In Pictures: See What $1 Million Will Buy You In Real Estate Around The World –

This is an interesting article.  I would suggest, however, that with the assistance of a seasoned Realtor, better choices would be found in the Chicago area! 

Here is the Forbes vignette:

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“I’m not a lead” Lessons from a Relo Pro


Dear Readers,

A few weeks ago, I asked John D’Ambrogio (director of Relocation for Rubloff), to author a “Guest Blog” on my site.  I have great admiration and respect for John and was not prepared for the blog he submitted.  The video he embedded kicked me in the head!  It is BY FAR the best “real estate” video I have seen in years…Enjoy!

Guest Blog by John D’Ambrogio – Relocation Director, Rubloff

As someone who handles “relocation” (actually any company-generated business) and as a colleague of Carol Ann’s, I want to share a great video posted on 1000 watt consulting: 

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 It really sums up what the consumer wants, and what is wrong with the vast majority of agents out there.  You, the consumer, are not a lead, you don’t need to be “dripped” on, you don’t want to see pictures of our dogs, etc.  — You the consumer are a PERSON who wants to be engaged, who wants a million-dollar experience.  You the consumer are willing to pay for our expertise, not our time! Agents like Carol Ann and many of her colleagues do tons of referral business and they know that it is about the customer experience.  At the end of the day, real estate is a COMMODITY, a good real estate agent (or company) is a BRAND.  You want reassurance (and then delivery) that someone is going to be a resource and advocate. 

 Actually, that’s what all service industries are about, changing commodities and products into brands and experiences!  To make a comparison, look at the restaurant experience you (almost always) experience at one of Rich Melman’s “Lettuce Entertain You” restaurants.  Sometimes kitschy, sometimes formal, sometimes over the top, but always professional and engaging.  I was at one of his restaurants a few years ago (they’re all good); it was very late on a Saturday and the place was about empty.  Here’s Mr. Melman sitting at the bar going over receipts.  I’d met him a few times before in business settings, so I went up to him and said “Hi Mr. Mellman, I just wanted to say I had a great meal tonight.”  Now I’m sure he doesn’t remember me, and the $100 on dinner isn’t going to make or break him, but his response wasn’t a quick “thank you” or a dismissive “yeah thanks.”  He perked up, asked me to sit down and tell me everything I ordered and ate and what I liked best!  That made me a fan for life…..

 John D’Ambrogio –

Relocation Director, Rubloff Residential Properties



Weekend Getaways

Okay, Chicago is the greatest city in the U.S.   I really think there is none that can rival Chicago for the symbiosis of culture, beauty, cleanliness, friendliness, cuisine, parksand people.  there comes a time in a city dwellers life however, when you need to have a place to go for space, land and solace.  some of my favorite Michigan and Indiana weekend getaway destinations:


Saugatuck – My favorite.  2.5 hours from Chicago’s North Side, this is a great for art galleries, restaurants, city people but at a slower pace.  Enjoy Lake Kalamazoo and Lake Michigan.  Homes on the water are not cheap, but for a laid back but sophisticated feel, this town can’t be beat.

St. Joseph/Benton Harbor – 2.10 minutes from Chicago’s North Side, this quaint little area has come a long way in the past few years in terms of sophistication, dining, small town charm, and culture (home of the Southwest Michigan Symphyony– where I sang in my previous career!).  Homes perched on the precipice of Lake Michigan offer stunning sunset views for a fraction of the price just across the pond!

New Buffalo – Just a short 1 hour 30 minutes from the Chicago Loop, this is one of the “go to” places for busy Chicago families.  A bustling marina, great restaurants and easy commute make this a destination for weekenders year round.  For a home, expect to fall in love with a condo if you want to be on the water, otherwise, expect to pay well over 7 figures for a home with land near the city center.


LaPorte – Not what it used to be!  Upper end developments (Hesston Preserve is among the best) offer 2 plus acres of new construction just off popular 1000 North (on the Michigan State Line) for just under $400K and as high as you can dream!  Close to the marina and restaurants of New Buffalo but lower taxes.  Bucolic scenery and surprisingly good restaurants!  Very easy commute but on a hot summer day, breezes from the Illinois/Indiana border can bring an odoriferous mix of scents!

I have Realtor connections in most of these towns, so if you would like a spin to the south and around the lake, let me know.

Next time: Weekend treats North of Chicago!

Charlotte’s viewpoint: Today vs the 80’s! It’s not as bad as you think!

As my first foray into this new unchartered realm, I will attempt to offer a fresh perspctive on an oft heard refrain: “this is the worst market I have ever seen”.  I must object.  

1976: The real estate market was competitive.  Jimmy Carter was president and rising interest rates lead to a full blown recession in the 80’s.  This is the year I began selling real estate!  My first year in real estate I excelled even though interest rates were averaging 9.00 %.  Buyers still bought and sellers sold.  The sky did not fall! 

In the 4th quarter of 1979 I formed, with 4 other inspiring and maverick spirits, Beliard, Gordon and Partnersin the Old Town neighborhood of Chicago.  At a time in our nation’s history when 5 women were not allowed to sign the lease to the storefront where we opened our flagship office, we prevailed and these 5 feminist pioneers turned Beliard into one of the most successful real estate companies in Chicago!  Again, the year: 1980.  Interest rates: 12.00%. 

I have sold through 32 years of up markets and down turns.  I have sold when interest rates were 19.00% and when rates were 5.00%.  This market is not the end of the world.  Chicken Little is not running down the street screaming “the sky is falling”!  Financial institutions are checking credit and requiring a larger down payment it is true.  The fact remains that home ownership is still one of the best investments one can make.  It is the only commodity in which you gain direct benefits from investing from day one: a roof over your head.  Consult a veteran of the real estate industry and you will benefit from experience a novice cannot know.  The veteran Realtor will advise that this market is challenging but not insurmountable.  In fact; this is a buyer market!  Take advantage of it!

My favorite Chicago “thing” of the day is: Wrigley Field!  A true Chicago landmark known world wide that will outlast any name change.  May the ivy covered outfield wall serve as a beacon for generations visiting the “Friendly Confines”.

Until next week,


April market in review

Rubloff has an affiliation with Wells Fargo.  The Rubloff Wells Fargo brokers dedicated to the Rubloff clientele are superior and have just shared with me the recent April Market In Review  publication for information on the April real estate market. I find the information contained in this newsletter well written, succinct,and very informative. I hope you enjoy reading it as well!

The following issues are discussed:

  • Mixed News About Housing – Time to Buy Or Not?
  • Helping Consumers While Balancing Investor Interests
  • Averting Foreclosures And Protecting Communities
My favorite Chicago “thing” of the day is geared for our younger crowd.  The Kraft Family Series of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a marvel.  My little one is mesmerized and the learning experience is invaluable.  Subscriptions for next year are now available!  (It is great for the parents too!  I have a Master of Music performance degree from Indiana University … and I am mesmerized as well!)

Co-operative Apartments … In Chicago?

When we think of Co-operative apartments, we think of New York’s upper east side.  Posh, elegant, spacious, well staffed, well screened dwellers choosing those whom they feel will fork over the hefty price tag and the still more hefty monthy maintenance fee.  Well, co-ops are not exclusive to Manhattan!  A kinder and gentler sister version is alive and thriving in Chicago – AND like their NYC relatives, they are also posh, elegant and usually very spacious!

What is a co-op?  Simply put, a way of holding title in which the “owner” is a member of a corporation that holds the real property (real estate) interest.  Owners are therefore referred to as “shareholders”.

Chicago co-ops usually feature relatively low price tag. The sticker shock can come in the monthly fees. Before you go running away however, ask what is included in the monthly fee amount. Usually the big ticket item in the assessment is the inclusion of property taxes. Always ask your Realtor if property taxes are included in the monthly fee reflected on the listing sheet. Since it is a corporation, there is 1 tax bill. Each shareholder has a deductable amount for tax time.

Other items included in the monthly fee may be heat, door staff, parking, and even electricity (purchased in a bundle by the corporation and then each shareholder is charged according to usage)

Generally be prepared for a higher downpayment. Many Lakeview and South shore Co-operatives allow financing of shares but will require at least a 20% – 25% downpayment. Many Gold Coast co-operatives do not allow financing and in addition, you must have a large amount in liquid assets to be voted into the corporation.

For financing, ask a Realtor that specializes in Co-ops to recommend a lender to you. Many brokers and banks do not lend for this type of ownership.

Lastly, be prepared for a through screening of your assets. Since it is a corporation, the shareholders do not want to have to assume responsibiltiy of another shareholders shares should he or she become unable to meet the fees associated. A simple credit report will not suffice.  The most common reporting company used in Chicago is Thomas Reports.  Be prepared for a through check of your credit, a full character report which includes personal profile, verification of residency and occupation along with income and assets such as real estate, investments, bank accounts, etc.  You will also need business references from people such as attorneys, accountants, bankers, or stock-brokers, educational background, and professional and social affiliations.  Last but not least, a criminal background check may be performed.  Your Realtor can help you with this process.

Co-operative apartments are the quiet gems in Chicago real estate for many purchasers. Provided you are aware of the legal description of a co-op and are prepared to be a shareholder, purchasing in a co-op is a great choice.

Some co-ops to consider:

Gold Coast – 229 E. Lake Shore Drive

Lakeview – 442 W. Wellington

Near North – 3750 N. Lake Shore Drive

Blunders of Luxury Property Sellers

Owners of million-dollar-plus properties make just as many mistakes when they sell their homes as their less affluent neighbors — with even more costly results, say Chicago brokers.

Among the top mistakes:

  • Most brokers agree that given the current plunge in the market, the biggest error is pricing the property too high.  Believe it….prices are softer.  The upper end market can weather this storm a bit more than other price points, but for all but the most financially secure, the carrying costs of having payments on more than one $5,000,000 home is straining on any budget!
  • Insisting on a pre-approval letter for every potential buyer who wants a showing,   This is too difficult for most buyers to go through and only warranted in the very top price point and co-operative apartments where required by the board. 
  • Another misstep: expecting to recoup the cost of very high-end amenities and décor.  $20,000 wrought iron spindle railings are just spindles in the eye of an appraiser.  Likewise, carpet to a buyer is just carpet.  Do not think your ultra up graded extra soft to the toes high priced carpet will bring in a top dollar.  Most everyone I know changest the carpet before they move into a home regardless if it is in “great” condition!  Upgrades help you sell, but you don’t necessarily regain the cost.
  • Dated Decor: “I just sold a town home for people who had spent $90,000 on inlaid doors and more on intricate marble work,” says Kim Jones, an agent with Baird and Warner. “Twenty years later, it’s very dated,” but the owners couldn’t understand why they couldn’t recoup that money.
  • Avant-garde decorating can repel high-end buyers.  Be aware that if you go for a very “out there” design scheme, you must be willing to enjoy it and not expect to recoup any or even most of of the cost.  When designers go over the top, it limits the number of people who will even consider buying
  • “Helicopter” owners are another turn-off.  Hire a good Realtor and then LEAVE during the showings!
  • Poorly maintained properties are another issue, even for multimillion-dollar homes. Some owners are so smitten with their house that they allow it to be shown without being perfect. In today’s market, there is no room for error or sloppiness; buyers are demanding ‘perfect’ in high-end properties.
  • Not neutralizing an interior prior to listing a home.  Even the 8,000 square foot homes need to be staged, or buffed up and neutralized so they appeal to a broad range of buyers. Consider hiring an interior designer brought in to rearrange furniture, hang art and spruce-ups the paint, landscaping, caulking or deep cleaning.  Yes, the new owners will repaint but you will get a better price for the home if you make it have the “wow” factor!
  • If you have prize photographs of you and your partner taken along side world leaders – remove them!  When you are selling your home, it is not appropriate to advertise your political affiliation.
  • Perhaps most startling, some sellers strip out top-quality light fixtures and hardware in their home and replace them with inferior versions.  This cheapens the property in the eyes of the buyer.  If you must take the heirloom chandelier in the dining room, replace it with one of equal or near value.  Home Depot decor doesn’t do it in the upper end market.
The main idea and direct portions of this blog are adapted from Business of Life By: Laura Bianchi April 21, 2008 ©2008 by Crain Communications Inc

All the ideas have been expounded upon by Carol Nasser




Great article on Upper End Home Prices!

From this week’s Business of Life-Crain’s Communications

By: Kevin Davis April 21, 2008

One year ago, Chicago attorney Donna More had to put her downtown home up for sale after landing a new job in Cincinnati. She’s still looking for a buyer.

Ms. More commuted between cities for a few months but has since moved out of state with her husband and 4-year-old daughter. She originally listed the six-bedroom home in the Kingsbury Estates community for $5.3 million. “I thought, ‘This house is so beautiful, it will sell right away,’ ” she says. “I guess I’m surprised.”

After seeing little activity on the home, Ms. More switched brokers, turning the listing over to Karen Peterson, a 23-year veteran who specializes in luxury properties for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Ms. Peterson has twice lowered the asking price; now it’s $4.7 million.

“I had a person come to me with an offer of a million under what the property was listed for,” Ms. Peterson says incredulously. “People want bargains. You just say, ‘No, thank you.’ There are a lot of bottom feeders out there.”

Because Ms. More and her husband, who owns a public relations firm, are able to cover the cost of two mortgages for now, they don’t intend to sell below what they think the home is worth.

“People who own higher-end properties can afford to ride out the storm,” Ms. Peterson says. “Some prices need to be adjusted. Some don’t. The majority of sellers I’m working with are not having fire sales. There’s this false belief that there’s a lot of inventory people want to get rid of.”

The reluctance of sellers to part with their properties for bargain-basement prices — coupled with buyers who believe sellers are desperate and expect deals to match — is contributing to lengthy market times, especially on the higher end.

Louise Study, a broker for Rubloff Residential Properties in Chicago says that asking prices, especially for higher-end homes, generally are not dropping by much.

“When you get to the upper echelon, there’s only a small number of buyers who can afford it, anyway,” she says. “The prices aren’t going down, but the market time is going longer.”

In Chicago, average market times for homes priced at $1 million and higher in 2007 were six months, compared with five months the previous year. The average sale price was $1.7 million in 2007, up from $1.67 million in 2006, indicating that value has been holding.

This year, overall average market times at all price points in Chicago were just over five months, with an average sale price of $312,530, based on Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois figures from February.

Yet these numbers are not always an accurate reflection of how long an owner has been trying to sell a property. A property can be “de-listed” for 90 days, allowing the official market time to reset to zero on the Multiple Listing Service database.

The advent of spring has given agents some hope.

Tony Zaskowski, owner of Property Consultants in Chicago, has been experiencing the same long market times, especially with higher-end new construction. “Some people get scared” at seeing long market times, asking, “What’s wrong with it?” he says. “Why didn’t this sell?”

One of his properties, at 1759 N. Wilmot Ave., has been listed for about two years. The home was built originally by developer Micheal Skowron, who says he intended to live there but decided to sell instead.

Mr. Zaskowski inherited the listing from another agent who originally sought $3.1 million. He took it off the market, lowered the asking price to $2.8 million and re-listed.

Two offers fell through because the potential buyers were unable to get financing. “That’s a big problem,” Mr. Zaskowski says. “They’re having problems securing the loans.”

Mr. Skowron says he was testing the market with this home. “I don’t do spec homes any more,” he says. “When you start paying interest and carrying costs on properties that have not sold, you can’t continue to do that.”

Homes that do sell move relatively quickly. A Prudential Preferred study of the area showed that of all the homes that had contracts pending in January, 65% sold within the first 45 days and 81% within 90 days.

[edited by CNasser]
©2008 by Crain Communications Inc.

Fun Chicago Thing today:
Sailing! – Sign up for lessons through the Chicago Park District! With over 18 miles of lakefront in Chicago….why not!?

Charlotte Newberger

As many of you know, a real estate career is very arduous and time consuming.  In recent years, professionals have adopted the practice of “teaming” with another professional, and as the adage goes: “Many hands make light work”.  Light work seems to have eluded me, but the partner has come to me in the magnificent visage of a veteran of over 33 years in the Chicago Real Estate market, an owner\broker of Beliard Gordon & Partners and recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the Chicago Association of Realtors: Charlotte Newberger.  With a combined 47 years of real estate experience, Charlotte and I have been a “team for over 2 years and are enjoying great success in representing clients with the utmost professionalism and an advanced marketing system.

Read about Charlotte and look forward to posts from her in the coming days and weeks!

I came across an interesting article in the Crains edition of Chicago Real Estate Daily on the sale of large apartment buildings in the Chicago Market declining in the first quarter of 2008.  Sales of large apartment buildings (in excess of $10,000,000) were not brisk -to say the least – in the first quarter (declined 56%).  One the brighter side and to reference my blog about investment properties; the outlook has improved for landlords in recent months.  Rents for downtown apartments remain near an all-time high, and occupancies at top-tier buildings stood at 91.3% at the end of last year, according to Chicago-based Appraisal Research Counselors.


Parking in Chicago + Artropolis

One of most frequent questions a Realtor in Chicago is asked is “Should I buy parking with the unit?”  Unquestionably the answer is YES!  Even if you do not own a car, when you sell a condominium or co-op, you will have a much higher buyer pool if parking is conveyed.

The cost for parking in the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park and Lakeview areas can widely vary.  When considering a property, first carefully read the MLS sheet to ascertain whether parking is included in the purchase price or if there is an extra charge.  If it is deeded parking, you will pay taxes and usually an assessment on the space.  if it is a limited common element, you will usually only pay an assessment.  If it is rental, ask if the rental agreement is transferable to the new owner.  You do not want any surprises at closing.

Do not automatically discard a property if the parking is not “on site”.  This only means that the parking is located in another building but with some areas, that could be mere steps away.  Ask before you rule the home out.

With the cost for deeded parking in high rises or new developments ranging from $10,000 to over $100,000 a space, car sharing programs are gaining in popularity in the downtown area.  I-Go car sharing is the most popular in Chicago.  Members can rent cars hourly and keep them as long as necessary.

If you need to find parking in Chicago for a day trip, a great site to use is Parking AnytimeSimply enter your destination address and it will provide lots, garages and parking meter fee information.  Also provided on this site is Permit Parking information for the neighborhoods!  Very handy.

We all see taxi cabs in profusion, but did you know that Chicago had Water Taxis? Try Shoreline Commuter Chicago River Taxi service or Chicago River Taxi Service

Of course, when traveling to Chicago from any of the suburbs, the best choice is always Metra, Pace or theCTA (Chicago Transit Authority)!

For the fun “Chicago” tip of the day:

Artropolis runs April 25 -28 at the Merchandise Mart.

5 art shows at the Mart open to the pubic!
Art Chicago – 12th floor
Intuit Show of Folk & Outsider Art – 8th floor
The International Antique Fair – 8th floor
Next (the invitational exhibition of emerging art)  – 7th floor
The Artist Project  – independent artist exhibition and sale – 8th floor