Busted! If you saw this month’s Chicago Agent magazine, you know that Lindsay Wolfe from my residential real estate sales team and I recently attended a shopping event.

Truth be told, I hate shopping. I would rather visit the dentist than the average department store. With three young children and a full-time career, I just don’t have the time to shop. Moreover, I find the volume of options in most stores completely overwhelming. So instead, I have a closet full of dusty clothes I don’t wear, with just a few things that I love and wear frequently.

Held at Nordstrom’s Chicago downtown store, the cocktail event was sponsored by the Women’s Council of Realtors, but it was not just any shopping event. The presenter was wardrobe consultant and personal shopper Julie Watson, and she talked about how to build a wardrobe. She explained that the architecture of your collection (I laughed, because my wardrobe is hardly a “collection”) should be comprised of three layers in the shape of a pyramid: a base layer of essentials, a second layer of novelty style essentials, and a top layer reflecting today’s trends. (You can read her full strategy here).

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I was recently asked what my favorite properties have been among the hundreds I have sold over the course of my residential real estate sales career. It was an intriguing question, and I was still thinking about it as I put my kids to bed that night.

First, however, I had to ask myself, “Just how many homes have I sold?” Was it hundreds? Thousands? Just for kicks, I checked.

Since I received my real estate license in 1994, I have sold 792 properties including 589 “attached” properties (condos, coops, lofts, and townhomes) and 192 single-family homes. In 63% of my sales, I represented the seller, and the buyer was my client for the other 37%. There were a small number of sales where I was a dual agent representing both sides in the same transaction. My average sale price to date is $771,574 which is quite high considering that when I started my career in the 1990s, prices were considerably lower than in recent years. To date, I have sold $612 million worth of homes.

But which of these 792 had been my favorites? I had to sit down and scan the pages of homes sold, remembering each one as I read down the list. Looking at the properties, I recalled each of my past clients – the persons or families who had sold or bought these homes. As I started to narrow my list, I realized that my favorite homes were the ones that best reflected the spirit of their owners.

Here are some that rank high on my list.

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granite countertop

As a luxury real estate sales professional, I make sure my buyers are making a sound investment by encouraging them to get a professional home inspection. The purpose of a home inspection is to discover hidden defects that are not obvious during a casual walkthrough.

In the City of Chicago, our inspections rarely include testing for radon gas. Radon comes from the ground, and the test is therefore typically conducted in basements. Usually this simply involves leaving a radon meter in the home for 48 hours. Obviously, for condos and other properties that are above street level, this would be a non-issue.

Recently, however, I read a disturbing article in The New York Times that warns about a possible new, invisible danger for homeowners.

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This past Sunday, the street where we live was cordoned off, traffic was turned away, emergency vehicles arrived with lights flashing, and neighbors poured from their homes. Was it a traffic accident? The scene of a crime? Nope. It was our first annual neighborhood block party, and it was a blast!

If the majority of neighbors agree to it, Chicago streets are given the city’s blessing to hold their own block parties, and that’s exactly what our street did. The event was simple in concept, but it ended up being a highlight of our summer. Here’s how it went down:

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1845 N. Orchard
The master bath at 1845 N. Orchard

I was interviewed recently by Chicago Agent magazine for their cover story on Chicago’s luxury residential real estate market. The piece discussed some interesting trends such as a shift towards smaller homes, younger buyers, and the demand for quality outdoor space.

The most significant shift I see among today’s luxury buyers is that they are looking for quality, not just a laundry list of expensive stuff dropped into a gigantic space. They expect their homes to be thoughtfully designed, meticulously constructed, and comprised of high quality (but not necessarily flashy) finishes. In terms of style, affluent buyers are embracing both traditional and contemporary finishes, provided they are well executed. Key “ingredients” include amenities that make people’s lives easier and more comfortable: smart home technology; functional, kid-friendly combination kitchen / family rooms; soothing, spa-like baths; elevators; plenty of storage; inviting outdoor space; snow melt systems; and parking for at least a couple of cars. There is also a keen interest in living on wider lots, a pushback against Chicago’s standard which is just 25 feet in width, lot line-to-lot line.

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Having young kids has definitely had an impact on my husband’s and my social life. (Social life? What social life?!) The energy we once spent planning elegant cocktail and multi-course dinner events has been redirected toward birthday parties for… well… babies and toddlers! Thankfully, there are some great venues for children’s birthday parties here in Chicago. Here are some of our favorites:

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Lincoln Park farmers market

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending an event where I heard Alice Waters speak. Alice is the founder of the Chez Panisse Foundation, a not-for-profit with the mission of promoting “edible education.” Specifically, the Foundation is seeking to change school lunch programs and improve the way we care for the health of our children, our communities and our environment.

The main point Alice raised was her concern over the poor diet that Americans – particularly our children – are adopting. Low quality, highly processed foods are increasingly dominating our meal plans and taking a toll on our health as well as the environment and local economies. Furthermore, the drive-thru dinner is steadily eroding the tradition of the family sit-down meal. Alice summed up this new lifestyle with a bumper sticker she had recently seen: “If we are what we eat, I’m fast, cheap, and easy.”

As a mother raising three children, I was struck by Alice’s presentation. Finding healthier food and the time to prepare “traditional” dinners is an ongoing challenge. Between our hectic work schedules, a desire to squeeze in some exercise, and spending quality time with our kids, my husband and I have minimal time to shop and prepare homemade meals. Dining out or “dialing for dinner” (aka ordering carryout) is a tempting option in a city like Chicago, but as a daily habit, it can be expensive and fattening.

The good news is that – fueled by the organic movement, a new emphasis on buying local, and an increasing desire to eat healthier – more “green” food options are sprouting up in Chicago. Some are more practical than others (raising chickens in backyards being on the ambitious side), but increasingly, there are many tempting options for those looking to buy healthy, local food.

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