Flex Space Becoming Critical for Buyers of Chicago Luxury Homes and Condos

In luxury Chicago real estate, the design of a home is of the utmost importance. Sure, buyers can make their own changes in line with their personal aesthetics, but things like a smart floorplan or architectural design are generally major markers of a dream home no matter what.

Because of that, the latest development in home design is a big one: flex space.

What is a flex space, exactly? Well, by nature of it, this room lacks a true definition but it does have a few common traits: It’s off the entry hall, near the main living space, near a bathroom. Above the garage is another common flex space that can be used as a theater, an in-law suite, or kids’ room.

But whether it’s called a bonus room, a multi-purpose area or a flexible living space, the idea is that this is undesignated square footage that can adapt to different uses and brings a forward-thinking element to a home’s floorplan. This space is intended to serve changing purposes over time, taking on considerations for structure, wiring or plumbing up front so the room is ready to transform into its future state when needed.

Flexibility is Key in Real Estate Value

While not every buyer is planning for the future when purchasing real estate, it’s still a consideration when thinking about the resale value of your home, as people discuss the floorplan with an emphasis on the future. Especially in ultra-competitive markets, these flex rooms appeal to buyers who want to trade up for more space, but can’t afford the extra square footage.

If you’re building your first home or unsure of your future needs (like say, the number of children you’ll have), having some flexibility is key. Not to mention, our lifestyles are constantly changing: Folks are living with their parents longer than they used to; or parents move back in with their grown children as they need care in their later years. Buyers definitely feel a need to consider such future living arrangements when building or buying a Chicago luxury home. A flex room helps a property stand out from the rest by offering the promise of never outgrowing the space.

Space helps with sale and resale value because it offers a customization that buyers typically can’t get in an existing home. Designating that room as a flex space signals a freedom to do with it as you wish, versus trying to get a buyer to envision a dining room as their home office. Younger buyers see flex space as a way to customize their home—for example, to forego the formal living room without losing the square footage. Older home owners see these as a space that can adapt as they age—for example, being able to move the master suite to the ground floor.

Whether you’re a homeowner, a prospective seller or a potential buyer, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on what’s “trending” in home design and its impact on real estate value. Especially if you opt to take on a remodel or renovation project, I highly recommend you consider how certain features or characteristics will affect a resale down the line.

For more information on the latest in home design in luxury Chicago real estate, contact me at (312) 498-5080 or email me at ssalnick@dreamtown.com.

Minimalist Kitchens for Chicago Luxury Condos Are In

When it comes to luxury real estate, it’s all about the details—high end finishes, impeccable hardware, architectural nuances that bring a space to perfection. But it’s not only small details that go a long way. Every foot of living space is important for bringing a luxury condo to the next level, and one room in particular can go a long way for the luxury buyer: the kitchen.

Belmont Build

Photo by Scavolini Store Chicago via Houzz

We’ve seen a number of kitchen trends over the last few years, but the latest look for many luxury homeowners is gravitation toward a minimalist, European-style space that looks like it came directly from an Italian showroom. Design enthusiasts are using the kitchen as an architectural showpiece in their homes as a way to add value and a “wow” factor to their property.

The Wall Street Journal recently covered this trend, calling the Italian luxury kitchen the “Prada handbag of luxury real estate.” I’ve seen this trend among new construction properties as well, as developers enlist specialty kitchen designers to bring the minimalist look to the luxury client.

Combining Beauty and Function in Luxury Real Estate

The minimalist kitchen isn’t just about aesthetics, however. Cutting-edge design helps make the space not only beautiful, but fully functional as well, including all of the gadgets and appliances you might need for a fancy cooking show.

The key in the kitchen’s design is to retain the necessary functionality but have the appearance of a clutter free set-up. Key ways of doing this include:

  • Butler’s pantries that can remain completely out of sight
  • Retractable countertops
  • Pocket doors that hide countertop appliances
  • Recessed finger pulls to eliminate hardware

Today’s new construction kitchens are bringing all this and more, by the most noted brands in the industry. And the price tag is generally in line with the cache of the name behind it. The high-end, minimalist kitchen brings and element of fantasy to luxury property, akin to a coveted sports car parked in the driveway.


Photo by poggi design via Houzz

And because many Chicago condo buyers are still looking for space—at least 3,000 square feet—a smart kitchen design ensures that every bit of space is used effectively. The result is a luxury home that feels like a retreat after long days in the city.

If the minimal, European-modern style kitchen is one you’re coveting, you don’t have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to get the same effect. As afan of modern design myself, I redid my own kitchen with the minimalist look, taking some of the key elements and tricks of these showroom-worthy kitchens to increase the resale value of my home. In the end, I achieved a very similar result without having to import from the major high-end brands that come with the same high-end price tag, but still have the advantage of an updated property that will appeal to buyers when the time is right.

To learn more about making kitchen design updates that can boost the resale value of your home, or to talk about buying or selling a Chicago home, contact me at (312) 498-5080 or email me at ssalnick@dreamtown.com.

Sheldon Salnick, Chicago Luxury Real Estate Specialist, Joins Dreamtown Realty

I’m excited to announce that I’ve recently made the move to a new Chicago real estate firm, Dream Town.

Dream Town is focused on not just successfully navigating how the market works today, but how it will work tomorrow. From rethinking the role of the real estate agent, to evaluating and implementing better ways to communicate with buyers and sellers, Dream Town takes a fresh approach to the real estate market that is both invigorating and necessary.

Here are a few ways Dream Town is making this industry better for each and every one of its clients:

An online focus: Dream Town employs internet-wide marketing strategies and cutting-edge tools including a front-page presence on Chicago’s most powerful search engines and strategic partnerships with other top websites. After all, this is where today’s buyers are, and it’s a key place to be able to communicate with buyers and sellers alike. Dream Town was the first real estate firm in Chicago to realize the importance of the web, and their diligence toward making this the best experience for clients has given them a very competitive edge.

Going social: Dream Town’s social media presence isn’t one to ignore. The company has earned itself more than 50,000 followers on Facebook, making it the most popular brokerage page in Chicago and among the top across the nation. You’ll even find a first-of-its-kind MLS app that allows visitors to search for Chicago homes for sale directly from Facebook.

Database marketing: The exhaustive database employed by Dream Town quickly and accurately matches buyers to the homes that fit in with even the narrowest criteria. The firm has more than 500,000 registered users on its website and the most powerful real estate search engine in Chicago real estate.

This comprehensive strategy has yielded great results for Dream Town clients. Buyers can find a finely tuned selection of prospective homes to find what you’re looking for. For sellers, it earns thousands of qualified buyers will see your home daily across the web. And nothing makes me more excited to be a part of this team than to read the many, many testimonials from happy clients—you can find over 1,000 of them at dreamtown.com/testimonials.

And because Dream Town is independently run, agents like myself are able to engage in closely monitored planning to sell your property or work diligently to find the perfect match if you’re looking to buy a home. My past real estate sales include:

Single-family home at 1845 Orchard: $5 million
Single-family home at 1755 N Mohawk: $3 million
4 bedroom/3 bath condo at 2550 Lakeview: $2.75 million
Condo at Trump Tower: $2.7 million
Condo at 65 E Monroe: $1.125 million

…and many others.

I am really looking forward to this new partnership and seeing the results for my clients, new and current. If you’re looking for a Chicago real estate broker, contact me to discuss the difference that comes with working with Dream Town. Give me a call at (312) 498-5080 or email me at ssalnick@dreamtown.com.

‘Smart’ Toilets a Smart Option for Chicago Luxury Homes and Condos

Contemporary Bathroom by Toronto Interior Designers & Decorators Jill Greaves Design via Houzz

The value of Chicago real estate can be greatly affected by how well a home meets what today’s buyers are looking for. Certain features and amenities that fit in with current trends might make a home more appealing, so it’s important for buyers and sellers alike to stay on top of what’s hot in modern homes right now.

Readers of this blog know that I closely follow home trends and consider how they might affect the value and appeal of luxury real estate in Chicago. We’ve explored ultra high-end ovens, coffee stations and jaw-dropping master baths, all great upgrades to a modern home. There really is no limit to the type or amount of luxury features that you might find.

But just when I thought I had a handle on the products you might consider for an upscale home, along comes: the smart toilet. The Wall St. Journal recently highlighted the toilet of all toilets: the Toto Washlet. With all of its high-tech bells and whistles, the Washlet takes one of the most simple home fixtures and brings it into 2014.

Hailing from Tokyo, these commodes are like something out of a movie. Touchless lids that lift on their own. Seats that heat up. A built-in bidet that…well, you know. Some even sync up with smart phones, so that the toilet remembers your preferences and can even play your favorite song through speakers that are built right into the bowl.

While it might seem kitschy or unnecessary to some, home trends like this can quickly become the norm and expectation in luxury real estate.

Bathrooms Becoming the New ‘It’ Room in Luxury Real Estate

Toilets aren’t the only thing getting an upgrade. Bathrooms in general are quickly becoming a room that homeowners are spending money on to create a luxury refuge in their home. The kitchen was once the focus of remodels and renovations that brought upscale features into a home. But bathrooms—and the master bath in particular—may be taking over.

More and more manufacturers are introducing bath fixtures that take this room to the next level. A few common trends I’ve seen in luxury bathrooms include:

Floating tubs: A freestanding tub adds to a spa-like feel, especially when paired with a great view from a high-rise Chicago condo.

Big showers: When it comes to shower space, bigger is better. Clean and simple styles pair perfectly with generous space to create a daily refuge. Features like a rain shower head, heated floors, and wireless speaker systems are all ways that let the shower take center stage.

Smart technologies: Adding things like wifi or audio/visual systems to the master bath truly make this room a destination for unwinding and relxing at the end of the day.

No touching required: From toilets to faucets, the bathroom is a great place to integrate fixtures that work at the wave of a hand rather than on contact.

In short, luxury amenities in the bathroom add everything from entertainment to efficiency to an extra level of hygiene. A “wow” bath is a great pull for buyers and something that can truly up the resale value of Chicago real estate when its done right.

For more information on current home trends or to talk about increasing the value of your Chicago home or condo, contact me at (312) 498-5080 or email me at ssalnick@dreamtown.com.

Chicago’s Luxury Single-Family Home Sales Were Gangbusters in December

The weather may have been cold, but the luxury home market was hot, hot, hot last month. The Chicago real estate market saw 43 single-family luxury homes (those priced at $1 million and higher) close for a total of $74.7 million. And those homes didn’t skimp on luxury. The most expensive home sale clocked in at $9.035 million.

This is big news for December, a month that is typically rather slow and uneventful when it comes to real estate in Chicago. But last month was clearly an exception and an exciting way to close out 2013. Two of the top five most expensive homes are in the Gold Coast, one of Chicago’s premier neighborhoods for luxury living. The $9 million piece de resistance is on Howe Street, one of the most exclusive blocks in the city for single-family homes.

Here’s a look at the top five most expensive Chicago homes sold last month, starting with the most expensive:

1866-70 N Howe St
Original list price:
$10 million
Sold price: $9.035 million
This 6-bedroom Chicago home is on one of the best blocks in Lincoln Park, let alone in the city itself. It sits on a triple lot, spanning 11,000 square feet inside and room to park 6 cars. It’s sleek, contemporary design lends itself to breath-taking finishes throughout with an elevator to all 3 floors. Features include a 50-foot sports court above the 4-car attached garage, an in-home theater, a fully equipped gym, billiards room and a landscaped, private side yard. Lincoln Park is highly desirable thanks to its great schools, a residential-meets-urban style and ideal location with easy access to downtown.

1624 N Wolcott Ave
Original list price:
$2.995 million
Sold price: $3,105,429
A new construction property in Bucktown, this home was a custom build for the buyer, on an oversized (double) lot on a sought-after street. Its contemporary design features the finest craftsmanship and finishes, with 6 bedrooms and more than 7,000 square feet. Other features include great natural light, abundant outdoor green space and roof deck, with an open kitchen leads to a breakfast room and family room with 4 bedrooms upstairs. Beyond that, the home was slated to become whatever the buyer wanted, as a custom build like this allows them to essentially design their dream home.

4307 N Hermitage Ave
Original list price:
$2.65 million
Sold price: $2.71 million
This Ravenswood property boasts two factors luxury buyers love: new construction, and on an extra-large lot. That, along with a huge yard sets this home apart from other Chicago homes, with a gorgeous restored facade and new construction from the front door back.

32 E Bellevue Pl
Original list price:
$3 million
Sold price: $2.7 million
While this home was originally built back in 1892, a recent renovation has it up to date with all of today’s modern luxuries. Designed by John Wellborn, this home is an architecturally significant piece of Chicago real estate, with 6,000 square feet and a 1,200 square foot deck. Inside, the room sizes are generous, including a De Guilio kitchen, spa marble baths, a great room, living room/dining room idea for entertaining and a guest apartment. Other luxury characteristics include 12-foor ceilings, a high-tech lighting and stereo system, six marble fireplaces and a 2-car garage and 2-car parking pad. The open space along with the proximity to shops, restaurants and the beach make this home a luxury buyer’s dream.

38 E Schiller St
Original list price:
$2.75 million
Sold price: $2.525 million
Another winner in Chicago’s Gold Coast, this historic home has been renovated to retain its 1887 facade, but upgrade the interior from the ground up. With 4 levels and 4 bedrooms, the home features exquisite details, like a granite main floor, DeGiulio stainless steel chef’s kitchen, attached oversized garage, stereo surround, 6 motorized skylights, 4-5 oversized bedrooms and high-end finishes. There’s also plenty of space among 4,300 square feet, with a huge terrace and balcony.

Getting Year-End Deals in Chicago Real Estate
It’s interesting to see that the month’s most expensive sale at $9.035 million closed at nearly $1 million less than the asking price. The deal was also all in cash. This is a huge win for the buyer of this property, who likely took advantage of benefits that come with buying at the end of the year. December is typically an “off” month in real estate, so sellers are eager to negotiate and get their properties off the market before the new year.

I always suggest that buyers don’t give up on shopping for a new Chicago home in November and December. This is a time to get the best buys and have them close before the end of the year. Even the early months of a new year can be a great time to look at purchasing property in Chicago, as the cold weather can slow things down and make deals more likely to happen between buyers and sellers.

For more details on last month’s luxury sales or to see Chicago homes for sale now, contact me at (312) 498-5080 or email me at ssalnick@dreamtown.com.

Tightening Inventory, Improving Market Could Turn Luxury Real Estate in Seller’s Favor

An increasing demand for luxury real estate in Chicago could quickly turn the market in favor of sellers, according to a recent report from the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing.

National reports indicate strong sales in the luxury real estate sector along with shrinking inventories, which is leading to shortening times on the market for for-sale properties. The total dollar value of sold properties is also on the rise, thanks to increasing consumer confidence that is driving the market as a whole.

In Chicago, the 4th quarter of 2012 saw an increase in sales paired with a decrease in a inventory among luxury sales–those priced $3 million and up.

In other words, things are looking up in the Chicago real estate market. But as the market gets more and more healthy, the less opportunity there is for buyers to negotiate a great deal.

A real estate market on the up-and-up often gives sellers the upper hand, as it.s less urgent for them to move their properties but increasingly urgent for buyers to close a deal.

Timing a Chicago Real Estate Purchase

As the last few years have shown, the real estate market is volatile. This unpredictability makes it as difficult to get the just-right timing as it is to time the stock market. It’s not possible to achieve perfect timing, or even to know if you did after the fact.

A buyer’s best bet is to keep abreast of news in the industry and the economy and keep a pulse on what’s on the market. You’ll find a window of opportunity that feels the most advantageous to you as a buyer or investor.

What every buyer wants to avoid is saying, “Coulda, woulda, shoulda,” as the market continues to recover and the buyer’s market gets increasingly competitive. Great prices, lower-than-low mortgage rates and desirable properties won’t last forever.

To see what’s available on the market now, or to discuss the timing of your own real estate purchase, contact me at (312) 498-5080 or email me at ssalnick@dreamtown.com.

Helping Buyers Make the Decision to Purchase Chicago Real Estate

The Chicago real estate market has been regularly making the news for several years now, often one story differing from the next. With many mixed messages out there, buyers are becoming much more discriminating when finally “taking the plunge” on a Chicago real estate purchase. In a real estate market loaded with turmoil, buyers want to ensure that they understand the nuances about a property and the details of its features, as well as the history and plan for a particular building when shopping for Chicago condos.

I’ve represented many buyers in this situation, some of them ready to buy quickly and others that wanted to take their time. I always work within a buyer’s schedule to make sure they get all of the information and have time to fully understand the details of a property and see them firsthand. I also work with potential buyers to explain the prospects for a property’s resale value and the rationale behind it.

I wanted to share the following testimonial from Ryan Witte, a client of mine who purchased a Chicago condo last year:

“As a first time home buyer, I was grateful to have Sheldon guide me through the process. It did not take long for him to get a thorough understanding of the type of condo I was looking for, and he spent a significant amount of time researching properties which fit my criteria. He was willing to schedule showings at any time that was convenient for me, and was always available to answer any questions.

I relied on Sheldon to notice the small details that a first time buyer might overlook, and he always made sure I considered everything with regard to a particular condo. He was always educating me on features that buyers often look for, and helped me understand factors which would effect re-sale value. We were on the same page as to the places that would pique my interest, and his hunches about what I would like were almost always right.

Sheldon is a tireless worker, and viewed well over 50 different units with me until I finally found the home I was looking for. I was able to make a choice I was comfortable with because of all that I had learned about the market during my search with him.

If you want to find a home in Chicago you will be happy with, you will find it with Sheldon.”

In a market like this one, buying real estate can’t be a fly-by-night decision, but it is a great time for well-situated buyers to make a move. There are a lot of Chicago condos for sale, and I’d be happy to help you narrow down the purchases that fit your need and budget as I was able to assist Mr. Witte with last year. Contact me at 312-264-5853 or by email at ssalnick@dreamtown.com

Purchasing Chicago Real Estate Similar to the Stock Market

If you’ve been keeping up on real estate news the past few weeks, months, or even years, it’s likely made your head spin. There’s a lot of information out there, and the Chicago real estate market in particular has kept things interesting.

As a whole, the Chicago real estate market could continue to drop a bit more from where it stands now. But it is crucial to understand that those numbers represent the market as a whole. The Chicago market covers a very large area, but in reality, it is segmented—very different types of real estate transactions, and each has played out in its own way during the real estate roller coaster.

There are still several areas of the Chicago market that remain solid and have stabilized. In five to six years, the value of those segments will likely increase simply because they haven’t been hit as hard as particular sectors have been in the past few years. There are segments in the Chicago market that are still very desirable to buyers, which is why they haven’t been as topsy-turvy as other areas.

Evaluate Chicago homes for sale like the stock market
That volatility and the state of the current Chicago real estate market is reminiscent of a down stock market. There are always opportunities to pick out a stock that outperforms the market in general. That’s the beauty of it. And if you know what you’re doing, it can turn out very successfully. In the Chicago real estate market, making a purchase based on good fundamentals while considering the future of a particular building and property, a real estate purchase can be incredibly successful.

Of course, there is no way to avoid risk entirely. But I believe that if you are conservative, look at the costs and vet a property well, you can be successful. To properly vet a property, one significant thing to consider is how a building or property differentiates itself from others. Location, of course, is everything. But there’s also a building’s concierge services, assessment costs and floorplans, down to details like finishes, ceiling heights, and appliances. One of the most important ingredients in making a good buying decision is they layout of a unit and how it “flows.” I can provide you with input about this important variable and identify key nuances among different Chicago condos.

For a potential Chicago real estate purchase, buyers should also look at a building from the inside out. For example, be sure to evaluate the cost of a building’s assessments and how those costs have changed/increased historically. Also look at a building’s 5-year plan to understand where it’s financial future stands, both for the building and its residents. Buyers should not forget to also assess a building’s:

-Capital expenditures
-Owner occupancy percentages
-Number of rentals currently in the building
-Whether a building has a cap on rental units
-Cost per square foot in comparison to buildings that are of similar age, quality and location.

Just like making a move on the stock market, Chicago real estate buyers should get all the necessary information before making a move. I’m confident that those who can make intelligent assessments and are conservative in this market will be just fine, and better off making the investment at this prime time for buyers. To find out if the timing is right for your Chicago real estate purchase, contact me at 312-264-5853 or by email at ssalnick@dreamtown.com

Making Informed Decisions to Buy Chicago Real Estate

It’s no secret that I’m an advocate for making a Chicago real estate purchase sooner than later to take advantage of the ultra buyer-friendly market. And while of course there is some self-interest involved in my recommendations to buy, my knowledge and analysis of the market comes from many things: looking at the Chicago real estate market separately from the U.S. market, staying informed on financial news and taking a look at each prospective buyer’s situation individually.

Important considerations before buying Chicago real estate
But even with my background and real estate knowledge, it’s still important that a realtor such as myself isn’t the only reason you’ve decided to buy. Here are 5 other things to consider.

1. Read the news. Reputable news, that is. There’s a lot out there on the state of real estate in the United States, but there are also some great sources that offer reliable and un-biased information that buyers can put to use. For example, the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine have both covered the market extensively and express the same sentiment: if you’re in a position to buy, now is the time to make a move.

2. Your finances. Think about building your asset portfolio that will help you when it’s time to retire. It’s a smart investment to add real estate to your portfolio when you have some leverage from a solid down payment. And this is currently the only investment that offers tax deductions that will help bring down taxes at the end of the year. Having real estate in your portfolio is certainly a way to save money simply by accumulating equity in your home over a period of time.

Not to mention that buying Chicago real estate has shown to be more profitable than renting right now, and renting costs are projected to go up. Housing is going to be an expense no matter what, and savvy buyers are taking advantage of such wise investments.

3. Your situation and lifestyle. Think about why you’re looking at Chicago homes for sale. For those people who aren’t looking for immediate gratification and do not want to speculate on or flip property, this is a great market to buy Chicago real estate that you could spend 5 to 10 years in.

4. The property you’re interested in. Many Chicago condos are in buildings that are well-situated to maintain their resale value. A building’s great location or the amenities and services available are just a few ways that properties preserve their value among buyers, and many Chicago homes for sale will do just that.

5. Mortgage rates. Rates for home loans are at all-time lows, and experts agree these opportunities could disappear quickly, and may never be seen again. Buyers can lock in those low rates on Chicago homes or Chicago condos now and put themselves in a good position when the market turns around.

There are many things that will influence a decision to buy, and one factor doesn’t necessarily trump another. But timing is everything when those factors are all aligned in a buyer’s favor. Give me a call to learn more about what this market has to offer. Contact me at 312-264-5853 or by email at ssalnick@dreamtown.com.

Dense Neighborhoods Expected to Be Hot Spots in Chicago Real Estate

With 23 years experience selling Chicago real estate, it’s no mystery that I’m a strong advocate for city living over the outlying suburbs. And it seems I’m not the only one—downtown areas in large cities like Chicago are growing, especially among the younger, college-educated population, according to a recent article in USA Today.

More and more, people are looking for cities that promote walkability and puts everything they need at their fingertips—art, culture, entertainment, dining and more. Chicago real estate excels at not only having many options within close distance of anything you want to do, but offers a variety as well. Whatever type of food you’re craving, or the grocery store you prefer, or whether you want to take in theater or music—there’s a good chance that your feet are all you’ll need to get there.

Urban Neighborhoods for Chicago Real Estate
Downtown Chicago, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Ravenswood, Andersonville, The Gold Coast, Old Town, Near North, Streeterville and Bucktown and Wicker Park are dense, convenient areas that I always bring up to my clients who are exploring the different communities Chicago has to offer. Not having to get in your car and drive 15 minutes each time you need to head to the supermarket is quite appealing, and many Chicago condos in these neighborhoods let you walk to the store, Starbucks, even to your favorite restaurant for a night out. As a society that craves instantaneous results in everything we do, minimizing time and hassle for these everyday things is gratifying.

In addition to convenience, I do believe that Chicago real estate in these areas will be quicker to increase in value than in other parts of the city, simply because the density and location cater to many different lifestyles. These are long-standing neighborhoods that will never lose their appeal, close to public transportation, grocery stores, restaurants, bars and theater.

No matter where they’re coming from, I always recommend that clients consider these Chicago neighborhoods on the convenience factor alone. For those still partial to a suburban atmosphere, there are even pockets of these areas that merge residential and urban living. Lincoln Park is a great example—you can find every lifestyle here, from families, to young professionals to empty nesters. Along with that, you can find all types of Chicago homes for sale, from luxury high-rise units to spacious brownstone condos to single-family homes. And no matter what type of home you find, you can bet it comes with the convenience and ease of urban living.

To take a tour through these Chicago neighborhoods and check out the Chicago homes for sale, give me a call at 312-264-5853 or email me at ssalnick@dreamtown.com.