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Recently, I was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune for a story about the fall in property values. The market that sticks out like a sore thumb, is the upper-bracket multimillion $ homes dotting the shores of lake Michigan. I have seen property values in this sector plummet by nearly half their values from the market peak. Just a few years ago these homes were selling for top Dollar, with multiple offers as the wealthy had to find places to secure their investments.

Now, with the stock market and property having gone through major corrections, most potential buyers are finding it hard to come up with the cash to invest in property. Many have their capital tied into their own property and over the last couple years, many of the properties they own have lost significant value, making it hard to trade up the property ladder.

For more on this phenomenon, here’s a link to the Chicago Tribune.

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On Thursday, April 16th 2009 from 5-9pm, The Willow Festival Shopping Center in Northbrook, Illinois will host The Eco and Wellness Expo.  The event will feature products and services with an emphasis on environment and personal health.  Many local businesses, including Whole Foods and REI will provide seminars, activities, product sampling and entertainment for the entire family.  A raffle will be held with a large selection of prizes. Admission and parking are free to the public.  For more information about the event,  contact event planner Candice Kuhnen, 847.835.0121. Click here for event directions.

Watercolour Gardens | Landscape Garden Design, will be present at the event.  We welcome you to chat with us about green trends for the home and North Shore real estate.

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The time has come again for the annual Green Living Festival. The event is being held on Saturday, October 4th at the Evanston Ecology Center, located at 2024 McCormick Blvd. The event hours will be from 9:00am-4:00pm.

The festival will focus on ways the public can contribute to reducing carbon emissions and living cleaner lifestyles. There will be presentations, demonstrations, tours of a mini-farm at Twiggs Park and activities to engage the entire family. The event is sponsored by local green-businesses and organizations, which will introduce products and ideas to live in an environmentally sustainable way.

The festival is being held as a free event and everyone is welcome to attend.  For more information call 847.448.8256.

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Would you like to learn a bit more about the market conditions in Evanston? Looking for smart home renovation advice or need the financing to refurbish a home? Join us for a brief presentation and interactive discussion about North Shore housing trends. We will be covering the basics of renovation lending, smart renovation/design trends and overall market conditions on the North Shore. 

We will be holding two presentations during the month of September 2008. Join us on 9/10/08 from 6pm-7pm or 9/20/08 from 1pm-2pm at Rubloff North Shore, 1620 Sherman Avenue, Suite A, Evanston, Illinois. No need to make a reservation for our complimentary presentation. For more details, call 1 847 512 2781.

Jason Hartong, QSC Realtor, Rubloff North Shore

Corinne Guerra, Home Mortgage Consultant, RWF Mortgage, LLC

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Landscape design has become more important, as property owners look to expand usable living space.  The term “outdoor room” has been floating around for years. Again in America, sophisticated utilitarian gardens have become fashionable.  No longer is a homeowner limited to a traditional deck and lawn in their garden. Adding additional terraces and three season outdoor rooms, has become a logical way to extend square footage to a home.

Sherry Thomas of North Shore Magazine recently wrote, an excellent article about the European outdoor room philosophy, which has been revived.

From European-style swimming pools to sultry outdoor living rooms, North Shore residents are finding more ways than ever to turn their homes inside out.

When Susan Forney first saw her sprawling estate home in Northfield, she fell in love with its Old World elegance and history.

“I’m the third owner,” she says of her 1923 property. “It was built by a gentleman who, around the turn of the century, designed a seal that was used for Ford motor cars.” As the man made his fortune, he and his wife (a transplanted Southern belle) moved into a mansion in Chicago and built the Georgian in the country, on a 22-acre spread with ample room for horses and entertaining, as a place to escape the oppressive city heat.

Click here to read the full article.

To learn more about landscape design in Chicago and on the North Shore, visit Watercolour Gardens.

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Regardless of all the lending and foreclosure panic we hear in the news, real estate is still changing hands. Buying a home has become more about location and appearance than ever. A home must be a completely finished property with the perfect combination of amenities and finishes or either a real bargain fixer upper to sell. With high fuel prices, being close to an urban center or a university, will make a property more desirable. In the burbs, it’s important to be close to a rail network, with a short commute time. Look for suburbs with a sense of community and a traditional town center.  Sprawl and unincorporated areas have become far less attractive in a shrinking economy.    

I find most of my real estate clients are looking for, a vintage home that has been completely rebuilt or a unique contemporary house. Character properties are much more desirable than cookie-cutter properties. As a buyer, it’s important to look for a property with a good balance of detail and modern function. Look for a property with rooms that properly serve their intended use. Vintage properties that have been modernized properly will appear to be seamless in combining the old and new. A home with details like, real wood flooring, high-end appliances, copper gutters and cedar shake roofing will make a property show well, last longer and appeal to a larger number of buyers in the future. 

A huge but often overlooked area is, landscaping.  I see it all the time, a house that has been completely refurbished and the contractor skimps on the trees and shrubs. There’s nothing worse than seeing a home with lawn going right up to the foundation or fast food restaurant styled plantings. Landscape can make or break the total appearance of a property. Proper landscaping isn’t cheap and should be taken seriously. Make sure to hire a landscape designer with a formal education to plan and supervise the project. The results will be far more successful than letting a landscape contractor just wing it. A landscape constructed properly will include a balance of hardscaping that fits the architectural style, along with perennial plants, shrubs and trees to finish the space. The idea is to create outdoor rooms, which add more living space to a home. Expect to pay close to 10% of the real estate’s market value on the landscape.  By doing it right, you will be adding a great deal of value to the property. 

There are many ways to improve the overall appearance of a home to suit different budgets. Always remember quality over quantity. External factors can’t always be controlled but the temptation to buy a newer or larger home further away from civilization, isn’t the smartest choice in a tough real estate market. Make sure to buy for location and then go for quality and uniqueness.

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The Chicago North Shore has a fairly transient population, which has helped to keep the real estate market moving forward.  If it were not for the number of large corporations and universities located in the area, property sales would have been badly pinched, like other parts of the country. 

Barron’s seems to think the market woes might be short-lived.  There are signs, the real estate market might have already reached a bottom. 

This real-estate rout has been more painful than prior ones, but it may be shorter-lived. Indeed, there are early signs of recovery.

A FEW YEARS AGO, AN ACQUAINTANCE SENT Wellesley College economist Karl “Chip” Case a T-shirt depicting a cartoon of a smiley-face house surrounded by soap bubbles, called “Mr. Housing Bubble.” But it was the words captured in a comic-book cloud on the shirt that gave this otherwise goofy image its bite: “If I pop, you’re screwed!”

The dark humor hardly was lost on Case, co-creator along with Yale economist Robert Shiller of the now-canonical S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. In pairing recent sale prices of U.S. homes with the prices those same homes fetched previously, the index is substantiating what every sentient American knows: The U.S. housing market is in a deep funk, probably the worst in 50 years, according to Harvard’s respected Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Click to read the full article

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