensive to buy an assortment of beer, wine and liquor. Make your party memorable and simple by creating a signature drink and putting it in a big punch bowl. Mix vodka and lemonade and toss in some ice, create “beer-mosas” with beer and orange juice, or go for simple sangria with a bottle of wine, ginger ale, and a pile of colorful fruit. Click here for even more game day drink ideas.

Buffalo Wings from Parade

Buffalo Wings from Parade

Just wing it

I love wings in any shape, flavor or fashion and it goes without saying that the Super Bowl is a holiday for wing-lovers! Buffalo-style is still the favorite flavor of most wing-lovers, followed by barbecue, breaded or fried, teriyaki and sweet and sour sauce. Most wing connoisseurs dip their wings in ranch dressing, barbecue sauce, blue cheese or hot sauce. Click here for more wing recipes your party goers will love!

Slider Burger Party by PS by Dila

Slider Burger Party by PS by Dila

Create a slider bar

Make small patties, grill them, and pile them onto a big tray next to a platter of slider buns. Fill the table with bowls of onions, pickles, mayo, salsa, cheeses, jalapenos, bacon bits, and anything else you would like to see on your burgers. Make sure to have turkey and beef burgers to please your diverse audience! Hint: This works for tacos, too.

I dip, you dip, we dip

All Super Bowl parties must have a dip. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cheesy, gooey concoction or a fresh veggie salsa. Making dips is easy, and your dishwasher will thank you come post-game cleanup time. Check out a few of my favorite recipes here.

It’s time to consume flavor-packed, easy-to-eat treats without a care in the world for diets. I’m sure there are healthier ways to celebrate the Super Bowl, but how much fun would that be?

For more Super Bowl Party ideas, visit our Super Bowl Sunday Funday board on Pinterest.

#HomeRocks the Grammys

HomeRocks-The-Grammys1By Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist

Did you see the Grammys last night? Before the red carpet even started, the buzz had begun about our new Coldwell Banker “Home Sweet Home” commercial. #HomeRocks was trending even before Beyonce and Jay-Z opened the show with ‘Drunk in Love’ and the already infamous chair. It continued to go strong throughout the Grammys lead by a loyal #GenBlue group and associates from all around the world.

It was amazing to see the reaction from people across the world to the new ad that features Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home.” Some of my favorite tweets were from people who didn’t seem to be affiliated with Coldwell Banker, but instead were reacting to the images and the music of the ad:




onlygood song motley

Want to watch the ad again? Check out the commercial here.

Year of Housing Recovery Opens Door for Aspiring Realtors

Stay at home mom. Waitress. Car salesman. Interior designer. Marketing guru.
What do these people all have in common? A new career in real estate.

2013 brought a whirlwind of excitement and optimism surrounding the real estate market. We saw positive headlines in the news across the country and heard success stories from buyers, sellers and real estate professionals. The housing recovery not only brought many buyers and sellers to the table, but also opened up an opportunity for people of all different backgrounds to explore new career possibilities. With unlimited earning potential, flexibility and the ability to create your own business, real estate was a natural choice for many this past year. In fact, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage reported a 58% increase in new agents to the business compared to 2012.

— Learn more about the new agents in the video—

Christine Groves – Multitasking mom
Christine-GrovesAfter 12 years in Human Resources, Christine Groves called it quits on her corporate career to take on life’s most important role – motherhood.  Fast forward six years, and Christine was ready to reenter the working world with a new outlook.  She wanted a job that would provide her with flexibility, earning potential and the ability to help people.   Now, she blends her strong communication skills with her savvy real estate knowledge to become a successful working mother who still finds time to wait in the carpool line. In 2013, Groves closed over $4,300,000 in home sales, and last year, she was named Coldwell Banker’s “Rookie of the Year” in the Western Region.

Jennifer DeVries- Social butterfly and waitress
Jennifer-DeVriesHaving grown up in an entrepreneurial family, Jennifer DeVries knew she wanted to be in business for herself, but hadn’t yet identified a good fit for her lifestyle. After college she took to waitressing where she used her outgoing personality to connect with customers. It was her social nature and charm that ultimately landed her in a new career.  She made quite an impression on a seasoned Realtor who she met on the job and was encouraged to visit a branch office to learn more about career opportunities.  She did just that the following morning, and hasn’t looked back since.  One year later she is VP of luxury home sales for the Straub Milito Group and was recently voted “Rookie of the Year” by her peers for Chicago Agent Magazine.

Conor Scanlon – Car Salesman
Conor ScanlonConor Scanlon graduated from DePaul University and quickly went to work for his family’s auto business, where he had worked in various roles since he was 13 years old and most recently selling cars.  Despite having four generation of the car business in his blood, he decided it was time for a change.  He attributes his interest in real estate to childhood experiences, moving around a lot to renovate and decorate new homes due to his mother’s love of flipping houses. As a lifelong Chicagoan, Conor’s passion for the unique offerings that Chicago provides its residents paired with his sales minded approach made for a smooth transition and successful first year on the job.

Trish Orndorff – Entreprenuer and interior designer
ATrish Orndorfflthough real estate was a natural progression for this talented interior designer, Trish Orndorff’s transition in to real estate was a gradual one.  Before starting her own redesign and staging business, Trish excelled as an advertising sales executive for Teen Magazine and Chicago Magazine.  After having children she decided to say farewell to her nine to five job to be a stay at home mom.  Thirteen years later she found the perfect outlet to channel her creativity and revisit her sales and marketing experience.  Her love of design married with the excitement of selling was the perfect equation for a successful Realtor.  She attributes her first year success to effective marketing and social media that allows her to stay connected to her network.

Brian Davis – Marketing and sales professional
Brian DavisPrevious to his position at Coldwell Banker, Brian Davis held a marketing position working with well established businesses such as Comcast, AT&T, Staples, and Verizon. It wasn’t until he personally went through the process as a first time homebuyer that he contemplated becoming a Realtor himself.  He was inspired by his real estate agent, referred to him by a friend, and amazed at how much she enjoyed what she did for a living.   Buying his first home is an experience that he will never forget, and now he feels lucky to have the privilege of being the person behind that and helping to find his clients the home of their dreams.

Home Sweet Home – TV Spot Debut

We all know what it feels like to be home. Not in your physical location, but truly “at home.”  That is what the new Coldwell Banker TV spot conveys with the help of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home.”

The commercial officially debuts during the Grammys airing on Sunday, January 26th at 8 p.m. on CBS. To join the Twitter party, follow us and use the hashtag #HomeRocks. Tweet us what you think!

Coldwell Banker Believes in the Dream

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech pierced the hearts of millions across the nation and is arguably one of the most memorable speeches of all time. There are currently over 700 streets in the Unites States that are named after Dr. King with one in almost every major city. Despite being enacted in 1983, all fifty states did not observe MLK day until 17 years later.

Now, every third Monday of the year, millions of people across the United States celebrate the fact that the world is a better place because he dared to live it. He is the only non-president with a national holiday in his honor and since it’s a federal holiday, your kids likely have off from school. If you’re interested in volunteering together in his honor, click here to find a service project with one of our charitable partners.

Below are a few photos from my visit to Atlanta in 2012 where I had the opportunity to visit the National Historic Site of Dr. King which includes Dr. & Mrs. King’s Crypt, The Eternal Flame, Ebenezer Baptist Church and other historic memorabilia.

MLK Site _1

Me at the National Historic Site of Dr. King

MLK Site

Historic memorabilia


Ebenezer Baptist Church