Expect the Unexpected – Journey to the Felled Tree in the Backyard

eerie music double downExpect the unexpected.

And eerie music is cued as mad laughter issues from somewhere off stage.

I chose this title because my initial intent today was to tell you how a neighbor’s tree creaked, cracked and tumbled Sunday night and tore asunder one of our beloved birch trees. Surely something unexpected. But could I really have expected it?

Looking over at the neighbors’ yard today as I wielded an axe a la Paul Bunyan, I’d say this expectation was not unreasonable. One or two of the trees look somewhat shy of healthy, including the one that decided to “drop in” Sunday. But as I mulled the idea of “expecting the unexpected” something I read online stuck with me, saying that training your eye and mind to expect the unexpected is a great way to juice the gears of creativity.

Which makes total sense. Doing things by rote, more often than not, results in drudgery. The landscape turns gray, things are boring, and results nearly pre-ordained, turning out the way we expect them to turn out (or maybe the way we are “trained” to think they will turn out).

soft falling snowBut shifting gears to train your eye and senses to scan the horizon for something new and different, to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, results in something different and more vibrant. Which reminds of something I remember from the five minutes I studied karate oh so many years back – and that is the beauty of looking at life with a “beginner’s mind.”

The essence of “beginner’s mind” is to take a fresh take not limited by or hindered by preconceived notions. In other words, be flexible and not rigid. And in this flexibility find balance and joy in things as subtle as a sip of tea or the sound of the wind through a closed window.

Or the crack of a branch falling from a neighbor’s tree in my backyard.

Hmm, how very philosophical. And how unexpected the result of this brief post. I should’ve expected it.


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Luxury Home for Sale in River Forest

River Forest Luxury Home for SaleThe thumbnail to the left is the home I will sell come the beginning of 2017. Located at 1521 Forest in River Forest it is simply stunning, blending Prairie Style with modernism with three full living levels, all radiant heated, and custom designed for impeccable and luxurious living. Just shy of 9000 square feet, it includes five beds and four full and two half baths on a 103.5 by 185 lot. Nothing left to do but arrive, fall in love and hope you are not too late. (SO ACT NOW!)  List price – $2.499m, a strong value in terms of the space you get and the many enhancers (full home Elan AV with security cameras and controls, motorized window coverings, Bulthaup kitchen + butler pantry, wine cellar, cedar storage, the best looking home now or coming to the market, etc.)

But the thumbnail you see is but tip of the iceberg in terms of all the work I do ahead of time. Work like figuring out the best way to ensure that I appropriately, intelligently, completely and effectively market the home. My clients felt more than comfortable checking this box because I and my brokerage, @properties, occupy the pinnacle of the Chicago market and are considered among the top brokerages in the whole of the United States. Combining old school hard work and hustle with new school technology and innovation, they felt extremely comfortable that the relationships we enjoy with online resources like Realtor.com, zillow/trulia and others along with our in-house app wherein we broadcast listings to nearly 2000 agents, some of whom like me are among the industry’s brightest and highest performing, means traction from day one when it comes to marketing and selling your home.

life long cubs fan - rejoiceBut marketing alone is not enough. Selling your home requires that we figure out just what your home is worth as it relates to the local market. Too much data shines the light on the fact that when we ask too much we then spend too much time on the market and the price we get at the end of the day is far too little. So we have to be realistic when we set pricing. Rather than mad guesses or stabs in the dark we look at what we call the metrics of the market to determine the comparable worth of your home.

With the price set we then do some heavy lifting – we get the house ready for professional pictures, getting rid of some stuff, moving a piece of furniture here and there, maybe painting a room or two or three, sprucing up the perennials and generally making sure the place is ship shape. With this done I call in my professional team of photographers while I also have floor plans drawn because what we know about consumers – there’s never too much information. So pictures are snapped, blue skies are enhanced when we encounter grey days, flames are lent to the fireplace, rooms sizes are figured to the inch and the digital package is created via my company VHT which then allows us to create some of the finest print marketing materials you ever will see.

Through my in-house marketing team I take this digital package and create a narrative for print ads while also creating our initial online footprint via a “coming soon” feature at zillow. In essence once the pix are back it’s as though we simultaneously walk and run, beating the drumbeat of marketing for our listing until we go live on the mls. Right now my pre-market zillow listings are being eyeballed every day by a couple hundred consumers, a fantastic start given that it is December. And my Instagram and Facebook posts along with my in-house marketing has yielded attention and affection for these homes.

nothing keeps us from our goalAnd because it is December I hold my listings in the queue until early to mid January when we encounter a vibrant spring market. Then we will go live to the MLS. But until that happens I get every other thing ready to roll – hard cover booklets are printed for luxury listings and soft 8-page brochures for listings under $1m, online presence including an address-specific website is created, the listing is readied for all syndicated web sites including the MLS, VHT, my own brokerage site, I email brokers in my firm and every other relevant broker who has sold or listed a similar house and we set up a brokers open for suburban listings and, often, a Sunday open for all listings the first week we are on the market and we funnel all early showing requests to take place during the two-hour open house that first Sunday.

If everything goes according to plan, we gain our traction early and we sell strong quickly. That’s the plan and we have encountered this the last few years during the vibrant spring markets we have experienced since 2013. And aim for this same goal for next month with 1521 Forest and the other delightful listings I have in the queue.

But more on the other listings later.

If you want to learn more about 1521 Forest in River Forest, reach out to me directly. Or reach out to me with any other real estate needs. And sometimes I can answer NYT crossword questions. Just let me know.


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No Day of Sabbath for this Loafer-wearing Broker

loafers and it starts to snowGood Sunday morning as the air rolls crisp with clouds of breath greeting each exhalation outdoors. Out the door early beneath a grey sky my seasonal forgetfulness failed to detect that these selfsame grey clouds might portend snow.

And yet they do as I learned from a text from Nicole and later a Facebook post from a client in Wilmette. And so the season shifts and the line from “Game of Thrones” again rings true – “winter is coming.”

Just like that it is here. And closets shift to bulkier items as hats change from baseball to stocking. Ready or not, winter is coming. And I sit and work on my computer, juicing listings online and prepping for today’s open house in Winnetka as Jackson preps for baseball with his new team.

I don’t know if Colette would be shocked or humored by me being barefoot in loafers which is today’s fashion choice. Maybe neither. But as lifelong Chicagoans both my mom and I know when it’s time to break out the Uggs and the Sorels, a realtor’s best easy-on and easy-off friend for winter showings.

winnetka home for saleAnd so we move forward. And speaking of forward, a bit later today I will pitch my proverbial tent at 797 Pine Street in Winnetka for a new construction open house. Crafted by William Ryan Homes, this five bed beauty in New Trier says “make an offer.” Which is my admonition to you – come and see me and make an offer.

And if Pine does not fit the bill, let me know what you are after and we will set our sights on something else. Whether in the city, the North Shore or the preeminent Western Suburban towns of Oak Park, River Forest or Hinsdale, I will train my sights with you on the goal of finding the right home. And that is exactly what we will do.

And like the USPS, nothing is going to hold us back from our appointed rounds of buying or selling what you want – not rain, not sleet and certainly not snow. But don’t expect me to be rocking the Sabahs at showings the next couple of months. I will be the guy with shoes the size of truck tires, feet toasty and easy to extricate so as not to track in salt or slush. Let us go!

Have a great Sunday.

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A Movie Between Appointments and a Real Estate Star

evanston theater from outsideIn between appointments on a busy Saturday the boys and I journeyed to the Evanston-Cine Arts theater in to see Disney’s latest, “Moana.” And hearkening back to Siskel and Ebert all the critics in our small sortie agreed – a big thumbs up.

This movie had most of what you want in a film unless you are a blood and guts goer or a schmaltzy romance seeker. There were laughs, tears, loss, struggle, defiance, courage, redemption and return. The main character, after whom the movie is titled, feels a steady pull to the ocean though her family and her island people are admonished to stay solely on the island for the sake of safety. Without giving too much away her grandmother shares with her a tale that had been edited from her people’s lexicon. And it turns out this tale is their salvation as she heads out to sea to engage in her own hero’s journey.

Salvation sounds like a weighty term for Disney or any kid’s flick, but at its essence “Moana” emulates Joseph Campbell and his “Hero’s Quest.” And in the form of the main character’s  grandma she had an “evangelist” who not only believes in her, not only gives her a narrative to which she may affix herself for growth, gain and the common good, but also to lift her in those moments when life’s burdens seem too great and nearly insurmountable.

I guess that’s something we all need. And in those moments when we don’t have an actual person to serve the role then we can turn our attention to the silver screen to strengthen our resolve or solidify our grit. Whether it’s Robin William’s Patch from or Kevin in “Home Alone” or, should an evangelist such as this be needed, “The Godfather’s” DeNiro, movies offer us the opportunity to escape, to grow and to learn a little something-something (and maybe lend some steel to our posture).

selling your home like a champAnd just like we need an evangelist to boost our spirits at times, at other times we need a leg up in a different manner. Like when we need guidance on real estate.

Look, I will be the first to admit I don’t know the first thing about making a movie. While I’m pretty confident I can jot down a couple of useful lines for the script, I don’t know the first thing about directing it, producing it, or casting it. But when it comes to directing the sale of your home or producing for you when it comes to finding a new place, that’s where my star shines.

And just like the film-making industry has annual awards, my star power finds recognition through with the annual top producer award I nab year after year as one of my industry’s top performing brokers in Chicago.

Bottom line, this expertise is something I want to share with you when it is time for you to sell or to buy your next home. So let me know how we can cast your next real estate endeavor together. I look forward to it.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like…

T McCarey Trims the TreeRabbits, rabbits, rabbits.

That’s what my mom used to say first thing in the morning the first day of the month. And now that she’s no longer with us calling upon this “tradition” is one way to remember the past and pass a pleasant memory on to my boys.

Pleasant memories. They’re not so hard to call up. And, with a conscious effort, they are not so hard to create in the here and now.

And with this in mind I set out to my great green backyard today with a make-shift pole tipped with a duct-taped coat hanger to trim our remarkable (and somewhat tall) pine for the holidays.

Actually the effort started yesterday when armed with two 50-foot strands of lights my boys and I started the process of decking the tree. Alas, 100 feet of lights was not enough. So today, after a strategic visit with Nicole to Target and nabbing another 70-something foot strand of lights, the backyard again became my domain. More specifically, the pine became my objective to “spruce” up with glowing bangles.

As with every job, proper tools are required. And in this instance the tool was a 12-foot length of unused crown-molding that I added a hand-wr0ught u-shaped hanger secured to the end with approximately 35 feet of duct tape. The result was like what the shop-keeper used in “Little House on the Prairie” when he needed to get to the tallest shelves. And so, too, did I use this jerry-rigged tool to carry the lights to the farthest reaches of a tree that’s probably a good 50 feet tall.

As I write this down it sounds much easier than it truly was. You see pine trees and their branches can be spindly things, catching and snagging lines of lights. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the tree is tall. So believe it or not, yielding the 12-foot extension like Neptune with his trident alternated at times between being trying and tiring.

Long story short I unfurled the spray of lights and made my way, encircling the tree over and over as I reached the strand ever higher with each new step. All told I made seven circuits with the colors carrying on like a multi-hued staircase up and around the pine.

And so the holiday tradition continues in the at our loved and comfortable North Shore home, the backyard tree book-ending the Frazier fir inside that Nicole bedecked earlier today with a montage of glimmering lights above the whoo-whooping train that is another holiday tradition around these parts.

And so as this first day of the month winds down I again muse upon one of my great mentors, my mom, rabbits, rabbits, rabbits and I look forward to another delightful holiday season and the pleasant memories my beloved family and I will continue to create together.

By the way, if it comes to decorating one of your trees, I will be more than happy to share my 12-foot jerry-rigged tool and bring you a toasty hot chocolate. Just let me know when. I will be there!

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Do not go gentle into that good night…

walter white takes a standAnd so it begins… anew.

Do not go gentle into that good night…

But can things begin anew even as the season shudders slowly toward the year’s shortest day with its slight sliver of light. Oh my, the darkest day is yet another three weeks hence? Perhaps Carl Jung would be a better turn than Dylan Thomas. And yet a white-knuckled railing against the dark night seems something of a comfort as autumn slowly makes its way toward winter.

Sort of.

And though each day passing has a bit more taken off the top and darkness comes a bit sooner than the day before, this prospective season of hibernation and slowing down seems as good a time as any to begin anew perhaps because this moment when night inkily gathers its cloak around us we have a moment to pause, to reflect. This is the precise time to shut down to then set up. If we choose to do so.

If we choose it. Hmm – from where we stand now it is not so far until poppers pop and champagne glasses clink with a bubbly welcome to the new year. And with the new year, 2017 this time, the list of resolutions uttered are (or should be) formulated as I write.

Hah, at least they should be. Maybe that’s a new read on the line.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

So don’t rest in this fallow period but instead resolve to resolve.

When you think of it a resolution is an interesting thing, a moment in time when we take personal inventory of who we have been and who we would like to be. Which means a resolution serves the role, so to speak, of the planting of a seed that has the potential to make the individual (somewhat) new.

That’s not so far off from the real estate market, from buying and selling houses. Late fall sees us slowing down and taking stock of where we are as we cast an eye toward where we will go next. And this same time sees us “planting” seeds that promise to make the market new with the arrival of January. We resolve to resolve.

For more than a decade as one of the city and North Shore’s top brokers I have witnessed the manner in which November and December lessen in activity and sales slacken. Sure, there’s an occasional burst of activity. But typically from Thanksgiving through the beginning of January things slow down. Occasional showings, sure. And attendant contracts. But mostly things wind down and with this slowing experienced brokers set their clients up for future success by preparing for the new year and the attendant activity we project and expect.

Do not go gentle into that good night…

And so I have had pictures taken and floor plans drawn for a number of listings I am bringing to the market in Lincoln Park, Lakeview , River Forest, Roscoe Village, Edgewater and Wilmette. (This may seem funny to some but in truth the first week of January is the start of the spring market.) And because you lose if you snooze, this time when darkness takes up more and more of the day is not the time to hibernate, it is the time to prepare for what is next. I suppose it is time to resolve to resolve. To get ready for what is next.

Which is just what I do. Which is just how I am wired. Which just comes with the territory as I…

Do not go gentle into that good night.


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when you least expect it… Evanston home for rent

Evanston home for rentWhen you least expect it, expect it.

Somewhere in my youth a character (movie or cartoon) uttered this line and here so many years later it trips off the tip of my tongue with an ease of expression that defies explanation. I pull the line out like a badly accented Clousseau with profound regularity whenever something happens that is a surprise.

Like when friends down the street decided to pack up and head west between when school let out and when we head back in about a month. A job offer materialized, considerations were considered, choices were made and, voila, there’s a garage sale and going away party before they hit the road in a couple of  weeks time with a bevy of boxes and belongings associated with having three kids and living nine years in their Evanston home.

When you least expect it… life is fully of twists, curves, dead ends and new beginnings… it doesn’t always go according to plan (if there is a plan in the first place). But what we hope in those instances when something unexpected occurs is that we are among and amid a so-called state of grace, a sense of no matter what happens everything is and will be fundamentally fine.

What we also hope for is that there is somewhere to turn to get answers to your questions. And so for my friends who have an idyllic Evanston home for rent they have me to ratchet up marketing and send out the Bat Signal to attract to their loved and lovely home some great renters.

That’s what we always want when it comes to real estate questions – a person to whom we can turn for results, a person who we can trust to get the job done. That’s why I have such high marks among my clients because they know that I will do just what I say I will do. And I will do it in such a manner as to seem seamless. That’s the case now and it has been the way I have conducted my business for more than a decade as one of the most prolific brokers in Chicago and the North Shore. If this sounds appealing to you when it comes to your next home, I urge you to call me  at 773.848.9241.

And in the meantime do let those among your circle know about this remarkably attractive home I have for rent at 3604 Thayer in Evanston, just a block from the pool and the same distance from Lovelace Park. It’s a welcoming home with 3 beds and 2.5 baths, a finished basement and flowing floor-plan with a great private patio and delightfully verdant front and side yards. Click here for more pix and fuller description.

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