With increased down payment requirements and stricter lending criteria, some homeowners are opting to stay in their homes and renovate rather than move.

Others are taking advantage of the fact that builders are no longer bidding up the cost of land, so parcels can now be snatched up at better prices. These people are finally making their dream a reality and building custom homes.

If you are considering renovating or building a custom home, you won’t want to miss an upcoming design event. In celebration of National Kitchen and Bath Month, Chicago’s exclusive Merchandise Mart is opening its doors to the general public for an “Open House” showcasing the world’s largest collection of luxury boutiques for home building and renovation.

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It’s a fantastic day today – the autumn air is cool and crisp, and I am enjoying a stunning panoramic view of Lake Michigan and Chicago’s skyline from my desk in the Gold Coast Office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the John Hancock Center. As is often the case with Mother Nature, today’s brilliant blue sky belies the drama we experienced this past weekend.

After two days of non-stop heavy rain, including a record breaking 6.64 inches of rain that fell on Saturday, many of my friends and real estate clients reported flooded basements and/or roof leaks in their homes. As if that wasn’t enough, O’Hare airport was temporarily closed, wreaking havoc for travelers.

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Chicago winter

This last week, we’ve had the A/C off and the windows open. Just last night, I needed to pull an extra comforter out of the closet as the outside temperature had dipped into the 50s. I’m not sure how Mother Nature knows, but there is no question that now that Labor Day is behind us, summer is winding down, and before long we’ll be hanging holiday decorations.

Everyone loves to complain about winter in Chicago. Maybe I’m biased as I’ve lived here most of my life, but the season has never bothered me. In fact, there is nothing like a clear winter day in the city with mist coming off Lake Michigan, a layer of pure white snow on the trees, and a crisp blue sky. It can be exhilarating!

But the coldest of Chicago’s winter days can wreak havoc on more than just under-bundled Michigan Avenue shoppers. One of my residential real estate clients was on vacation last year when a pipe froze, burst, and flooded their entire three-level home. Murphy’s Law… it was Christmas Eve and virtually impossible to get help as the water poured down their hardwood floors, drywall, cabinetry, etc. It took eight months and countless hours of aggravation to restore their home. 

Thankfully, this kind of home disaster is rare, and if steps are taken to winterize your home, they can be even rarer.  The tips on this home winterization list are a good place to start for doing just that. Not every suggestion will apply to your situation, but a little preventative maintenance now will help protect your investment in your home and give you peace of mind as you crawl under your comforter on Chicago’s coldest winter nights.

Fire safety

Not long ago, on my way to show a Lincoln Park home, all traffic came to a halt. Fire trucks with lights flashing had blocked the intersection of Fremont and Webster in Lincoln Park, and I could not get by. Eventually, I turned around and pulled down an alley so I could continue on to my appointment. As I passed the scene of the fire, I saw lots of trucks, equipment, and activity, and I overheard one of the men saying that the fire was now out. I drove on.

I thought nothing more of this until I listened to my voicemail the next morning. A friend had called to say that it had been his home that had caught fire, and he and his family were now scrambling to find temporary housing. They were hoping I could help them.

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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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