Elmhurst real estate blog archive


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 18

Dated cabinets? There’s a reface for that

by Thomas Makinney

Kitchens are considered the heart of the home, and they’re one of the first rooms buyers look at when they enter a home, and one of the rooms that sellers worry about the most.

Oak cabinets, laminate countertops, and beige tile can stop some buyers in their tracks. But before you rip everything out, consider if underneath that brown boringness there might be a diamond in the rough.

A kitchen remodel is one of the highest returns on investments that a homeowner can make, earning back an estimated 80-85% of cost at selling. But it is also considered one of the most expensive, particularly when replacing cabinets. Not anymore. There is a booming industry in mid-range kitchen remodels, which typically involve refacing or painting existing cabinets.

The dated mid-oak tone cabinets of 20 or 30 years ago are typically better constructed with higher-quality workmanship than the more cheaply manufactured cabinets found in many homes today. These solid-but-shabby cabinets are perfect for a re-do rather than replacement.

There are a few avenues to follow if you want to paint or reface your cabinets. The most cost-effective method involves removing doors and drawers, sanding and cleaning them, and applying fresh coats of paint or stain. Homeowners can also opt to apply a new veneer overlay on the existing cabinet. Or they can replace the doors and drawer-fronts altogether and get a new design (the crisp Shaker-style door is a popular choice today).

In addition to not replacing cabinetry or cabinetry frames, owners are also saving money by not changing the layout of the kitchen, which can incur costs from moving appliances (which typically involve gas, electrical, or plumbing). Even if you put in new appliances, you’re still way ahead budget-wise.

Just don’t forget the hardware. Fresh brushed nickel or rubbed bronze hardware make a world of difference when updating a kitchen.

When considering a mid-range remodel, it’s helpful to check with a local real estate professional who knows what the market in your area and price range can bear. You don’t want to put in professional-grade appliances and top-line granite in a home valued at $275,000. Similarly, you don’t want to skimp on finishing touches that buyers in an upper-level home will be expecting (such as pull-out pantry drawers, under-cabinet lighting, high-end granite, stone, or quartz countertops).

A real estate professional will also know what must-haves are in kitchens in your area. Certain areas have features that attract or repel buyers. Finally, if you’re remodeling a kitchen for resale value, be sure to keep the color scheme simply and neutral. Neutral doesn’t have to mean boring, just nothing too loud or busy.

If you’re interested in what a kitchen facelift might entail in your home, give us a call at (630) 441-5570 or reach out through our website, www.gmregroup.com

Image courtesy of moneypit.com.

Quick Checklist for House Showings

by Thomas Makinney

So your house is officially on the market. The hard work is done—you’ve decluttered knick-knacks, touched up paint, trimmed bushes, and made sure the roof isn’t leaking.  Now you need to keep it up, which is one of the more trying aspects of having your house on the market.

We recommend giving your house a thorough cleaning once a week—scrub kitchen and bathrooms, run the vacuum, sweep, and dust. Then get in the habit of tidying up each night so you can be prepared for any unexpected showings.

Sometimes you know days in advance about a showing, but sometimes you may get only an hour notice. If that’s the case, what do you need to do? Go through this checklist and make sure that if nothing else, these major items are checked off. It shouldn’t take long. Just tidy first then go room by room.

  1. Tidy the house
  • Walk through with a large laundry basket and quickly scoop up anything that can be put out of sight—extra shoes, backpacks, toys, unsorted mail, old magazines. Tuck the basket away or better yet, put it in the trunk of your car.
  • Quickly wipe down major pieces of furniture that sit in a sunbeam’s path.
  • Check if any rooms need a quick sweep or vacuum.
  1. Kitchen
    This usually takes the longest as it typically gets the most use and is prone to spills, crumbs, stickiness, and funky smells. So get going.
  • Clean out the sink: rinse dishes before putting in dishwasher to cut down on smells then wash and dry the actual sink to give it some sparkle. Tuck sponges or dishcloths under the sink.
  • Run the garbage disposal.
  • Wipe down kitchen counters and put away clutter. Slip the toaster into a cabinet and make sure syrup isn’t sticking to the counter. (Granite countertops in particular are notorious for hiding crumbs and stickiness, which is a good and bad thing.)
  • Wipe down all handles and faucets. Grab a disposable wipe or microfiber cloth and swipe over refrigerator, oven, microwave, and dishwasher handles. Check oven knobs too. Then really wipe down the faucet. If you have stainless steel appliances, wipe down any fingerprints.
  • Empty the trash and put in fresh bag. You don’t want buyers smelling last night’s dinner or leftover onion peels.
  • Tidy up pet bowls. If you have to leave food out, make sure it’s at least inside the bowl and not strewn around. Better yet, take it out of sight.
  • Sweep crumbs off floor and consider running a damp mop.
  1. Bathrooms
    These are the second dirtiest part of the house so head here next.
  • Put away most items on the counter.
  • Take your disposable wipe or damp microfiber cloth and wipe down counters and faucets. Rub off the old toothpaste and make sure hairs aren’t clinging to the sink.
  • Polish the mirror/s.
  • Wipe down toilet. (And make sure it is flushed. Can’t emphasize that enough.)
  • Empty trash.
  • See if the floor needs a quick sweep or wipe to remove hair and dust along baseboards.
  1. Bedrooms
  • Pick up dirty clothes and anything on floors.
  • Make the beds.
  • Empty trash if needed.
  1. Outside
  • Sweep or shovel front stoop and steps. Check for cobwebs on porch walls and light fixtures.
  • Shake out doormat.
  • If you have a glass door or any sliding glass doors, wipe down any fingerprints or animal nose prints.

A clean house shows best so take the time to make it shine. Here at The Gracik Makinney Group, we want our sellers to get the best deal in the least amount of time. To learn more, call us at (630) 441-5540 or reach out through our website, www.gmregroup.com.



Prepping To Put Your House on the Market? Read This First!

by Thomas Makinney

Are you thinking of listing your house this spring? Great idea! It’s the best time to sell a home—the days are longer, the sun brightens up rooms, and buyers are eager to get settled before a school year. But as you assess what to do before you put your house on the market, we’ve got a few tips.

1. Beware the DIY

Before you try upgrading the electrical yourself or finally rodding out your plumbing line, stop and consider calling a professional. The money you save could also be money you have to pay back when a home inspection uncovers aspects of the house that aren’t up to code, and buyers can often quickly pick out projects done in a shoddy manner.

2. Don’t over-improve

Most people know that kitchens and bathrooms get the best return on the investment, however, a complete/gutted kitchen overhaul will only get you a 62% ROI while a minor remodel (cabinet doors, new countertops, new or newer appliances) typically returns 81% of the investment. Also, keep in mind comparable homes. Buyers of mid-market houses don’t expect top-of-the-line appliances, and by putting them in, you may find yourself priced out of your key demographic.

3. Fun amenities don’t appeal to many buyers

For some buyers, a swimming pool is the ultimate luxury, but for others it’s a liability or just another thing to take care of.Bidets, wet bars, and themed rooms also fall into this category.

4. Bold walls and floors

A room painted jade green or bright red might add a pop of color to a house, but it also makes the space seem smaller and can prevent buyers from imagining their furniture. Consider painting rooms in a neutral white, gray, or beige before listing. The same concept applies to carpeting. That bright blue carpeting in the bedroom might look great with your drapes, and the checkered carpeting in the family room might be a fun conversation piece, but for a buyer, it’s just one more thing to replace.

5. Over-decorating

You may love Precious Moments figurines, dried flowers, or three layers of draperies, but buyers have trouble seeing behind the visual stimulation. A good rule of thumb is to let in as much natural light and as you can and declutter surfaces as much as possible so buyers get a sense of how the space flows. The same goes for walls—limit your artwork or framed photographs.

Finally, listen to your real estate agent. We have years of experience in knowing what sells, and we genuinely want to help you get top dollar. We are happy to make recommendations, just don’t take them personally. Saying you need to weed out your bookshelves or take down framed family photos isn’t a reflection on you, it’s what will help your home sell quickly and at a good price.

If you’re thinking of listing your house soon, give us a call. We’re happy to give you a free consultation and offer our professional opinion. Reach out to us at (630) 441-5570 or www.gmregroup.com.

Consider “Renovation Light” for a Faster-Selling Home

by Thomas Makinney

Most people know that when putting your house on the market, decluttering and a fresh coat of paint go a long way. And if your home has buckled linoleum and pink tile, you’re probably smart to consider a remodel. But there is a new trend on the market, halfway between staging a home and remodeling. Let’s call it “Renovation Light.”

If your home was remodeled in the last 15 years, renovation light might be something to consider. Those cherry cabinets that looked so great in 2010 aren’t necessarily what buyers are looking for anymore. Ditto for blond hardwood and the beige tumbled stone tile in the bathrooms.

This is where a renovation light comes in—rather than gutting your kitchen, you could paint the cabinets a trendy gray, refinish the floors in a gray neutral tone, and replace the track lighting with modern pendant lights. 

Replacing outdated backsplashes or shower tile can also make a big difference to updating a look. Other easy fixes are replacing built-in light fixtures and cabinet hardware. The look today is more minimalist and streamlined than it was 10 years ago, and the colors have switched from beige undertones to decidedly gray ones.

In the past few years, many agents have noted that homes with semi-dated finishes are taking longer to sell. These homes aren’t fixer-upper homes at bargain prices that require sweat equity, but they’re not quite what buyers are looking for in a certain price point. In fact, few buyers today are looking to put much work into a new house, preferring a home that is move-in ready. This is particularly true of younger buyers, but older generations are also tired of serious renovations and want to move in and move on. 

Some trends that date your home: Tuscan-style kitchens, travertine tile, pickled or glazed cabinets, brass or brushed nickel finishes, and even granite countertops (instead consider marble, soapstone, Corian, quartz, recycled glass or even concrete).

A good realtor will be able to tell you some easy fixes to bring your home into the 21st century and get it sold quickly. Here at Gracik-Makinney, we offer tips to all our sellers on ways to declutter and stage your home. But if you’re eyeing light maple cabinets and tumbled marble tile, you might want to consider a “renovation light.”

To find out more about what helps a home sell in your price point, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com.

Don’t let your home sale be stalled by roadblocks

by Thomas Makinney

If you’ve ever wondered why some houses sit on the market for weeks or months while others get snapped up in a matter of days, we have some answers. There are some frequent roadblocks that often lead to a languishing listing. Luckily, they’re all easily fixable.
1.     Mediocre Asking Price. Buyers are often indifferent if the price is too high compared to similar homes. And often, you’re missing an entire segment of the market who are only searching in a certain range. The right price makes the home stand out in comparison, especially if it’s an oversupplied sub-category. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a higher price gives you more negotiating room. In reality, the right buyers either don’t see it or move on when they see better homes in the same price range.
2.     Outdated or dirty. Homes should either be beautifully dated or updated and CLEAN. A clean, dated, and staged home with a compelling asking price sells and so does a clean, updated, staged home with a compelling asking price. Make sure walls, ceilings, and floors are washed and cleaned (and wipe the countertops frequently).
3.     Too much clutter. Buyers want to envision themselves in a home. It can be hard to see beyond too many knickknacks or papers or laundry. Too much furniture makes rooms feel smaller and claustrophobic.
If your home is still languishing despite having the right price and being properly updated and clean, consider staging. Staging involves someone coming in and helping place furniture, artwork, plants attractively as well as removing excess items that may make buyers think the home is smaller or has too little storage space.
Here at Gracik Makinney, we help all of our clients not only price their homes but offer advice and tips for what to update, clean, and remove. Call us for more information, (630) 441-5570 or visit our website www.gmregroup.com.

Redecorate, Renovate, or Remodel?

by Thomas Makinney

Fireplace remodel before and after. $600 project.

For many people, spring cleaning means taking a fresh look at our houses and living spaces. As we wipe down the remnants of winter, sometimes our homes flaws become painfully obvious: no place for hats and boots, a dark and dated kitchen, a bathroom that grows smaller every day.

These realizations bring you to three options: You can choose to redecorate, renovate, or remodel. Before you decide, you’ll want to determine your overall budget as well as the potential investment, that is, the amount you will get back from a project when you go to sell the house.


Sometimes, the easiest and most effective solution to a home’s problem is simply redecorating. A fresh coat of paint, new window treatments, and/or a new area rug can do wonders as can adding shelving or storage solutions. And don’t underestimate the power of decluttering or at least rearranging home décor. Simply moving furniture and adding new lights can make a huge difference.


Then there are situations where fresh paint and new throw pillows aren’t going to change anything, and you might need to consider making a larger change. You may need to knock down a wall to give the house better flow, install new flooring and baseboards, update doors and hardware, or build a bigger closet in a bedroom. These projects require a bigger budget and time commitment but can really change the functionality, not to mention personality, of a room.


Alas, new countertops in your kitchen won’t change the size of the kitchen and new shelving in the bathroom won’t ease the morning rush. For some problems, the only real solution is a remodel. Kitchens, bathrooms, and master bedrooms tend to give you the most return on your investments. But, keep in mind not only your budget, but also the value of neighboring homes when deciding what to do. You don’t want to be the priciest house on the block, but you don’t want to be the lowest either.

Read this to find out what home improvements offer the most value.

If you have questions about a project or want to know what you need to do to get your house ready to list, call us at (630) 441-5570 or visit our website, www.gmregroup.com.

Ready to consign? Ready to donate? Ready to buy?

by Thomas Makinney

With the holidays behind us and the kids finally back at school, it’s a great time to make some New Year’s Resolutions for your home.

Are you feeling overwhelmed with too much stuff? Hoping to get your house on the market soon and need to declutter? Or are you hoping to spruce up your house a little bit and fill in some gaps?

We’ve found some great places for you to donate or sell your items, as well as places to buy everything from couches to lamps to new windows.

Before you clean out, decide whether you want to donate or sell your items. A thrift store accepts donations of items – you don’t receive money but you do get a tax write-off. A consignment store sells the items for you: Once an item has sold, they take a percentage and pay the rest to you. If you decide to consign, be sure to check how the store determines percentage, how they determine the lowest price, and what happens if the item doesn’t sell.

Thrift stores generally have lower prices while consignment stores generally have higher quality. But not always. There are treasures and bargains at both places just as there are benefits and drawbacks to donating or consigning.

That said, here are some options for great resale stores in our area, followed by furniture consignment stores.


Resale stores:


869 S. Rohlwing Road

(630) 517-2080


The retail store features furniture, lighting, and appliances, as well as building materials such as cabinets, flooring, doors, paint, lumber, sinks, toilets, and windows and screens.

You can also donate furniture (non-upholstered), appliances, and building materials. They also accept new building materials, as well as cars, trucks, trailers or boats.

All proceeds benefit the DuPage Habitat for Humanity, which helps build homes for limited-income, working families.


Pink Elephant Resale

121 W 1st St

(630) 834-7379

Located in downtown Elmhurst, the store sells and accepts donations and features furniture, kitchen items, clothing and accessories, books, and paintings.

All proceeds benefit the Edward-Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare.


Community Shop

23 W Calendar Ave
La Grange

(708) 354-3803


The Community Shop accepts and sells furniture, home décor, housewares, collectables, and seasonal merchandise.

Proceeds benefit Community Nurse, a health center for lower-income individuals and families in the western suburbs.


Brown Elephant Resale Shop

217 Harrison St.
Oak Park

(708) 445-0612


Brown Elephant accepts and sells antiques, art, lamps, housewares, upholstered furniture, dining room furniture, bedroom furniture, books electronics, as well as clothing, shoes, purses and jewelry.

Benefits Howard Brown Health, an agency that provides healthcare resources and education for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.



Sharing Connections – donations only

5111 Chase Ave.
Downers Grove

(630) 971-0565


Sharing Connections accepts gently used cribs, mattresses, box spring sets, dressers, table and chair sets, sofas and loveseats.

They then provide furniture and household items to local families who are referred through domestic violence shelters, housing organizations, food pantries, schools, and veteran and teen parent programs.


And of course, don’t forget the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and St. Vincent DePaul thrift stores for other great finds. These thrift stores accept almost all donations (check locations for their policy on upholstered furniture.)


Consignment stores:

The Courtyard

63 Village Place

(630) 323-1135


High end furniture and home accessory store, which accepts donations or consignments.  Located in downtown Hinsdale, the store sells fine furniture, artwork, lamps and chandeliers, quality rugs, china, crystal and silver, jewelry, and home accessories. The Courtyard is staffed by volunteers and all proceeds benefit the Wellness House, which provides individuals and families information and resources after a cancer diagnosis.


Divine Consign

809 S. Oak Park Ave.
Oak Park

(708) 386-3366


A high-end furniture consignment store. They accept and sell sofas, sectionals, loveseats, chairs, dining room furniture, dressers, beds, sofa tables, consoles, mirrors, wall art, floor and table lamps, and home décor.

They offer pickup and delivery serves for a small fee, and customers can combine pickup with delivery of furniture purchased at Divine Consign.

Their sister store, Trends, also in Oak Park, sells consigned clothing.


My Favorite Things Upscale Resale

136 Ogden Ave
Downers Grove, IL 60515

(630) 963-5518

Formerly located in Hinsdale, My Favorite Things sells home décor and decorative furnishings alongside women’s clothing and accessories. Clothing consignments are done seasonally, while home furnishings and furniture are accepted year-round.


Slipcover Plus Upholstery and Consignment

451 Madison St
Oak Park, IL 60302

(708) 386-9398


Slipcover Plus has a 2,000 sq. ft. showroom of new and consigned furniture, including bedroom sets, dining room furniture, sofas, loveseats, chairs, lamps, desks, and cabinets. They also have an extensive slipcover, re-upholstery, and furniture restoration business. 


And for something fun:

Jackson Square Antique Mall
112 E Burlington Ave
La Grange


(224) 388-9152

An antique emporium with more than fifty dealers selling We home decor and furnishings, antiques, collectibles, jewelry and clothing.


April Checklist. Are You Ready for Spring?

by Thomas Makinney

A little work on your home in April means that you can head into spring ready to relax over a barbecue and tackle garden work. Take some time now to make a few repairs and get your house sparkling.

Clean gutters and downspouts. Don’t neglect this important task. Clogged gutters from fall and winter debris can cause water to pool, damaging the roof and siding. Cleaning out the gutters also prevents water from cascading down the side of the house into the foundation and window wells where seepage can occur.

Inspect paths and driveway. Repeated freezing and thawing takes a toll on asphalt and concrete. Check your driveway and paths for cracks and schedule repairs as needed.

Wash windows. Welcome the spring sunshine by clearing dirt and grime from windows inside and out. Consider rinsing off your screen doors and windows, and check your screens for any small tears, which can let in mosquitoes and flies. Pick up a screen patch kit to repair them.

Lighten up your house. Make room for the sun by lightening up your interior. Go room by room and clear out unloved items. Put away heavy throw blankets and extra couch pillows. Freshen up the mantel or other styled spaces. Wipe down walls and baseboards. Consider changing out curtains or rugs to something lighter for the season.

Change up the garage. Empty the snow blower, stack the snow shovels and ice melt, and organize sleds and ice skates. Tune up the lawnmower, pull out garden tools and sprinklers. Check air pressure on bike tires and get them tuned up if needed. If you have young children, clean off outdoor toys and swing sets.  

Maintain wood decks and fences. Outdoor woodwork needs to be regularly stained and resealed. Check gates, fencing, decks, railings, pergolas and other outdoor structures for any repairs needed.

Other tasks to consider:

Wash siding. If your siding is looking dingy and dirty, attach a siding cleaning kit (available at most home improvement stores) to a regular garden hose and clean off the winter grime.

Spruce up the porch or entryway. Sweep the floor and wipe down any exterior windows, windowsills, and doors. Lay down a fresh doormat and put out a pot of flowers. If you have porch furniture, clean it off and wash the cushions.

Boost curb appeal. Spring is a great time to make upgrades to your home’s exterior. Even small changes, like new house numbers and a shiny new mailbox, can make a big impact. If you’re planning to put your house on the market soon, boosting curb appeal can help lure in potential buyers.

Schedule cooling-system maintenance. If you have central air conditioning, schedule professional maintenance before the start of summer. A properly maintained system cools better, uses less energy and lasts longer.

If you’re thinking of putting your house on the market this spring, give us a call. We offer free consultations and have loads of great ideas to get your house sparkling and sellable. Reach us at (630) 441-5570 or at www.gmregroup.com.



Showing Your Home for the Holidays

by Thomas Makinney

Selling your home this time of year is not as hard as it has been historically believed to be.  As we discussed last week, buyers who take time out of their holiday schedule and brave the cold and the snow to tour homes are serious buyers.  There are, however, a few things to keep in mind when you’re showing your home to buyers around the holidays. Here’s a list of pointers to prevent Santa from sabotaging your home sale:


Don’t over-do the exterior decorations. Sorry, Griswold! This year is not the year to illuminate the whole block. Too many lights and decorations (outside and in) can make the home look cluttered, masked, and personalized to your family.  You want buyers to see the home as a blank slate, and make it easy for them to envision their own holidays there.  

Do Try to think of your indoor decorations this year as accents, rather than features.

You’ll want buyers to be paying attention to your gorgeous hardwood and noticing the new countertops, not distracted by a life-sized talking Santa or your replica Leg Lamp from a Christmas Story in the front window.  Embrace your minimalist side this time, opt for subtle red bows, and flameless candlesticks for soft lighting and ambiance.

Don’t overwhelm the house with scents.  We know, Yankee Candle makes a Christmas Cookie candle that smells so real you want to eat the wax, but you don’t want to overwhelm buyers with anything, especially something that they could find off-putting or shorten their tour.


Do keep your gifts in a secure and hidden away location.  While its a common tradition to put presents under the tree (even if only for decorative purposes) weeks in advance, you want to keep your home as clutter free as possible.  Clear some room in a closet or the basement for that Red Ryder BB Gun, and the special box marked “FRAG-I-LE.”

Don’t take the height of your ceiling as a challenge to find the tallest tree you can fit. A large tree will take up space and make a room feel smaller than it is, and inversely a small tree can make a room appear larger.

At the Gracik Makinney Group, we want you to have festive and happy holidays without losing potential buyers.  Whether you are considering selling or buying, we are here to help. Visit us on the web at www.gmregroup.com or give us a call at 630-441-5570.  

Drone Technology for Real Estate Marketing?

by Thomas Makinney

drone.jpgWe don’t yet have hoverboards or power shoelaces, but the McFly version of the year 2015 is not terribly off.  Amidst a list of the ‘Back to the Future’ franchise promises that never became a reality, the hovering camera is here.  Though the FAA has strict regulations against using drones for commercial purposes, the National Association of Realtors would like to amend the ban to allow aerial shots to be taken via drone for the purpose of enhanced real estate marketing.  

Lifting the ban could create potential issues with privacy, abuse of the technology, and other industries appealing to lift the ban for their business uses.  The new regulations that are expected to set new parameters and give a timeframe for the possibility of an allowance for drones is expected within the next few weeks.


With the year 2015 nearly upon us, there is a short list of Back to the Future predictions that have actually come to fruition, and there is still time for more.  (Cubs fans, don’t hold your breath on that 2015 World Series win prediction!)

When selling your home, marketing is key.  Contact the Gracik Makinney Group at 630-441-5570 for more information on our comprehensive marketing plans for your next home sale.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 18