Chicago Life and Style.

Your Home. Your Life. Your Style

Month: March, 2011

Career Day

This week I participated in Career Day at my daughter’s school. She’s 3.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard for me to come up with a presentation that her 3-4 yr old classmates could appreciate while still getting across the heart of what I do.  And, of course, the point is, what I do has a lot of heart to it, and that’s easy to understand no matter how old you are.  You see, I help families find their perfect home where they have fun and do things and spend time together. As I was making my visual aids (’cause that’s just the kind of gal I am!)  I decided to take the opportunity to touch upon another really important concept- different kinds of families.  On one side of my poster I drew (in stick figures) different kinds of families. One family had a grown up stick person, a kid stick person and a stick dog, just like our family. On the other side, I drew different kinds of houses. The kids got to match up families with houses, and of course, there are no wrong answers.

We also built a house together. I explained that what I do is sort of like putting a puzzle together. One piece is who is going to live in the house, another might be if there are any pets, another the size of the house the family wants, another, the location etc. I gave each of the children a puzzle piece I had previously put together and drawn a house on and when they each put their pieces together, they had a whole house that everybody helped make. It was very fun.

The preschool kids don’t know or care about crown molding and granite counters but they understand that some families have lots of kids, some don’t have any, some families have pets, and some have lots of grownups like grandparents and aunts and uncles that live together. It was fun for them to talk about the different houses and rooms that might be needed for different kinds of families.  They loved the stick figures which didn’t look like boy or girls so they could make them what they wanted and tell me about their own families and how many neighbors they have  and who lives around them and with them. My daughter got to tell them how she helps me-turning on lights–and the rules if she is at work with me–to be quiet and bring her pencils and sketch pad to draw quietly while mommy is working.  She is a wonderful assistant.

At the end, the kids got to ask questions, the teacher directing them to ask “who, what, where and why” type questions. One little girl asked me why I help people find their houses.  It was an easy question.  I do it because it makes people happy to find a place to call home and make memories there with those they love and care about. And that makes me happy.

International Women’s Day Centennial- March 8th

I”m not making this day up, it’s an honest to goodness international holiday–and it has been since the early 1900s.  This year is officially the 100th anniversary. For some reason (that I won’t speculate on here) it’s just not that widely celebrated in the US.  I first heard about this wonderful day from a lovely lady from Romania. She described a day where women are given a break–no chores, someone babysits, everyone gets flowers and thank yous and general support and appreciation.  Not just the moms, not just the wives, ALL the women! I love it!

Of course, the spirit of the day is about empowering and encouraging women all over the world.  Each year each organization chooses their own theme for the year, being as how there are so many aspects of women in the world to focus on.  I’m delighted to say that the concept, and the day, seem to be gaining more recognition here and abroad.  The official website with a listing of all events is here. Excerpted from the site below:

The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.

Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.

Many global corporations have also started to more actively support IWD by running their own internal events and through supporting external ones. For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google some years even changes its logo on its global search pages. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status. The UniteGoogled States even designates the whole month of March as ‘Women’s History Month’.

So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make everyday International Women’s Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

Great Renovation Idea–and what you will get in return

Seems like everyone knows that kitchen and baths sell homes….right? Well, at least, everyone that has redone their kitchen or bath knows that.  And everyone that hasn’t knows that its the “bones” of the space that matter. I mean, you can change appliances but you can’t change square footage. Right? Or is it location that sells homes? Wait, I thought if you staged it right, you could sell a cardboard box?  Truth is, we all have our opinions and there is some validity in all of them.  At the end of the day, it’s your home and you are probably going to renovate to something you like. If you can stomach making conservative structural choices, there is a good chance that you can put your personal stamp on any room without sacrificing your ability to go “neutral” again when its time to sell.

Here is a handy list of what you are likely to recover on renovations you choose to do. I would caution anyone that if you are looking to get even close to the 100% number, you better have made very fiscally smart and conservative choices on the front end.

Percentage recovered upon resale
Kitchen upgrade: 75% to 100%
Bathroom upgrade: 75% to 100%
Interior painting: 50% to 100%
Roof replacement: 50% to 80%
Replacement of furnace or heating system: 50% to 80%
Expansion (addition of family room): 50% to 75%
Doors and windows: 50% to 75%
Deck: 50% to 75%
Installation of hardwood floor: 50% to 75%
Construction of a garage: 50% to 75%
Fireplace (wood or gas) 50% to 75%
Central air conditioning: 50% to 75%
Finished basement: 50% to 75%
Wood fence: 25% to 50%
Interlocking paving stones on driveway: 25% to 50%
Landscaping: 25% to 50%
Asphalt driveway: 20% to 50%
Pool: 10% to 40%
Skylights: 0% to 25%

In this economy, few people have a ton of money to dump into their homes right before they put it on the market. Well, actually, at any time! It is true that a nice clean bath is a selling point just as an outdated one is a negative. But, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on what is likely the smallest room in your home.  It’s also a good place to try out your DIY skills. Now, that’s easier than ever with this great concept, a bath in a box. I love a good DIY project and I have a toolbox to prove it. But, I have also made several trips to Home Depot in a single day when I discover that I’m just two long wood screws short of what I need, or I have one tube of shiny and one tube of matte caulk.  Very frustrating.  Well, Bath in a Box solves all those issues by sending you-literally-every single thing you need.  Even if you aren’t planning a renovation, check out the website, it’s cool and you can design your own virtual bathroom!

If you are considering doing a renovation because you are planning to put your home on the market–PLEASE–talk to a professional Realtor first. Someone you trust to give you the real deal.  We would all love to sell homes that have gorgeous fancy new kitchens and baths but they aren’t a NECESSITY to make the sale so make sure you explore all your options first.