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.

Your “Finding a First Home” Checklist

Your “Finding a First Home” Checklist

Buying a home can be a great investment, and many households dream of starting a family and developing memories in their first home. When it comes to shopping for a property, many first-time homebuyers may be surprised by all the options their real estate agent provides. Luckily, there are several ways prospective buyers can narrow down their home search and find a property that best meets their needs.

The simplest way prospective buyers can begin their home search is to contact a real estate agent and go through a process of elimination by creating a simple checklist that outlines what they’re looking for.

Non-negotiable features

There are a number of home features and characteristics that buyers consider “must haves” before buying a home, therefore it’s important to start with these when making a checklist. For example, home-buyers may require a certain number of bedrooms or bathrooms, prefer to own a large piece of land or refuse to live in a certain neighborhood. These non-negotiable features should be communicated to their real estate agent to ensure that they are fulfilled before individuals spend time visiting home staging events.

Negotiable features

In some cases, buyers may want to own a home that features double bathroom sinks or borders two school districts. If these factors are important to buyers, but will not necessarily prompt them to turn away from a home sale, they should also be on the list. Real estate agents will work to meet all of a buyer’s guidelines, so buyers shouldn’t leave out the little amenities that may make a house feel more like a home.

Neighborhood caveats

You know what they say… “Location, Location, Location.” Choosing the right neighborhood features is almost as important as choosing the right home features. Neighbors, school districts, crime rates, amenities, costs and activities will be a part of a homebuyer’s life for years, so it’s crucial to take these factors into consideration as well when drawing out a list of wants.

Lastly, buyers shouldn’t get discouraged if it takes some time to find the right home. Finding a house that has all the necessary features is worth the wait, and any additional quirks or home features can be altered to meet a buyer’s needs.

Original post from Coldwell Banker Blue Matter blog.

#FlashbackFriday: Evolving Views of a Childhood Home

By Shannon Perkins, Marketing Coordinator, Regional Support Center

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I remember being extremely bored throughout my parent’s home buying process. At age eight, I had a hard time comprehending that this was one of the biggest decisions that they would make together. Once I realized that our move would not allow me to move closer to my childhood best friend I was completely uninterested in the entire ordeal. However, even at a young age I understood that finding a home near a school district with incredible special education resources for my brother made this process more complicated than most.

I dreaded looking at houses and could not understand why we had to look at so many! I had finally grasped the concept of sharing with my younger brother and felt that every home we saw had more than enough room for the both of us. My parents finally decided on a beautiful three bedroom corner house in Westchester. Our new home consisted of four levels and offered a lot more space than our former two bedroom apartment. I initially was overwhelmed by the amount of space and have vivid memories of being terrified of walking to certain parts of the house by myself, specifically the sub-basement. This area both intrigued and terrified me. It was a great conversation started as most people I talked to had never heard of a sub-basement, however I refused to step foot in that area after the sunset by myself until I was a teenager.

Twenty years later after several sleepovers, family parties, years of renovations and a dog; our spacious house doesn’t seem so scary anymore. I am glad that I still have the key to the place I will always call home. It’s been filled with so much love and so many memories that the only thing scary about our house is the responsibility I have to find one just like it for my family.

New Year’s Resolution: Saving for a Home

New Year’s Resolution: Saving for a HomeBy Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist, Regional Support Center

Although I work for a worldwide real estate industry leader, Coldwell Banker, sadly I am not a homeowner...yet. It’s not for lack of interest, but simply because I’ve been a bit of a wanderer. I’ve been renting since I moved out of my parents’ home after high school, which has been…we’ll just say a while. Now I’m ready to plant more permanent roots and the first step is saving for a down payment. So my New Year’s resolution is to buckle down and meet my goal of buying my first home!

Tips for saving for a down payment:

 1) Open a separate ‘down payment’ savings account.
When your savings account is attached to your checking, it can be tempting to make that bank transfer for a little something extra. Try setting up a separate savings account that is not attached. Maybe even set up an automatic deposit into your account biweekly or monthly.

2) Bite the budget bullet.
You won’t believe how much money you’ve been wasting until you really keep track of expenses. Instead of buying coffee every morning, buy a travel mug and make your coffee – then set aside that coffee money. Pack your lunch and make ahead dinners to curb the impulse for take-out on a busy weeknight. Set aside any money you would have spent on these little things and see how they really add up!

3) Down payment assistance. 
Do you qualify? Check out to see if you qualify for down payment assistance. If you are a Veteran, then additional programs may be open to you. Other possible sources are: the U.S. Department of Agriculture or state housing authorities. So make this your first step to see if you could qualify for assistance or a lower down payment.

4) You gotta shop around.
When is the last time you checked out insurance quotes? We all get comfortable with our automatic debits and sometimes forget we could almost always be paying less. Get competing quotes for insurance, phone, cable and other utilities, then deposit the savings in your account.

5) Pickup part-time or freelance work. 
If you’re in a real hurry, this may be your ticket to a faster path to homeownership. You may be surprised how a few extra hours here and there will bolster your savings. If you have a skill that will allow freelance work, you can even do make your own hours.

6) Time for a garage sale.
You’re planning on moving anyway, so you may as well cash in by having a garage sale or selling items on eBay or Craigslist. Plus it will make moving easier (and cheaper!)

What advice do you have to save for a down payment? 

Multiple Generations Under One Roof

By Lana Simon, Communications Specialist, Regional Support Center

Have you noticed larger families in your neighborhood? That long-gone college grad is back across the street, and grandma’s moved in, too. The older couple next door has a full house – their son, his wife and two kids. A growing number of homes consist of a wide-ranging blend of age groups and family circumstances. According to the National Association of Realtor’s 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 14 percent of recent buyers purchased a home for a multigenerational household — a home that had adult siblings, adult children, parents, and/or grandparents in the household. One-quarter of these homes were bought because children over the age of 18 were moving back into the home and for cost savings. One of five multigenerational households purchased because of health reasons and care-taking of aging parents, while 1 in 10 purchase this type of home to spend more time with aging parents.

Helpful Hints:

  • Buyers must be clear about their exact needs. Some families may just want an extra bedroom or two for family members, while others require areas with a separate kitchen, entrance, handicap accessibility or even a larger garage. Desired location may also be influenced by proximity to local hospitals, senior centers or other important activities to family members.
  • Extended families purchasing a home together should consider signing a written contract outlining everything from finances to chores and childcare. Each family should assess their situation individually and find a plan that works best for them.
  • Sellers with “mother in-law suites” or additional spaces that could accommodate a multi-generational living arrangement should highlight this feature. Whether it’s a garage apartment or refurbished basement, this separate space can help the home stand apart from the others.

Check out these homes that would make great multigenerational homes:

This private retreat near Holy Hill in Erin, WI listed by Margaret O’Leary  boasts an entire guest or in-law wing! This special guest space is actually a 700+ square feet attached wing with private front entrance, beamed cathedral ceiling and bay windows.

This gorgeous Woodridge, IL home listed by Alice Chin of our Naperville office, is a perfect example of living space that can be used in a variety of ways. The first floor has a bedroom with an attached full bath, perfect for an in-law suite. Or if you could create an entirely separate living space in the finished basement that includes an area that could be easily transformed into a kitchenette.

Escape the Cold – Warm Vacation Homes

By Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist, Regional Support Center

Have you ever thought about a second home? A warm place to escape the Midwest winters for a little while? Did you realize your local Coldwell Banker real estate agent can help you find that vacation home? Some agents even specialize in properties in these exotic locals.

Check out these warm weather dream vacation homes that could thaw out your winter blues: 

Oil Nut Bay | British Virgin Islands

Oil Nut Bay | British Virgin Islands – Listed by Jed Skae

Oil Nut Bay is a family community located along the Caribbean Sea on the eastern tip of Virgin Gorda in the Birtish Virgin Islands. Spanning across 300 acres of land in eight distinctive neighborhoods are 88 luxury homes, each one uniquely designed to give the resort experience within a private setting.

“I am proud to represent a development of this caliber,” said Jed Skae a broker in our Lakeview office. “This is a great opportunity to introduce local buyers to Oil Nut Bay and all that the community has to offer, and I’m confident that Chicagoans will be drawn to the lifestyle of the British Virgin Islands.  In fact, just in the past year there have been four buyers in the development from the Midwest.”

Jamaica is known for the warmth of it’s people, lush interiors full of waterfalls, mountains and rivers…and of course beautiful beaches. Villa Lolita in Hanover, Jamaica is a stunning five-star, premier rated villa. With it’s modern design and luxurious furnishings, it has been awarded Villa of the Year for the last three years. Designed by Chicago architect Tom Reed, it sits on almost 4 acres of terraced lawns landscaped with tropical plants and coconut trees. It’s also just a short golf cart ride to the 18 hole golf course or one or the 9 tennis courts, club house and private beach. A truly luxury vacation home and destination.

Planning to stay stateside? Marco Island, FL was named one of the top 10 places to buy a vacation home in 2013 by MarketWatch. It’s white sandy beaches, sparkling waters and amazing golf are only a few of the draws to the largest island in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands. This stunning home is located on one of the best golf course lots in Hideaway Beach. The estate setting has gorgeous panoramic views. An exquisite, spacious interior luxuriously finished with amazing attention to detail has three-bedrooms and plenty of room to entertain.

Where would your dream vacation home be located? 

Millennial Buyers and Baby Boomers

Today’s buyer profile is shifting and two demographic groups are emerging as interesting case studies – Millennial buyers and Baby Boomers.

Coldwell Banker Agent Gianna Burdi offers her perspective on these two growing buyer segments:

Millennial Buyers
According to recent report by the National Association of Realtors, millennial homebuyers (age 33 and younger or born 1980-2000) are on the rise, currently accounting for 28% of today’s buyers. Gianna has had personal experience dealing with millennial buyers and makes the following observations:

  • MillenialsMillennial buyers want to be “in town”, meaning close they want to be close to a town’s downtown area where they have easy access to public transportation, shopping and dining. “My last 10 transactions have all been with young buyers who are adamant about finding a home close to a downtown area,” said Burdi.
    • Millennial’s are very motivated when they look for a home and desire as much data as possible about the home, area and market to make the best informed choice. They are ready to make offers and aren’t hesitant to make multiple offers on several properties.
    • Typical for this demographic, a millennial buyer is very loyal and happy to provide word-of-mouth referrals when they have a good experience. They value wisdom and want to work with agents who have many years in the business.

Baby Boomers
This is one segment group that Gianna is very familiar with – not only is she selling to baby boomers, she also works with one every day – her mother (an agent as well) who is a baby boomer herself. She has been on both sides of the fence and offers the following insight:

  • Baby BoomersMany baby boomers have been in their homes for 20+ years and are unfamiliar with what buyers today are looking for in a home. They need to be willing to re-position their home to overcome some of today’s buyer’s major objectives.
  • For baby boomers, the home selling process is extremely emotional, whereas millennials view the process more as a transaction. “I’ve had a baby boomer client take up to 12 months to put their home on the market, even when they know they need to sell it and downsize. For them, it’s like leaving some of their most treasured memories,” said Burdi.
  • Similar to the millennials, many baby boomers are also looking for “in town” living options. As they downsize, they are looking primarily for townhomes and condos in a desirable downtown area where they can close access to a variety of entertainment and public transportation selections.

5 Questions A Seller Should Ask Before Signing a Contract

5 questions home sellers should askBy Colleen C. Wilcox,  Broker, CNS, CDPE – Hinsdale, IL.

What are the five questions sellers should ask before signing a contract with a potential buyer?

1. What evidence has been provided that the buyer is financially capable of closing the deal?

In the current market, approximately 10 percent of real estate deals fall through between the time of initially signing the contract and the transaction closing. The primary reason a deal falls through is due to the financing. Your realtor can call the buyer’s lender and talk to lender to find out how financially capable the buyers are and if they have the capacity to close.

2. Have I chosen an attorney that specializes in real estate?

Many people think that if they have a family member or friend who is an attorney that the person could just manage their home sale transaction because it’s a cheaper and easy option. However, in the current real estate climate where the deals are often times very complex, the legal aspect of the transaction is not as simple as in the past. In order to ensure that the transaction is handled correctly, you really need to hire an attorney that specializes in real estate law.

3. Do I really understand the risks of accepting contingencies? 

There are a variety of contingencies that could come into play in a real estate transaction. The riskiest one is accepting an offer that is contingent upon the potential buyer’s selling their home. This scenario is not a solid contract, but more of an “if then, maybe” situation. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to look at the house that the buyer is trying to sell to see if it’s priced right and whether other homes in their area are selling quickly. Another frequent contingency is when a buyer’s home has sold, but hasn’t closed which is less risky than the former. Finally, the most common contingency is the finance contingency where the buyers are contingent upon getting a mortgage. Determine with your family which contingencies you’re prepared to accept before placing your house on the market.

4. Have the items I want to exclude been written into the contract?

Take a tour through your home before you draft up a contract and make note of all of the items that you want to take with you including any items screwed into the wall or ceiling. Be sure to write these items as exclusions in your contract. Or take cherished items down before you even put your house on the market. If you wait until the attorney review period to negotiate exclusions it can sometimes be too late.

5. Do I know where I am going and have a plan to be out by the closing date?

While this question is pretty straight forward – it’s one that many people find themselves in if their home sells quicker than they anticipated. With the current real estate market, many well priced homes are receiving multiple offers with very eager buyers. You need to be prepared to close and move out of your home in as little as 45 days. Have a plan in place and start thinking well in advance of signing a contract about what an accelerated time-frame means for you and your family.