Chicago Relocation

Fall 2015 Chicagoland Market Update

September 17, 2015

Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio

How did summer 2015 stack up?   What’s ahead for the Chicagoland real estate market for the balance of 2015?  Check out the stats, the insight, and the predictions….


Check it out!




2015 Real Estate Outlook for Chicagoland, 2014 Review

February 4, 2015

Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio

Hello friends – Here’s a quick overview of what happened in ’14 and what we think WILL happen in ’15.  I am fortunate to have featured speaker Pam O’Connor, CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World share her views as well.





Million Dollar (Parking) Baby? Or “Another Reason Why Living in Chicago is Better than NYC”

January 4, 2015

Filed Under
Chicago Real Estate
Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio

$30K, $40K, maybe $75K for parking downtown, I get it. I paid a pretty penny for my spot in the south loop.  But when I read what recently happened in The Big Apple, it made me “heart” my little provincial outpost even more.

A recent  Manhattan development at 42 Crosby Street is offering parking at over $6K PER SQUARE FOOT.  That’s for your car, not you.  Although you could probably sleep there.  It’s pretty big – 200SF.

I did the math – I think you could convince Uber Black Cars to give you 24/7 service, forever, for that price.





A nation of movers….

December 29, 2014

Filed Under
Chicago Real Estate
Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio


America is a nation of movers. While populations of past eras frequently lived and died a few miles from the place where they were born, American people today are considerably more nomadic.


Every five years, approximately 75% of the population relocates somewhere — either within their own state, to another state entirely, or even out of the country. Over the course of a lifetime, your average American will live in anywhere from 11 to 13 different homes.


With all that moving comes a lot of stress and uncertainty. Moving can be a complicated and nerve-wracking enterprise. Families with children and pets to think about can face even greater challenges.


Unfortunately, many of those lists of “moving tips” you see everywhere focus heavily on the importance of packing boxes and making checklists. An orderly packing crate and a crossed-off list of to-do items can be very satisfying, but they won’t tell you how to help your kids handle the move, or where to make friends once you’re settled in your new home.


Areavibes, a website devoted to bringing a more “human element” to the moving experience, wanted to make a list that reflected less on the mechanical details of moving to a new house, and more on the steps that can make moving to a new home a joyful, exciting experience. In short, something you can’t always get from a checklist.


With that goal in mind, Areavibes gathered a wealth of first-hand information from real bloggers with a wide array of moving experience. They condensed that powerful expertise into one monster list of moving tips.


The authors of this list have moved a combined total of over fifty times, spanning twenty states and three countries — and each of them have the kind of first-hand moving advice you won’t get anywhere else.


These 105 items can help you transform the stress of moving into the exciting, life-changing step it should be. So enjoy, and happy moving!


ifty times, spanning twenty states and three countries — and each of them have the kind of first-hand moving advice you won’t get anywhere else.


These 105 items can help you transform the stress of moving into the exciting, life-changing step it should be. So enjoy, and happy moving!






This infographic is brought to you by the team at AreaVibes, a site that helps you find the best places to live. For more relocation advice, check out 105 Tips for a Successful Relocation.




Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio

Think Chicago’s Clark Street ends at Wrigley Field?  Think again, and head on up north to Andersonville.  A part of the greater Edgewater community, it is anchored by local (read non-chain) shopping, dining and sipping, mostly along Clark Street north of Foster.

Settled by the Swedes after the Chicago fire, Andersonville still retains its ethnic flavor.  Celebrate the solstice each year at the mid-sommar fest, complete with a Maypole and folk dancing!  And someone help me with why you have a maypole in June.  In winter check out the Julmarknad Christmas Bazaar and grab a herring, or some falukorv (google it)!

The housing in Andersonville?  In a word – lovely.  You have your typical sturdy chicago brick corridor and courtyard buildings, along with hundreds of beautiful (and beautifully maintained) single family homes.  They’re not inexpensive, and definitely are for those who want the space of a home and the convenience and vibe of city living, and are willing to pay the price.

So  where to enjoy a great meal or a cocktail in Andersonville?

I won’t hold it against them that my first drink with my former in-laws was at The Hop Leaf.  Great food to munch on, but the star is 300+ beers, with 40 on tap.  I’m not a beer guy, but I’m told that’s a heady list!

If beer isn’t your thing, fear not, walk up the street to the Coffee Studio for impressive baristas and Intelligentsia coffee! They take their coffee SERIOUSLY.

Hands down the best Lebanese food around, like I have been going back there decades after leaving the neighborhood – Taste of Lebanon – a tiny family owned restaurant run by people who care.  Great for carry out.  Maybe don’t bring a date there. They leave a few newspapers around to read if you’re sticking around to eat.  Pretty much falafels and lentil soup, but man oh many – try it!  Just scroll through Yelp! and try to find an unkind word about this place!

And if you’ve been to one place up there, it’s Ann Sather’s.  Which would be a good choice if you want a filling, fantastic breakfast, and probably the only place around still serving lingonberries! Swedish dining at its best.  They have a Lakeview location, but try the original at least once.

After your pancakes, visit the Swedish American Museum, an homage to Swedish immigration to America.  Great little community museum.

Apparently I used to live in Andersonville.  Not according to most of the residents of Andersonville, or of Ravenswood (where I really lived), but according to the Chamber of Commerce.  This is as good a place as any to mention (again), that when in Chicago you are often simultaneously eating your chicken wings or walking your dog in two to four different neighborhoods, depending on who you ask (real estate agent, old timer, new timer, merchant, etc.).  So it’s good to note that Andersonville is kissed by Ravenswood, Uptown, Lincoln Square, and of course Edgewater.  But that, of course, depends on who you ask.

Fun little side note – Just north of St. Boniface’s at the south end of Andersonville, walk by 1345 W. Argyle, the site of Essanay Studio. This was the studio of the little tramp himself (Charlie Chaplin), one hundred short years ago….


A Brief Tour of the Western Suburbs

October 12, 2014

Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio


While the city of Chicago is a fantastic one-of-a-kind town, sometimes you just need to get outside of the downtown area for a while.  And if you don’t live near the heart of the city, then you know how nice the suburbs of Chicago can be.  Personally, I am from the Western Suburbs and know that there is a lot to do out there.  Here is a list of just a few of the best attractions around those parts.

Brookfield Zoo  - The free Lincoln Park Zoo in the city is pretty nice, but the Brookfield Zoo definitely edges it out.  With a strong focus on innovative animal care and natural conservation, the zoo is not only a fun place to visit, but can also be quite educational.

Cantigny Park  - As Wheaton’s finest landmark, Cantigny Park has lots to offer.  From beautiful gardens to fascinating museums to a quality golf course, there’s always plenty to do.  As a child, I remember climbing around on the old tanks and cannons in their iconic American infantry exhibit.  Dangerous?  Maybe.  Fun?  Definitely.

Drury Lane  - No, this is not home to Illinois’ muffin man.  Drury Lane is a theater and conference center that plays host to a variety of special events, including weddings and business meetings.  The theater also puts on many live shows throughout the year and is a big proponent of the performing arts.  In addition, you could very easily eat yourself sick at their delicious brunch buffet.  Fair warning.

Morton Arboretum  - Now who doesn’t love a good arboretum?  The Morton Arboretum in Lisle is an outdoor nature museum intended to promote environmental health through sustainability and educational efforts.  The museum offers acres of beautiful foliage and many fun activities to inspire and teach the value of nature.

Naper Settlement  - Along with many great shops and restaurants, the delightful area of downtown Naperville is also home to Naper Settlement.  This outdoor history museum does more than just inform visitors about the old pioneer way of life; it lets them experience it firsthand.  With many interactive exhibits and programs, Naper Settlement is a great place to connect to the past and enjoy the present simultaneously.

The Tivoli Theatre   - Built in 1928 as one of the first theatres in the country, the Tivoli Theatre is the crown jewel of Downers Grove.  With its ornate designs and pre-show live organ music, the Tiv really gives the customers a feel of what an old time night out at the cinema was like.  And if this great theatre isn’t enough, you can head downstairs to the bowling alley or right outside to Aurelio’s pizza (and see my 2nd grade baseball team photo) to complete the night.

No one can blame you for spending all your time experiencing all of the great attractions that the city has to offer.  But just know that if you decide to venture out to the quieter parts of Chicagoland, there are plenty of gems around here waiting to be enjoyed.


Lincoln Square and Ravensood – My Old Hometown

September 29, 2014

Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio

I love Ravenswood.  I just love it.  6 miles north of downtown and you’re in a real city neighborhood, a community….a place where you know your neighbors, you know the dogs (I think my old dog Boru sniffed each and every one), you’ve met the alderman and your precinct captain, you know the kids.  I lived in a condo in Ravenswood and a big SFH in Lincoln Square, and loved it.  Basically the set of ‘hoods north of Lakeview (I know, you’ve got North Center, Graceland, etc., but I’ll speak in generalities), this community runs roughly west of Clark to Western (OK, push it California, then push “Ravenswood Manor” – former home of our now incarcerated Governor Blago – even further west).  And run it at some point north of Berteau up a bit past Foster, before you get into the Bowmanville/Andersonville worlds.

More single family homes than condos, you’ve got a lot of sturdy brick buildings, and blocks that tend to have flats off the alley and on the major roads, while the middle is filled in with brick bungalows (and some frame houses as well).  The Chicago Bungalow, like the Chicago Hot Dog and the Chicago Pizza, is a beautiful creature, and somewhat unique in creation. Chicago has a bungalow belt that rings the entire city.  One of the most versatile housing styles around.  Sturdy brick, big basement, 1 ½ stories (meaning about ½ the people eventually put on dormers, lifted ceilings, or put on entire second floors), a decent sized lot….Man I miss my bungalow on Winona off Oakley!

In fact, the Chicago Bungalow Associations describes these beauties as such:

“Associated with the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the United States, ‘bungalow’ has become a generic term to describe a house or cottage. In Chicago, however, the Historic Chicago Bungalow refers to a single-family home with the following features:

  • Built between 1910 – 1940

  • One and one half stories

  • Face brick with stone trim

  • Low-pitched roof with overhang

  • Rectangular shape: narrow at the front and rear ends, longer on the sides

  • Generous windows

  • Full basement

  • Offset front entrance, or side entrance”

Anyway, my point is you’re in an urban community, but so different from the downtown vibe, or even the younger, more mobile vibe of Lincoln Park and Lakeview.  It’s quiet on the sidestreets.  And the prices are very affordable compared to its lovely neighbors.

Now when I lived there back in the day it was not necessariliy known as a restaurant or pub destination, although classics like Barba Yianni’s and The Heutenbar are perennial favorites (of mine anyway.  A lot of gyros followed by underberg in my youth).  Originally a German/Bavarian neighborhood (hence Da Heutenbar, Carola’s Clipper….my German aunt used to watch movies in German at The Davis Theater on Lincoln), it has retained that heritage and embraced many others. Visit the old school bowling alley (upstairs) at Lincoln Lanes!  And speaking of old school, one of the loveliest churches on the northside is St. Matthias’ in Lincoln Square.  And I’m not saying that just because my daughter was baptized there…

RW/LS has an exceptionally fun Baron Von Steuben Festival right in the square (OK, the parking lots along the square).  People come from as far away as the suburbs AND LINCOLN PARK!  That’s pretty impressive.  Good times, lederhosen and oompa bands (one of the nights the streets are not quiet).

Lincoln Ave. in the last 10-12 years has really livened up on the strip around the square – Favorite Bocca Della Verita has some of the best gnocchi this side of the Atlantic.  Then there’s LM, Pizza DOC, the Grafton (you need an Irish Pub, don’t you?)….And Opart Thai, while it’s not fancy, is about the best BYO Thai in the city!  And don’t leave out Cafe Selmarie.  Oh my – the best pastries north of Little Italy!

So hop on the brown line and head up to Ravenswood/Lincoln Square.  You might even get a seat on the way back south!


Hyde Park, From the Midway to the Museums….

August 25, 2014

Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio

If you’re not familiar with Hyde Park, you probably only know its two big landmarks – The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) -(always a big treat for me when I was a kid), and the University of Chicago (kind of our version of an Ivy League school out here in the Midwest).

And who wouldn’t want to see the home of the first controlled self sustaining nuclear reaction? Yup, right here on the southside of Chicago, the fate of the Second World War was sealed.  And seeds were sewn for a lot more of history to come.  But nuclear war aside, it’s a beautiful campus, and filled with a lot of people way way smarter than me.

Take a stroll down the Midway Plaisance for a breathtaking University view.  Joining two of our gems, Washington and Jackson Parks, and developed by Taft and Olmsted, it’s gorgeous.   “Monsters of the Midway?”  Yup, that’s where the bears get their nickname, although U of C maroons stopped as a big ten presence the year “The Wizard of Oz” was released….

A perfect Hyde Park afternoon for me is heading down to the MSI with the kids, parking (for free!) on a side street north of the museum ($20 parking is for suburbanites), hitting the museum for a bit (with a family pass, it’s permissible to just visit for a bit, so there’s not the crush to see it all in one day – maybe visit a coal mine, German U-Boat or one of the other kabillion cool things they have there), and then walk under LSD (Chicago term) with a picnic lunch or supper with the kids and a little swimming at 57th Street Beach. (But wait 45 minutes after you eat).  Clean beach, diverse and friendly crowd, and parking.  I’ll put it up against North Ave. or Oak Street any time!

And OH – The park there has the beautiful Promontory Point - And I mean beautiful!  Field house (with restrooms!), planned “prairie,” and built high enough and far enough into the lake to provide unparalleled city panorama!

Then stop by the DuSable Museum of African American History. The museum’s mission is to “collect, preserve and display artifacts….to promote understanding and inspire appreciation of the achievements, contributions and experiences of African Americans.”  It’s named in honor of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the first permanent non-native resident of Chicago.  Of African descent, he had a little place where the river meets the Lake.  Bet that piece of property is worth a lot now.  It’s basically Michigan Ave meets the river!

Now don’t forget Robie House, one of the loveliest and best preserved Frank Lloyd Wright homes anywhere.  The FLW Association offers tours, and they’re well worth it.  It’s a great organization run by people with a passion.  I got to host a relo event back in the day there when my buddy Jim was the chair of the FLW society – Talk about impressing your pals!

The neighborhood’s famous locales and steady competition for upscale housing has helped keep it a more stable neighborhood, in terms of real estate, than some of its neighbors.  You see a lot of sturdy brick, brown and greystones in HP, with the obligatory fence of highrises along the lakefront – can’t beat that view looking north to the city!

And while you’re there, walk over and see if Mr. Obama is home!  He lives in the 5000 block of South Greenwood.  2 things – Some people call that neighborhood Kenwood. And #2 – Actually…don’t go visit, he’s not home and the block is more secure than his other place on Pennsylvania Ave.  Looks like a lovely house online anyway….Better yet, just stop in at Jimmy’s Woodlawn tap - I hear the bar food is great there….Tell ‘em Dylan Thomas sent you.


A picture is worth a thousand words

August 18, 2014

Filed Under
Chicago Real Estate
Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio

But sometimes a well placed word or two can get another ten grand or so!  This according to a recent WSJ article that reported on an analysis of property descriptions and their effect on sales price.

What were award winning words?  Well, in today’s market phrases like granite countertops and wood burning fireplace seem to make a big difference.  I might beg to offer that simply having these items is what makes them sell, but I am not an analyst.

Bennie Waller, a professor of finance and real estate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., told the Wall Street Journal that property characteristics described in each listing increases the sale price by almost one percent and the probability of selling by over nine percent. “That means a listing with 15 additional property characteristics sells for roughly a 13.5 percent price premium,” according to Waller.  Included in the helper words were any ‘positive’ words like gorgeous and beautiful.

The study looked at a Virginia MLS and analyzed some 16,000 transactions over a decade.

My unscientific spin?  Those ten years saw a boom and bust market, making it tough to monitor outside forces at play.  And the report doesn’t say if they compared apples to apples (incredibly hard to do) when isolating phrases like granite countertops, etc.

Nice study, but what it tells me is old school – It is important to appropriately accentuate the positive!  Maybe they can do a study on next?


The Future of Green

August 11, 2014

Blog Author Image
John D’Ambrogio

Some comments from Baird & Warner‘s Sean Hyland

The green initiative has become a major trend in America over the past several years.  Everyone wants to reduce their carbon footprint and live healthier and do things that involve the word “sustainable.”  As a major trend in the country, we have seen this initiative affect many different areas of life, including the real estate industry.

We have already experienced the infiltration of certain green products in our living spaces and how many eco-friendly homes have popped up in the market.  Green products and houses attempt to lessen the hazardous effects that humans may have on the environment and create a healthier lifestyle for all.  As people become more knowledgeable and careful with the environment, we will continue to see eco-friendly ideas as major trends of the future.

But what will those trends lead into?  Currently we are working toward a greener and more environmentally friendly lifestyle, but what is the ultimate goal of these practices?  Many would say we want to achieve true sustainability, where we live harmoniously with the environment and are able to benefit from nature without destroying it, allowing for future generations to do the same.  The green initiative helps us do just that.

In terms of real estate and the housing market, this means that we are trending towards greener living arrangements, AKA eco-cities.  An eco-city is an entire city that is designed to function smoothly for human life while, at the same time, producing no negative externalities for the environment.  There are already many eco-cities in existence (with Tianjin, China being the largest) and others in still in the planning stages.  Chicago is currently not considered an eco-city, but it has become considerably more eco-friendly.  However, as the green trends continue, we can expect more eco-cities to rise up.

The more popular these cities become, the higher the demand will be for people to build and purchase these homes.  As the market becomes more densely inhabited by green homes and eco-cities, it may be who of you to better understand the ins and outs of the green market.   And if you find yourself on the buying end of an eco-city property, don’t think that these homes are just for hippies trying to become one with nature.  These houses offer many benefits for humans too.