Neighborhood Features to Examine Before Buying a Home

Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location! An obvious and important aspect of buying a home is looking at the home itself, but another, and sometimes forgotten, is exploring the neighborhood. Limited amenities and services, unkempt communities and noisy neighbors can curb a home sale, and to avoid moving into an area that lacks the features owners are looking for, it’s important that buyers examine the community as closely as they do the house.

There are several features to examine when looking at a neighborhood and it can be helpful if buyers have a clear idea of what they want in a community.


Individuals may have a specific set of amenities they want their community to have, which may vary based on their family size, age and lifestyle. For example, individuals with young children may seek out a neighborhood with parks and playgrounds, while other demographics may want more cultural features and entertainment options. Those with an active lifestyle may seek out areas with parks, lakes and outdoor opportunities.

In addition, many parents choose communities based on the school systems, and they can rank different school districts by examining surrounding institutions on their state’s website. Some may offer special types of programs, while others are more geared toward athletics and educational initiatives.

It’s also important to consider proximity to work, major cities and schools as well when buying a home. Buyers should factor in driving distance and time to ensure morning commutes are not excessive and inquire about other forms of public transportation. Because really, who wants to sit in rush hour traffic during dinner time?!

Community history

Buyers may also benefit from examining the town’s history of violent crime, pollution, school test scores and growth. These factors may significantly drive the decision to purchase a home in a certain location, and knowing what to expect beforehand can help owners avoid surprises when they close on a new home.

Further, buyers should find out through the city if any large construction plans are expected to be carried out in the future. This may not seem important initially, but owners who are buying a home in a low-key quiet neighborhood may be dismayed if their town starts building more homes, shops and restaurants in the area. This is especially true for owners who belong to a homeowners association.

Last but certainly not least, talk to people in the community. Have lunch in town and communicate with current residents. Their answers can provide valuable insight regarding the neighborhood you are interested in. In addition to those living in the community a real estate professional can also provide their expert advice on the location you are interested in.

Originally posted on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter

Creating a Work Life Balance in Real Estate

– Guest blogger: Alicia Eisenbise, Social Media Specialist

With the real estate market gaining traction, agents are busier than ever which made me wonder…how do they balance it all? It takes a special person to become successful real estate agent and a successful partner, parent and friend. So I decided to seek out one of our sales associates who’s balancing it all and ask them for a couple pointers.

That’s when I met Maria Del Boccio. She’s not only one of the top agents in our Northwest office, but she also has a husband and four young daughters (8, 5, 4 and 2 years old!) So what are her secrets?

  1. Strong work ethic. Maria is a first generation American and she learned by example that “you can’t make a bottle of olive oil from just one olive.” It takes work. Her parents worked 24/7 and instilled in her that strong work ethic. It is also extremely important to Maria to set an example for her girls.
  2. Schedule with a purpose. If one of her daughters has a concert or event, she always carves out that time in her schedule even though she may still have her phone on. If it’s an important event, she changes her voicemail to say, “I’ll be available after 2 pm,” in order to manage her clients’ expectations.
  3. Strong support system. Maria couldn’t stress enough that she couldn’t do it without the love and support of her husband who is an Arlington Heights Police Officer. He works the opposite of her schedule and often is able to take the kids to events or the park when she has a showing or closing. She said his support is the reason she is able to have both a career and a family.
  4. Set your own goals. Maria said that one of the reasons she was attracted to real estate was that “no one tells you what your maximum potential is. If you want to sell 1 house a year, sell 1 house a year. If you want to sell 100, then sell 100. ” You are your own boss and control your own schedule, so it’s important to set those goals.
  5. Focus on one thing at a time. Another golden rule is — focus. She said she’ll focus on dinner and bedtime, then go to the office after the kids are in bed. Make the time and create the separation.
  6. Business imitates life. Life imitates business. Being a real estate agent means you have the opportunity to integrate work into your normal life. The relationships you build at church, the store, baseball league or a volunteer organizations can translates to a listing or a sale.  In Maria’s case, she’s built a business around her children’s school. She said it’s important to go to the school in her work clothes instead of flip flops and yoga pants. In your work attire, they see you as a mom and as a professional. Over the years, she’s nurtured those relationships and said she probably receives “a deal a week” from those school connections. Administrators even send referrals to her when they know a family is looking to move into the area!

Maria assured me that it does take struggle, hard work and energy, but that achieving that balance is possible. So focus on one thing at a time and create your own path to a happy work/life balance. 

Chef Charlie Trotter Hosts One Last Hurrah at His Historic Restaurant

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you know by now that the restaurant of the award-winning chef, TV host, author and philanthropist Charlie Trotter sadly closed its doors in the fall of 2012.  After 25 years of leading the kitchen and business operations of his famed restaurant Charlie Trotter’s, Trotter recently enlisted Coldwell Banker agents  Suzanne Gignilliat and Bruce Heller to put the property on the market for $3.8 million. But, in true Trotter style he welcomed some of Chicago’s most acclaimed chefs to cook in his kitchen for one final evening in his beloved space filled with friends, family and his culinary peers at a private event hosted by Coldwell Banker Previews and CS Magazine.

The event was held in the same dining room that over the years has accommodated many dignitaries and celebrities, such as Paul McCartney, Sting, Robert Redford and Michael Jordan to name a few.  The dining area features a Viennese Bierdermier style interior, banquettes with custom woven wall fabric that line the main 90-seat restaurant, silk draperies and plush carpeting throughout. The wine cellars are stationed throughout and can hold up to 10,000 bottles.  There are no statues or artwork, because Trotter felt as though the “food was the art, and the dining room was the canvas.”

A focal point of Charlie Trotter’s is obviously the kitchen, which boasts more than one million dollars of culinary equipment and is considered one of the most spectacular restaurant kitchens in the world. In fact, the kitchen is one of the few restaurant kitchens in the country with the tools comparable to a five-star hotel kitchen. Among its features are under the counter top refrigeration, self-cleaning water wash hoods, spring-loaded refrigerator doors, a stainless steel ceiling with smoke eating exhaust equipment to purify the air and eliminate airborne grime, deck lighting below the counters, and fluorescent and incandescent lights installed above the expeditor’s station, so that Trotter and his team of chefs could see a dish in the same light as a diner. The stove is a custom-made Bonnet Stove, which is one of the most expensive cooking ranges in the restaurant industry.

So, who will be the lucky new owner of this iconic landmark?  Although it is still too early to tell, Coldwell Banker listing agent Suzanne Gignilliat has an idea.  “This listing is unique and very special for many reasons,” she says. “It’s perfect for a top chef or restaurant group looking for an elegant space and state-of-the art kitchen located in a well-populated neighborhood, or for a buyer interested in a historically landmarked residence with ample space and storage. The properties can be bought together or separately.”

Click here for more information about this amazing property. 

Welcome Home: An American Soldier’s Return Home


“Home is my favorite place.”

That’s how this video starts and I’m not sure a better intro could be given. In this vignette from the series we call “Welcome Home” we talk with the Michael & Michelle Hults about what home means to them. Michael served in our military for many years but when he came home from service recently the place he loved to come back to was almost completely ruined.

Superstorm Sandy, as it did with many homes in the Northeast, had taken its toll on the home of the Hults and with Michael being away there just wasn’t the means or the opportunity to fix all this damage themselves. That’s where designer and craftsman extraordinaire, George Oliphant of NBC’s George to the Rescue, comes in.

George helped make the improvements necessary to get the house back to livable conditions and even made some improvements to help the Hults get back to enjoying the place that was so precious to them.

Michael remarks that one of his most favorite memories of home is bringing his son home for the first time. I know that feeling all too well Michael and there’s nothing quite like that feeling of coming home for the first time with that new baby.

Watch the video above and see how much the concept of home means to this military family.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Originally posted on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

10 Interesting Facts About the Housing Market

Guest blogger: Dick Greenwood, Director, Builder Marketing

Buying Vs Selling Two-Way Street Sign

  1. At today’s prices and rents, buying would be cheaper than renting until the 30-year fixed rate mortgage reaches 10.5%. (Source: Trulia)
  2. Even at a 5% fixed rate, buying would be 34% cheaper than renting. (Source:Trulia)
  3. Prices have increased so much that homeowners with negative equity have fallen to less than 20% of all borrowers. (Source: Bloomberg)
  4. “Flash sales” are happening in the Chicagoland market. Flash sales are when a home is sold within 24 hours of listing. This is because of the use of technology, especially instant mobile alerts for new listings. Gone forever are the days of waiting two weeks for the 10 pound “MLS” book to be printed. (Source: Wall Street Journal)
  5. Buyer competition is so stiff that in some markets we are seeing a quarter of the sales going for more than asking price! (Source: Orlando Sentinel)
  6. Dick GreenwoodNationally this spring home prices rose to the highest annual growth rate in seven years according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index. (Source: Case-Shiller Index)
  7. Demand among homebuyers is so high in some parts of the country that builders are holding lotteries to decide who gets to purchase homes in their developments. (Source: CNN Money)
  8. In this market, both buyers and sellers are winners. Sellers love the rising home prices and affordability remains high due to low interest rates for buyers. (Source: WSJ Market Watch)
  9. As the market is improving, REOs and short sales have been a significantly smaller part of the business. Nevada had one of the highest rates of foreclosures. Not any more. 90% of all currently available homes are non-distressed traditional homes with equity. (Source: RISMedia)
  10. In a Bloomberg poll, 71% of Bloomberg customers say the recent home price increase in major U.S. markets is evidence of a genuine recovery in values. (Source: Bloomberg)

Great News from Harbor Country

Communication from the President Fran Broude

Fran Broude, President, COO, Managing Broker, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

As you may have seen here, we recently had a $5.2 million sale in the Harbor Country market in Lakeside, Michigan. The 5.3 acre Longacres estate, with 195 feet of private beach, is the highest home sale in the area since 2005 and the third largest sale in over fourteen years!  What makes this even better is that both sides were represented by our very own New Buffalo office Previews Property Specialists, Donna Iwamoto and Karen Strohl.

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As a result of this sale, our luxury market share (properties over $750,000 in Harbor Country) is at nearly 66 percent through the start of this year, which far exceeds the 12 percent market share from 2012 and is nearly ten times more than our nearest competitor. Year to date, Coldwell Banker Previews has participated in 16 of the 28 luxury property sales in Harbor Country!  Even more amazingly, Donna and Karen have participated in 11 of those 16 sales.

The market in New Buffalo, which is not only luxury properties, has exploded this year with the sale of many other vacation homes for residents from Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. I’ve heard many great stories all across our company about the positive real estate environment we have enjoyed through the first half of 2013 and all of them come back to the excellent customer service and expertise our Coldwell Banker agents provide their clients. Thank you for all you do every day in representing our amazing Coldwell Banker brand.

View Magazine Summer Release

A letter from the President
A Letter From The President

Fran Broude, President and COO Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Click here to see the View Summer 2013 

I am happy to report that the spring real estate season is in full bloom! We are off to a strong start with the market showing signs of life and significant improvement that we haven’t seen in years. According to our multiple listing service, in the first quarter of 2013 the number of closed home sales was up 24% compared to the same time last year. Another notable finding is that the average market time is currently 137 days, down 22% from 2012. There are many factors that are feverishly driving the market recovery, but at the same time inventory levels continue to fall to record breaking low levels. The multiple listing service also reported that by the end of March new listings in Chicagoland were down 3.2% and the number of homes for sale fell to a 2.8 month supply, down 58% from last year. This trend combined with a surplus of potential buyers is creating a sense of urgency. Now more than ever, both buyers and sellers need a proven real estate company with experienced real estate agents who they can rely on to negotiate the best possible price for their home and who can best advise how to handle a multiple offer situation.

This in conjunction with Coldwell Banker’s innovative technology makes our clients positioned to succeed in today’s fast paced market. Providing the most successful experience possible for our clients is what we strive for by continually developing our online tools. One example is HomeBase, our proprietary system that provides secure, 24/7 access to transaction-related communication and documentation without all the paper! HomeBase Inbox helps you stay organized in your home search process with tools that make it easy to find, review and maintain a record of the properties that interest you. And HomeBase Intouch ensures that online inquiries reach our agents immediately so they can respond to a potential buyer quickly. Let the search begin by taking a look at this issue of the View and by visiting

Winning the Cup Starts at Home

Chris_HaranGuest blogger: Chris Haran, Director of Strategic Planning and Initiatives (& Blackhawks fan)

Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks take the final steps towards hockey’s ultimate goal:  the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks are back after a victorious 2010 campaign, and they match up against the Boston Bruins, who won it the year after Chicago. As true fans of the Hawks know, times weren’t always this great. It has been only a few short years since the miraculous turnaround in not only the success on the ice, but the success off as well.

Coldwell Banker Ad Campaign Blackhawks Minnesota-GAME20130503a-0783[1]

There is a lot that went into turning around the fortunes of this great team, but at its core was knowing how to treat the customers of the brand. It was an understanding and appreciation for the history of the franchise, as well as recognizing the expectations for greatness that Chicago has as a hockey town. Every action, strategy and decision always came back to “One Goal”. There’s a lot to be admired in such a shared sense of purpose by any organization, but especially when it is best represented by our hometown heroes.

2010 was also the first year that Coldwell Banker partnered with the Chicago Blackhawks as a sponsor. It was the second time we partnered with a sports team that won it all that year, as our partnership with the White Sox began in 2005 (Bears and Bulls…take note and call us). I’d like to say that we knew all along…and I think I will. Good luck to the Hawks, and hope we are listening to this song tonight…a lot.

A Dad’s Retrospective On Father’s Day

Guest Blogger: Derek Light, Manager, E-Marketing (& Dad)

Derek Light

Hello again everyone, it’s been a little while. I wrestled with this post, should it be serious and introspective? Just kidding, I didn’t wrestle with that all. If you want some introspection and meaning you want to bark up another tree. Maybe when the kids are older I’ll write that post, I’m just trying to keep my head above water.

As an Ode to Chris Haran, I’ll say that I have almost 14 years of parenting experience! London will be six and the twins, Brinkley and Ainsley, will be four in the fall, so I’ve crawled out of the diaper stage and they’ve half started to listen. Maybe listening wouldn’t be an issue if they’d stop talking for five seconds.

Being a dad has always reminded me of my (very mediocre) golf game; there’s a lot of grinding but there are those beautiful shots that keep you coming back. That’s parenting, for all the cute pictures and unsolicited kisses there is a lot of grinding. It’s not that you don’t love them all the time but there’s a lot of labor to go with it.

That said these are some beautiful shots from the past year (for those of you that follow me on Twitter you know I’m a huge soccer and Redskins fan):

London Paige: ‘Dad will you be my soccer coach?’ I was shocked; I didn’t think she even liked soccer. After somehow clearing the AYSO background check, I’m an amoeba soccer coach. I can only tell you the best part of being a coach are the parents, yikes.

Brinkley James: I’ve got the kids in Costco; the girls are in the seats because they love their father, Brinkley is in the basket because he’s more concerned about what else is going on. Brinkley stands up, points to guy wearing a Cowboys hat and starts singing Hail to the Redskins, he even knows the second verse. That’s some good parenting. I wish I would have been faster with the camera but I was enjoying the moment.

Ainsley Grace: One of the bigger ironies in my life is Ainsley’s middle name being Grace. That kid would trip over lines on a basketball court. After practicing for over six months she did her little ballet routine without falling, she was so excited. If you’re a parent you know that when your kid is that excited about something, you are too.

Maybe I’ll have some advice next year, until then, have a great Father’s Day!

— Derek

Why I Love Working with New Agents

— Joan Read, Senior Manager North Shore Office, Milwaukee Downtown Office

Coldwell Banker I really enjoy working with the new agents in our New Agent Development sessions. Fresh from the pre-licensing course, their thoughts are clustered with real estate phrases such as “riparian rights” and “quit claim” and all the ins and outs of Wisconsin statutes regarding the buying and selling of property. Then BANG! Now what?

Their enthusiasm is contagious at the start of the sessions. Now it is time to really learn the ins and outs of selling real estate. How do I find business? What are Sellers looking for when they want to put their house on the market? What are the Buyers needs? Do they want Buyer Agency? How do I work with other agents? How do I plan this as a business? Their enthusiasm is still high at the end of the sessions, but with a now added air of responsibility. This is a business that will give them opportunity, variety and stories galore along with well earned compensation for years to come!