the Listing Myths


As we approach the spring market, we encounter many of the same things over and over when on listing appointments. When homeowners are preparing to put their properties on the market, one aspect is usually foremost in their minds: money. We always say that selling or buying your home is one of your biggest financial transactions of your life. Having our clients investment is always of the upmost priority for us as agents. However, every seller has different needs for selling their home. Setting the asking price accurately can mean the difference between getting an offer quickly and having a house languish for months, drawing little interest. This being said, we also “test the market” when inventory is low and the owners are not in a rush to sell, as long as they realize that activity will be slower.

With all this in mind, it’s important that potential sellers block out a lot of the noise that often surrounds pricing strategy. There are plenty of myths that may cause sellers to lose sleep at night as they attempt to separate fact from fiction

1.“This is only the first week, let’s wait and see if we get another offer.”

When sellers receive an offer from the first showing, they may be skeptical or hesitant to accept it, wondering if other prospective buyers would be inclined to pay more. This is a very common response and one we encounter a lot. If a property is what we call a Cherry Property, meaning it is priced pragmatically in a hot market and has what buyers are all looking for in a property, the property will have the largest buyer pool and go fast.  Thoughts of potential bidding wars could cause sellers to want to wait and see who else falls for their place. But, remember the old adage, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?” There’s no guarantee other would-be buyers are waiting around the corner. In fact, the buyer who offered on your property could be the buyer that has been on the road for months and has yet to find the exact perfect home like yours. They may have submitted an offer because they have lost to bidding wars on other properties. We always say everything in real estate is fate. If the offer is a fair one, entertain it and count your blessings.

2. “We got an offer right away! Agent must have priced too low.”

This one is both true and false. When pricing a listing, we like to give our buyers options. The three options we present are: Test the Market, Fire Sale, and Pragmatic. Our sellers decision on how they want to price their home, is based on many different outside factors. Maybe the seller isn’t in a rush to sell, they are ok sitting on the market for awhile and doing price adjustments monthly. Other times, sellers just want to get out, or they found another home they want to buy and they need to sell their house as soon as possible. While most buyers go with Pragmatic or Test the Market, we do occasionally see the Fire Sale option chosen. Since our client’s investment is our top priority, we, unlike many other agents, don’t mind sitting on a listing for awhile with strategized price drops. When sellers receive an offer early in the process, as excited as they might be, many can’t help but wonder, “Should we have asked for more money? Did our agent price it too cheaply?” While it’s natural to be skeptical (and even a little greedy), receiving an offer on the early end of the spectrum most likely means your home was priced accurately, or what we call Pragmatically. If you trust your agent, you know we don’t just pick a number out of the sky, but rather base it on extensive market research and comps within your area.

3. “Let’s list at a price where we can negotiate down.”

When our sellers choose to “Test the Market” we always preface this decision with the stipulation that this is a test and we know this may be above market value. If we do not see activity on our listing, we will need to regroup in a few weeks and start making our price adjustments accordingly. Both we and our sellers mission is to get top dollar for their homes. However, overpricing it with the intention of being willing to accept a lower offer may just leave you empty handed in the long run. Plus, if you have to drop your price too many times, buyers may begin to wonder what’s wrong with the place — other than the price, that is.

4. “Well, Zestimate says….”

Oh how the world of Zestimate has made every seller a comp specialist. Have you ever noticed how homeowners are eager to believe Zestimates or other automated valuation models when that price exceeds their expectations? Yet, when the opposite happens, they assume it’s outdated or erroneous information? Truth is, the Zestimate does not take into account all the adjustments there are with the comps in the area. When pricing a home, we scour the comps and adjust accordingly for every aspect that affects your value (ie Hardwood Floors vs Carpet, HOA Reserves, Age of Mechanicals, Cosmetic Updates ETC). Zestimate is based primarily on square footage (which is always very arbitrary), bedroom count, and final sale price of comparable properties in the hyper localized area. When we have a listing go onto the MLS and propagates over to the websites like Zillow, we see the Zestimate already adjust to our pricing. We also as agents go in through the backside of Zillow to change the criteria which makes the Zestimate adjust.  The point we’re making is, these numbers can be inaccurate, so again, trust your agent over the Internet. 

5. “All our renovations should be totaled into list price”

Sellers may adore the improvements and renovations they’ve made and want to add in those costs to the asking price. We always say when we are out with buyers and discussing what renovations they could do for a potential property, they may not get “dollar for dollar” return on their renovations. Remember, not every change is going to land a huge return on investment. Many improvements help substantially increase your homes value, and many are cosmetic and perhaps a bit too personal where you wont get all your money back when it comes time to sell. A lot of improvements a buyer comes to expect, and a lot of improvements a buyer will not even notice. Also, as you’re making changes, bear in mind that the pool you view as an asset may just seem like a huge liability to a buyer.

6. “Our agent wants to list higher so they get a higher commission.”

We always want our clients to make the most money on the sale of their home. We always also choose to disclose during our first listing appointment how our commission is divvied up and we don’t take home that total commission you see on your final master statement at closing. We as agents are paid a percentage of the selling price of the home. However, even if we were to raise the listing price by $25,000, typically that would yield an additional $1,500 in commission, which would then be divvied up between the us and the buyers agent, as well as a percentage to our brokerage, leaving us with less than $500. While we love our career, the additional weeks or months of showings and marketing expenses are not in our benefit for a few extra hundred dollars. It is in the benefit of our client.

7. “Price Reductions make us look weak.”

It is never a fun conversation we have to have with a client when it comes to asking for a price reduction. We provide our sellers with our market analysis but we don’t always have a crystal ball to determine how the market is going to react to a specific listing. We rely heavily from feedback and showing activity when it comes to our determination on what we need to do in terms of price adjusting. Most of the time, our pricing is the only thing we can control without personally doing renovations or relocating a house away from the train tracks. We never want to set a price where the homeowner feels like they are loosing money. We also never want to set a price too high where the homeowner’s expectations are set too high right at the beginning. When we list at a slightly higher price, we give full disclosure that we will need to adjust price if the market doesn’t respond. No homeowner is eager to drop the listing price, but if time is passing and there’s been little interest, it most likely be time to consider lowering the ask. Remember, time is money. While you’re waiting for someone to meet your price, you’re still paying the mortgage, taxes, utilities, and insurance etc. Plus, sometimes, lowering the price can put your home in front of a group of new buyers where their price cap was right where yours was over, which could generate more interest and, ultimately, get you an offer.

Learn more about us on our social media platforms; and let us know if you have anyone looking to buy or sell – we are always happy to help!



the 2017 Year in Review

As we come to the end of 2017 we reflect on successes and failures; we celebrate family and friends, neighbors and clients; we gather together and share.  In this blog post we want to share with you some of our experiences personally and in the local north side and north shore real estate markets.  
This was our first full year as a team and without knowing what to expect we set a fairly aggressive goal of six million in sales.  In December of this year we met and exceeded that goal and help buyers and sellers in over 30 transactions.  When we add that to our previous years business we can now boast over $20m in residential sales with over 120 transactions.
A huge part of our success was branding ourselves as the MW Collection and offering a more hands on and familial approach to the real estate transaction.  Anyone can open a door and anyone and fill out a contract; the key is everything else in-between.  Being able to guide you through the largest financial transactions of your life and knowing when to raise a red flag is why you hire a professional in the first place.
Our team experienced our fair share of growing pains as any business will over time.  We’ve taken time to reflect and make adjustments to our process to ensure our clients will continue to receive the highest level of service.  While things are well, we’ve had our fair share of mistakes, and one which cost us a listing.  Technology is incredibly powerful and dangerous, one accidental text message, one mistake, cost us a listing.  We learned to slow down a bit and be more careful before we message others.  
From a market stand point things continue to progress forward, and unlike other major real estate markets, Chicago is not overheating.  We are one of the few markets left where significant upside value still remains.  When you compare Chicago to NYC or Miami or LA we are in a much better position for a steady increase in property values as the economy continues to strengthen.  
Many of our clients continue to enjoy 3%-8% increase in equity each year.  Despite the Federal Reserve raising rates conservatively, we have yet to see a major move in mortgage interest rates which have ranged from 3.5% to 4.5% for the last several years.  With three more federal reserve rate hikes planned in 2018 we do expect the range of rates to rise conservatively – but if recent history is any indicator we might not see any major movement in mortgage rates anytime soon.  
Overall we had a great 2017 and hope you did too!  We celebrate you all and hope you have a wonderful holiday season and look forward to working with you in the new year!
– Mark & Walker


Lockbox.001How to Select a Real Estate Agent in Chicagoland?

In January of 2017 Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED) reported 36,038 active real estate agent using the Multiple Listing Service, or at least paying for service.  Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR) alone has 11,500 members and several other associations have around 3.5k each.  All with a potential 20k-30k agents working in the greater Chicagoland, how the heck are you suppose to pick an agent?

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune Does Your Real Estate Agent Measure Up? 7 Questions To Ask Before You Commit by Nicholas Padiak asks some great questions and us being the proactive type decided to give you our responses to those questions.  

How long have you been in the business?

We’ve been building our business together for almost a year, but have 11 years of real estate industry experience as well as a combine three decades of customer service. 

Walker started his career in real estate at the bottom of the market back in 2008 with the commercial real estate firm Marcus & Millichap, and after 7 years left corporate America and decided to venture off on his own becoming a managing broker in 2012 and then joining RE/MAX Edge in 2013.  Mark was managing of a successful chain of eateries in the North Shore from 2006-2016, and with an eye for design and pressure from many real estate colleagues, he decided to venture off on his own and partner up with Walker in late 2016 to build a real estate team focused on North Side and North Shore properties (after-all it’s what we know best).  

We always say, sometimes the thirst and drive we have as agents give our sellers an additional white glove level of service. A listing to us is our livelihood, it puts food on our table, it is not just one of the masses. You do not get lost or passed off to members of our team. The drive and passion we have for our business and our clients is reflected in our level of service we offer to our clients. After all, we are agents that need business, not just want it to beat records. 

What’s your recent track record in the area?

Between 2013-2016 Walker completed on average 15 transactions a year and now that Mark and Walker have partnered up in 2017 they have completed 10 transactions, have four under contract, and anticipate closing another 10-12  by the end of the year. Our sales together combined have already surpassed last year’s total sales.

In the average persons lifetime they will buy/sell 3-5 homes.  In 2016 there were 86,000 transactions, and if we assume there are an active 30,000 agents then that means the average agent does about 3 deals a year.  The reality is about 20% of the agents do about 80% of the business (that would means  6,000 agents do 68,800, or on average 11 transactions a year).  

So the range of an average agent is somewhere between 3-10 deals a year.  For the last several years we have preformed above the level of an “average agent”.  

2017 MRED Active Member Count

What are your contract requirements?

We use a standard listing agreement written by the Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR) for sellers and do NOT use a Buyer Agreement.  We were raised to believe “our words is our bond” and that a handshake means something; with that said, while we do require sellers sign an agreement so we comply with state law, we do not enforce that agreement if a seller is unhappy and wishes to terminate the relationship.  Chicago is a world class city but also a small town and we intend to do business here for the rest of our lives, so we would rather see you happy, even if it means using a different broker.  

For sellers we charge a one-time, at closing, percent of the transaction, which we then share with the agent who brings the buyer from the MLS.  There are no termination fees, marketing fees, professional photo or floor plan charges, or any other hidden fees.  There is no charge for buyers to use our service as it’s customary in IL for the sellers agents to offer cooperative compensation.  

How will we communicate, and how often?

Our communication is usually either via email or text depending on the situation and length of communication.  We usually reserve texts for “quick” conversations, notifying you of appointments, touch bases etc.  We usually keep all the communication regarding the actually process to email.  This helps us keep everything in one place so we can look back with accuracy if necessary.  Usually you will get a market update ever week, however that depends on the market and our agreed upon strategy.

One of the things we stick to and pride ourselves on is showing our properties. Lockboxes are not a way to show a property and answer any questions prospective buyers have about the property. The buyers agent only knows what is on the MLS. How are agents hired to sell a property when all they do is input the property into the MLS and throw a box with keys on it? You are paying us to sell your property, to educate prospective buyers about what your property has to offer, and to make the prospective buyers feel at home in your home. 

Are you willing to tell it like it is?

Absolutely, we’ve been doing this long enough to know that the actually process of the transaction is almost exactly the same in most deals. If you are fortunate enough to know us both on a personal level, you know we are both sharp shooters. We will be honest with you when it comes to what is a road block that is preventing buyers from making an offer on your property. We typically like to prep our sellers with what we see as potential negative feedback from buyers. While we don’t have a crystal ball, we also work with buyers and know that there are some deterrents properties have that will cause hesitation. Many times, small fixes like flooring, decor, painting, and small finishes we suggest will help alleviate some of the negatives associated with your property. We try to set our sellers expectations based on feedback we get from a property. If there are things that we are hearing buyers buyers continually say, we will tell you. If it is something we cannot fix, we will suggest other options to compensate for the negatives.

When things start to get “weird” in a transaction, we throw the red flag and find out what’s going on. We like to be involved and communicated with as well throughout the entire transactions. We usually recommend lawyers that keep us in the loop throughout the “contract to close” period of the transaction. Your real estate agent plays peace maker throughout the entire process. We put out many fires and we try our hardest to  There’s nothing to gain for either party by sugar coating anything.  That said  we are honest without being hurtful, mean or rude.  It’s a delicate balance to manage the real estate process and a clients emotions.  We often liken ourselves to therapists since the sale or purchase can be very emotionally and mentally taxing.

How do you monitor the market?

Almost everything is in the MLS, so we have set up searches in our area to see daily listed, under contract and closed properties.  We have specific searches we monitor for each buyer and seller, and after all that, we look at every new listing on the North Side and North Shore multiple times daily.  Most people get up and read the news, we get up and read the MLS.  

In addition to this Walker has an unnatural obsession with construction.  We have an entirely separate Facebook page where he is constantly documenting new construction and rehabs in the area.  Check it out here: MW Collection: The Developments

We are constantly on the road with buyers, or doing listing appointments.  We see literally hundreds if not thousands of properties in a given year.  We keep databases of high-rises so we know all the condo rules and regs.  Every Tuesday we can be found in the North Shore touring open houses. 

We know our market, and we want to be our clients main resource when they have questions.

What’s your marketing strategy?

Our motto is “against the grain in real estate” and that applies directly to our marketing efforts.  While the actual process of buying and selling real estate is almost always the same, the ways we market properties and drive interest has changed.  With the vast usage of social media by nearly the entire population, reaching potential clients has become easier than ever.  Most brokerages in the Chicagoland area have a specific set of marketing material, specific photographers they have exclusive contracts with, and can only do what their brokerage and brand allow them to do. This is not to discredit their strategy, but rather educate how it may prevent them from doing something different. Each property is unique, and each seller is unique. The pre-determined needs may not conform to sellers property or needs. With us, we are fortunate enough to have carte blanche with marketing. We can think outside the box and formulate a strategy with our seller that can expose the property and get as many potential buyers in the door. 

We focus our efforts building our brand and providing a level of service that is “above the crowd®”.  Getting buyers to notice a property is not as easy as you would think these days.  Photos speak a thousand words and they will over look your home if it’s not showing well in photos.  We always use professional photographer, and spend the time to help you prepare your home to show in its best light.  We always use floor plans, provide any supporting documents, and nearly always show our listings. 

Our presence on Social Media is a driving force in our approach to exposing our properties. Millennial to Millennial Marketing, a truth that today’s buyers are not using the same approaches to searching for the homes of their dreams. We are using mediums like Instagram, Facebook, Zillow, and other apps on our phones. Gone are the days where buyer’s agents surprised their clients with properties they found to show them. The buyers find the properties on their own and the first and most vital impression they get of a home is how it is portrayed online. Many agents have been around for years and years and have yet to evolve with the times, losing touch of the real estate evolution. Having agents that are young, savvy, and have the knowledge and resources to resonate with the buyers who are buying the homes is an asset most agents cannot provide. 

There is no need to reinvent the real estate wheel. The transaction process has stayed pretty much the same throughout the decades. The best piece of advice we can give to any potential client is: Pick someone who you have a good rapport with. Trust is earned not given. When it comes to one of the largest financial transactions in your life, you need to trust your agent. We would love the opportunity to get to know us on a Professional-Personal level. As much as this process is the same; it needs to be tailored to each client. 

Check our our teams Facebook page and be sure to tell your friends and family to reach out for a free consultation of their real estate needs.  


the FEST

fest2It is officially that time of year again: Summer. Many say that they could never live in Chicago year round due to our “brutal” winters. Luckily, we really did have a tame, abet gloomy winter this year. But every year towards the end of May, most Chicagoans like ourselves anticipate the upcoming season as not only summer but Festival Season.

Festivals are electric here in Chicago, if there is ever a sense of pride in our city of Chicago, it is felt during street festivals. It brings neighbors, friends, family, and all our suburban neighbors into our city limits, on the same street, all celebrating a chance to literally roam the streets, enjoy adult beverages, and scope out the local vendors in at the fest. Although this blog typically focusses on Chicagoland Real Estate, part of the search, sale, and real estate process as a whole is the sense of neighborhood. Chicago summer festivals expose many residents to new neighborhoods, and areas that are not part of their daily routine. Many buyers we have been with have expanded their neighborhood preferences based on their summertime experiences in different neighborhoods at festivals. 

Standing events include: Every Wednesday and Saturday Navy Pier has fireworks, which is fabulous along the lake front. We love our late night walks with the dogs along the lakefront on the fireworks nights. It makes us feel like 4th of July twice a week. Movies in the park are obviously a big attraction, this year they are airing over 250 movies in various parks throughout Chicago. And last but not least, Ravinia Festival has started for the season and it still is the best summer destination to our North that transports you to a utopic setting that epitomizes SummerChi.

No one can attend all festivals, but we would love the challenge to try. You sometimes have to pick and choose the festivals that intrigue you, or know you loved in previous years. Below is a list of all the Summer Festivals from June – September in the city of Chicago and some suburbs. The ones in bold are the ones you can expect to find Mark & Walker at. 

June 2017

  • Wicker Park’s Green Music Fest, June 10 – 11, 2017, Damen between North and Schiller
  • Andersonville Midsommarfest, June 9 to 11, Andersonville on Clark
    • One of our ALL TIME favorite weekends of the year. This festival is our own little Pride kickoff for the month of June. Andersonville is a favorite neighborhood in Chicago and is never quite as crowded as the boystown Pride events (which cheaper and more options for beverages and dining).
  • Ribfest Chicago, June 9 to11, Lincoln Ave. north of Irving Park Rd.
  • Chicago Blues Festival, June 9 to 11, Millennium Park
  • Spring Awakening Music Festival, June 9 to 11, Addams/Medill Park
  • Vegan Drink Fest, Grant Park, Butler Field, June 10
  • Naked bike ride, June 10, 2017, 6-8 pm. check in at an undisclosed location
  • Printers Row Lit Fest, June 10 & 11, S. Dearborn and Polk
  • Pilsen Food Truck Social, Saturday & Sunday, June 10 & 11, 18th Street at Allport
  • Old Town Art Fair, June 10 & 11, Old Town Triangle District
    • Mark’s favorite neighborhood in Chicago is Old Town. The first weekend Mark moved to Chicago into his Old Town Apartment, this festival was going on. Still holds a special place in his heart. 
  • Wells Street Art Festival, June 10 & 11, Wells St. between North Ave. & Division
  • Millennium Park Summer Music Series, June 12 – Aug. 17, 2017, (Select Mondays & Thursdays, 6:30 pm.), Millennium Park
  • Fiestas Puertorriqueñas and Puerto Rican Parade, June 17, Division Street from Western Avenue to Sacramento Avenue, Humboldt Park
  • Oakley Festa Pasta Vino, June 16 to 18, 24th street & Oakley
  • 6 Corners BBQ Fest, June 10 & 11, 2017, Portage Park, 4000 N. Milwaukee Ave. (at Irving Park Rd./Cicero Ave. to Belle Plaine)
  • Grant Park Music Festival, June 14 – Aug. 19, 2017, Wednesdays, Fridays, 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, free
  • Taste of Randolph, June 16-18, 2017, Randolph and Peoria St., West Loop
  • Craft Brews at the Zoo (formerly Brew to Be Wild), June 16 – 17, 2017 (6 to 10:30 p.m.), Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Custer Fair, June 17 & 18, Main St. & Chicago Ave., Evanston
    • This awesome festival that is hosted in the more southern region of Evanston’s local business districts. The newly formed Main-Dempster community organization has made great strides in the past year to embrace over 200 businesses along and around Chicago Ave from Main to Dempster. The Custer Fair is a destination for several Chicago natives since it is directly accessible from the purple line. 
  • Chicago Pride Fest, June 17 & 18, North Halsted, Boystown
    • We will be here. We love how they have divided up the Pride activities between two weekends. It gives us two excuses now to get back on the streets.
  • Gold Coast Art Fair, June 17 & 18, Butler Field on E Monroe Street
  • Father’s Day BBQ, June 18, 2017, Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL.
  • Swedish Days, June 20 – 25, 2017, Downtown Geneva, IL.
    • One of Mark’s favorite events as a kid/young adult growing up in the Western Burbs. It was always a countdown to this week growing up. 
  • Make Music Chicago, June 21, various locations
  • Chicago Ale Fest, June 23 – 24, Butler Field, Grant Park
  • Greek Festival on Gold Coast, June 23 – 25, 2017, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
  • Country LakeShake Music Festival, June 23 – 25, Northerly Island, Huntington Bank Pavilion
  • Elkhart Jazz Festival, June 23 to 25, 2017, downtown Elkhart, IN.
  • Chicago SummerDance, June 23 – September 10, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6 to 9:30 pm, and Sunday afternoon from 4 to 7 pm. Grant Park, Spirit of Music Garden (601 S. Michigan Ave.)
  • Chicago Food Truck Fest, June 24 & 25, 2400 S. Dearborn Street
  • Evanston Chamber Artisan SummerFest (formerly Fountain Square Art Festival) will incorporate recycled art/works from “Remix Chicago” artists that will no longer be a separate event. Saturday/Sunday, June 24 & 25, Evanston (Sherman and Church Streets)
  • Highland Park Festival of Fine Arts, June 24 & 25, downtown Highland Park
  • Ravenswood on Tap Beer Festival, June 24 & 25, 1801 W. Foster, in front of Empirical Brewery
  • Randolph Street Market Festival, June 24 – 25, 1340 W. Washington
  • Mamby on the Beach, Saturday June 24 2017 – Sunday June 25 2017, Oakwood Beach, Bronzeville/Oakland
  • Taco & Tequila Fest (new), June 24-25, Jackson Park, 6300 S. Lake Shore Drive
  • Pride Parade, Sunday June 25, North Broadway, Boystown
    • Asside from the most attended Summer parade every year, it also is directly in front of our Re/Max Edge office. This annual event is a special event for our office. Stop on by for a drink during our annual Pride Party @ ReMax during the parade!
  • Color in Motion 5K, June 25, Montrose Beach
  • Eyes to the Skies Festival (35th annual), June 28-July 2, Lisle Community Park, Lisle, IL (1825 Short St.)
  • 50th annual Milwaukee Summerfest, June 28 – July 2, July 4 – July 9,Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee, WI.
  • Frontier Days Festival, June 30 to July 4, Recreation Park, Arlington Heights
  • Naperville RibFest, June 30 – July 3, 2017, Knoch Park, Naperville
  • FitzGerald’s American Music Festival, June 30 to July 3, 2017, FitzGerald’s, Berwyn, IL.
  • Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival, June 30 – July 2, 2017, Chicago Botanic Garden, Lake-Cook Rd., Glencoe, IL.
  • Windy City RibFest, June 30 – July 2, 2017, Uptown, Broadway & Lawrence
  • Oak Fest, June 29 – July 4, 2017, 159th & Central Avenue, Oak Forest, IL.
  • Worlds Largest Block party at St. Pat’s, June 2017, date, TBA
  • Dragon boat races, June 2017, date TBA, Ping Tom Memorial Park, 300 W 19th Street
  • America’s Cup World Series, June 2017, date TBA, Navy Pier

July 2017

  • Eyes to the Skies Festival (35th annual), (started June 28), July 1 & 2, Lisle Community Park, Lisle, IL (1825 Short St.)
  • Chosen Few House Festival, July 1-2, Jackson Park
  • 50th annual Milwaukee Summerfest, (started June 28) July 1, July 2, July 4 – July 9, Henry Maier Festival Park, Milwaukee, WI.
  • Frontier Days Festival, (started June 30) July 1 to July 4, Recreation Park, Arlington Heights
  • Naperville RibFest, (started June 30) July 1 – July 3, 2017, Knoch Park, Naperville
  • FitzGerald’s American Music Festival, (started June 30), July 1 to July 3, 2017, FitzGerald’s, Berwyn, IL.
  • Chicago Botanic Garden Art Festival, (started June 30) July 1 & July 2, 2017, Lake-Cook Rd., Glencoe, IL.
  • Windy City RibFest, (started June 30) July 1 & July 2, 2017, Uptown, Broadway & Lawrence
  • Oak Fest, (started June 29), July 1 – July 4, 2017, 159th & Central Avenue, Oak Forest, IL.
  • African/Caribbean International Festival of Life, July 1 to 4, Union Park
  • Fourth of July Fireworks, July 3, Navy Pier
    • Chicagoans believe that everything the 4th of July stands for happens the night before 🙂
  • Lake Forest Festival & Fireworks (11th annual), Tuesday, July 4, Deerpath Park, Deerpath and Hastings Rd., Lake Forest, IL
  • Jazzin’ at the Shedd, July 5-26 (Wednesdays) Shedd Aquarium
  • 37th Annual Taste of Chicago, July 5–9, 2017, Grant Park
  • Square Roots Festival, Friday July 7 2017 – Sunday July 9 2017, Lincoln Square
  • Millennium Art Festival, July 7 – 9, Lake Street & Michigan Avenue
  • Ruido Fest, July 7 to July 9, Addams/Medill Park, Little Italy, UIC
  • West Fest, July 7 to July 9, Chicago Ave between Wood St and Damen Avenue
  • Irish American Heritage Festival, July 7 – 9, Irish American Heritage Center
  • Bristol Renaissance Faire, July 8 to September 4, Kenosha, WI.
    • Bucket list event for us. Maybe this year will be the year we get to experience this.
  • Chicago Margarita Festival, July 8 & 9, South Shore Cultural Center
  • Roscoe Village Burger Fest, July 8 & 9, Belmont Avenue from Damen to Oakley
  • Arts & Crafts Festival, July 8 & 9, DuSable Museum
  • North Shore Festival of Arts, July 8 & 9, Old Orchard Shopping Center, Skokie, IL.
  • Bastille Day 5/8K Run & Walk (36th annual), Thursday, July 13, Cannon Drive & Fullerton
  • Pitchfork Music Festival, July 14 to July 16, Union Park
  • Windy City Smokeout – BBQ & Country Music Festival, July 14 to 16, 560 W. Grand Ave. on the river
  • Chicago Open Air Music Festival, July 14 to July 16, Toyota Park
  • Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac, Parade of Boats, July 15, East End of Navy Pier
  • RUN! To End Homelessness (7th annual), Saturday, July 15, New location in 2017: Montrose Harbor (601 W. Montrose)
  • The Silver Room Block Party, July 15, Harper’s Court Hyde Park
  • Southport Art & Music Fest, July 15 & 16, Waveland & Southport
    • Southport Corridor, Art, Music, and Drinks… Need we explain more?
  • Colombian Fest, July 15 to 17, Kelvyn Park
  • Rock ’n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon & 10K, Sunday, July 16, Grant Park, followed by an after-festival at Butler Field
  • Chinatown Summer Fair, July 16, South Wentworth Ave. at Cermak Rd.
  • Dearborn Garden Walk, July 16, near North side, Gold Coast
  • Chicago Book Fair, July 16, 61st Street in between King Dr & Cottage Grove
  • artfest Michigan Avenue, July 21 – 23, Michigan Avenue, just north of the Chicago River
  • Taste of River North, July 21 – 23, Ward Park, Kingsbury & Erie
  • Sheffield Music Festival & Garden Walk, July 22 & 23, North Sheffield Ave. & Webster
    • We think this festival is one of the most attended festivals on the North Side for our friends. We have not gone in a few years, but think this summer may be different. 
  • Fiesta del Sol, July 27 – 30, Morgan and Ashland
  • Wicker Park Fest, July 29 – 30, North Avenue to Paulina Street
  • Bantu Fest,July 29th, Midway Plaisance, Hyde Park, near the University of Chicago
  • Randolph Street Market Festival, July 29 – 30, 1340 W Washington Blvd.
  • Taste of Lincoln Avenue, July 29 & 30, 2017, along Lincoln from Fullerton to Wrightwood

August 2017

  • Lollapalooza, August 3 to 6, 2017, Grant Park
  • Millennium Park Summer Music Series, August 3 to 17, Monday & Thursday evenings, Millennium Park
  • Jeff Fest, Arts & Music Festival, August 4 to 6, Jefferson Park at 4822 N Long Ave.
  • Edge Fest, August 6 & 7, North Broadway from Thorndale to Ardmore
    • Walker’s favorite neighborhood in Chicago gets its special festival. Last year was a great year at this festival and it is nice to see every year increasing attendance. 
  • Ginza Holiday Festival, August 11 to 13, Midwest Buddhist Temple, Old Town
  • Chicago Hot Dog Fest, August 11 – 13, Lincoln Park at Clark Street and W LaSalle Drive by the Chicago History Museum
  • Reggae Fest, August 11 – 13, Addams/Medill Park
  • Retro on Roscoe, August 11 to 13, Roscoe Village
  • Bud Billiken Parade, August 12, parade steps off south down MLK Drive from Oakwood Blvd followed by picnic in Washington Park
  • Northalsted Market Days, August 13 & 14, North Halsted Street from Belmont to Addison
    • Our all time favorite event of the year. It is the blend of festivals, music, pride, all rolled up into a perfect street festival that is magical every year 🙂
  • Clark After Dark, August 17, River North
  • Festa Italiana, August 18 – 20,West Taylor Street at Ashland
  • Edison Park Fest, August 18 – 20, 6730 N Olmsted Avenue
  • Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest, August 18 – 20, Glenwood Avenue, Rogers Park
  • Windy City Carnival, August 19, Midway Plaisance, University of Chicago
  • 59th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show, August 19 & 20 (full rehearsal, August 18), North Avenue Beach
    • Although it is hosted at North Ave Beach, our secret spot last year at Montrose Harbor gave us an unobstructed and less crowded viewing experience. 
  • Taste of Greektown, August 25 to 27, 400 South Halsted Street
  • Randolph Street Market Festival, August 26 & 27, 1340 W Washington Blvd.
  • Transamerica Chicago Triathlon, August 27, Grant Park to Foster Beach
  • Chicago Fringe Festival, August 30 – September 10, Jefferson Park
  • 39th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival, August 31–September 3, 2017, Grant Park, Millennium Park, Chicago Cultural Center & other venues

Learn more about us on our social media platforms; and let us know if you have anyone looking to buy or sell – we are always happy to help!





Tis the season for “Multiple Offers!” As the spring market heats up in full force it is hard to deny this market is anything but a seller’s market. Buyers are out in full force searching for the homes of their dreams yet have very little inventory to choose from. We always say during our first time home buyer’s meetings with our clients that there are always those “Cherry Properties” that we know when they hit the MLS, they will go fast and in this market will likely get multiple offers.

In this market we have noticed a very common trend. New listings are added at the beginning of the week, either the listing agent is allowing showings throughout the week or pushing showings to the first open house on the weekend. If the property is “hot” the agent will be able to gauge by the initial interest during those first few days. Typically an offer submitted during the first few days before the open house will not get a response until the weekend is over and all traffic during the week has come to a close. This is a typical strategy that agents feel their sellers will get as many potential buyers to write an offer by the end of the week, hoping for multiple offers. This reason in and of itself is the reason we want our buyers to have all their ducks in order to be able to submit a strong and competitive offer with pre-approval and full disclosure of what we can put down as terms for an offer.
We always joke that picking “Cherries” out of the list is very easy for us as professionals. We know the buildings, the neighborhoods, quality of construction, see the finishes, and most importantly see the price. When a property ticks every box on the list of desires for the typical buyers, AND is priced perfectly we know that we need to get our buyers into this property as soon as possible and also we need to prepare our buyers for a potential multiple offer situation.

Some of our buyers have been on the losing side of multiple offers this season, but most have been lucky and “won” the home during these scenarios. This season for us has been spent more with buyers than with sellers. Listing inventory is at a low and the buyer pool seems to be growing at an exponential rate. It is a daunting process for home buyers to go through. Not only are they nervous about purchasing their home, they are also hesitant about overpaying for their new home and end up in a situation like so many home buyers in the past during the real estate recession. We always tell our clients that a home is only worth what a buyer will pay for it, and we also never want our buyers to overpay for a property. We selfishly don’t want our buyers to overpay because when they go to list their property with us in a few year, we don’t want to have to tell them that they overpaid for their home and the comparable properties in the area are far below what they owe on their mortgage. “Clients for Life” is something we pride ourselves on. Representing a buyer in a transaction means we hope to sell their home when they are ready. It’s a symbiotic relationship that we pride ourselves in maintaining. One sale in 2017 shouldn’t be the only sale with that client, we want future sales of theirs and their family/friends as well.

This all being said, the Chicago real estate market needs inventory. As a seller, there is no better time than right now to list your home and potentially get a higher price than you would expect, especially since inventory is so low and your property may be perfect for a buyer in this market. Chicago has put more homes under contract in one week in May than any other week dating back to 2010. 864 homes have gone under contract with an average market time of less than a month. Yikes! The time is now to sell, this is a seller’s market.

So how do you handle a multiple offer situation?

There is no legal requirement that a listing agent give the multiple offers to their clients in the order they were received. The offers must be given in the order that is of the best interest of the seller, not the listing broker. Many listing agents agree that it is best to present all offers at the same time after the deadline for “highest and best.”
Listing agents do not have to tell to buyers agents that there is a multiple offer situation on the table. The decision to disclose multiple offers to buyers is up to the discretion of the sellers. Many sellers may wish to not disclose there are multiple offers. Many buyers fear a “bidding war” and would rather not get involved in one and just wait until another property comes about.
All terms of the offer are just as important as price. One offer may have the best price, but also have less money down, a later closing date or less earnest money. It is the seller’s decision to decide which offer is most suited for their needs.

What is “Highest and Best?”

When a property has received more than one offer, a listing agent will typically call for the buyer’s to present their “Highest (price) and Best (terms)” final offer to the table. This is usually requested by a deadline on a certain date. During this time sellers may receive even more offers on the table and when the “clock strikes” these offers will be presented to the seller for them to decide which offer is their pick
As a potential buyer, this is the time where we will discuss with your options. Before we ever submit and offer, we discuss with our buyers our professional opinion of asking price. We pull comparable properties from the last 6 months (typically) typically in the same area and especially the same building if it is a condo. We discuss appreciation of the value and make adjustments for upgrades one property has over the other. We typically come to a solid number range that we give to our buyers and say this house should sell between X and Y. Many times the Y number is either at the list price or above the list price. When that number is above the list price, we feel more comfortable telling our clients if they wish to do “highest and best” above the asking list price they have A) a greater chance at winning the multiple offers and B) they will not be in a situation where they are overpaying for value just to win the game.

What is an Escalation Clause? (Besides obnoxious)

An escalation clause is where a buyer says they will essentially pay $2,000 over the other highest offer up to a certain price. A buyers agent is not to draft an escalation clause, this is a legal writing only to be done by an attorney! A listing agent must present this type of offer to their seller and it is up to the seller to humor the escalation clause offer. The seller may immediately be gravitated towards this offer thinking they are guaranteed to get over $2000 their highest offer, but the seller also has to consider things like closing date, financing terms, and when will the escalation offer establish a false ceiling if the seller has more offers, the price might indeed go somewhat higher after that ceiling is reached.
Buyers get the false pretense that they are guaranteed to win if they submit an offer with an escalation clause. Things to consider is a buyer may not be the only buyer with an escalation clause. Sellers are also not obligated to entertain an escalation clause and as hard as it is for sellers to differentiate between multiple offers, adding an escalation clause in the mix may just be too much brainpower for them to handle.
Other buyers get angry when they learn their offer is essentially being pitted against another offer with an escalation clause.
As a sellers agent, it is always exciting to be in a multiple offer situation. Our promise to our clients is to find a ready, willing, and able buyer for our sellers and when there are multiple offers it feels like you have done well. However, having multiple offers may mean you are underpriced on your property. A home typically sells between 3-5% of list price if accurately priced. The closer you got to list the more “on point” you were with your pricing strategy. Multiple offers are a result of such a low inventory of properties for sale which numerous buyers have to choose from.

In this market, it is inevitable that buyers will encounter a home that will enter in a multiple offer situation. Our job representing our buyers is to guide them in the right direction during the offer process. We always say everything in Real Estate is fate. While many buyers may be crushed they lost their home in a multiple offer situation, the next home may check more boxes and be even more perfect for them. Everything happens for a reason, and everything in this industry is tied to one common belief: Fate.

Learn more about us on our social media platforms; and let us know if you have anyone looking to buy or sell – we are always happy to help!


the CUBS


The ballpark is almost ready for opening night! As the newly crowned World Series Champions return to their home turf tonight, it’s a great time to actually get to know what all is happening literally around the corner from our office. Now both of us never claim to be the most avid sports fans of any capacity, but we do love the camaraderie and sense of belonging within our little Cubs Bubble where we live and work.

We may be wrong but there is such a love/hate relationship with the Cubs for native North Side Chicagoans. We obviously hate the traffic and the “inconvenience” game days cause when it comes to getting around point A to point B when we work and live in the area. The fans, as much as we have all been guilty, at times are a nuisance when they drunkenly jump in front of your cars at 2 pm on a Tuesday. But with all those negatives, the positives always seem to eclipse. We love the team, we have always been a fiercely loyal fan base, and we love the infrastructure and development it is bringing to our ‘hood.

Throughout our very mild winter, we have seen those gigantic lights on the field round the clock. We can be up at 3 am and look up and see the blinding lights that are lighting the way for construction to make sure that Wrigley Field is at least functioning for this very day we have come to today. It is very clear the construction has a long way to go, but it is at least ready for the crowd tonight within the friendly confines. 

The love for construction and development flows through our veins (and by our I specifically mean Walker). Many drive past construction sites daily and do not really realize the individual components that make construction good or bad. Walker can drive past a construction site, comment on the materials used, the method used, and always pushing himself to learn and educate himself on developments. We encourage you as well to see our sister Facebook page: MW Developments, where it chronicles Walker’s love for Chicago construction. 

We always discuss how there are three main factors that influence construction; COST, QUALITY, & TIME. You can have two of the three and the other suffers. For example. Construction can COST a lot of money and it will take less TIME and higher quality. You can have lower QUALITY, and it goes up fast and COSTS less. With all the new developments at Wrigley, we actually don’t know which component is the weakest link. There is round the clock construction, costing money and from what we can tell, the quality of the construction does not seem to be slacking. 

So What Does Wrigley Look Like The Weekend Before Opening Day?


As we write this blog post, we can’t help but feel a little nervous this will all come together! I know many hoped the front facade would be free from clutter (for the obvious need for Home Opening Day selfies) but that doesn’t seem to be the case.


Alderman Tom Tunney sent out a parking and traffic notice on Friday and just further adds to the inconvenience aspect of living and working in the ‘hood. Hopefully, the new trial proposal for opening week will help. 

Special event or “surge” meter pricing will take effect at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 10th. Under this pilot program, parking meter rates will double around Wrigley Field during baseball games and concert days. Impacted meters will include those on arterial streets and wraparound streets between Belmont and Irving Park and Southport and Broadway. Surge pricing will begin at the hour nearest to two hours prior to the Cubs game, Wrigley concert or other special events in the stadium, and end no later than seven hours after the start of surge pricing.

Addison– (both sides) Racine to Fremont
Clark – (both sides) Newport to Irving Park
Patterson – (both sides) Clark to Racine
Eddy – (both sides) Clark to the 1st alley west
Cornelia – (both sides) Clark to the 1st alley west


For the area bordered by Irving Park, Southport, Halsted, and Belmont:

  • Any vehicle larger than a cargo van will be prohibited from entering the “bubble area” and will be diverted
  • Traffic within the bubble will be restricted to a single lane
  • There will be “traffic slowdowns” consisting of barricades and cones at the intersections Clark/Grace/Racine; Clark/Newport/Sheffield; Addison/Halsted; and Addison/Racine.
  • There will also be no parking on Clark south of Irving Park between noon and midnight. This affects both sides of the street.

Timeline Via Chicago Cubs Official Site

“The long-awaited restoration and expansion of Wrigley Field, known as The 1060 Project, is well underway. This multi-year upgrade is designed to ensure the viability of the ballpark for future generations of Cubs fans while preserving the beauty, charm and historic features fans have come to know and love.

The 1060 Project, which started at the conclusion of the 2014 baseball season, includes structural upgrades, improved player facilities, new fan amenities, outfield signage, two video boards, new premier clubs, expanded concessions, new and improved restroom facilities and much more.”


To continue playing Cubs baseball at the corner of Clark and Addison streets, the majority of construction work will occur during the offseason. Here’s a list of projects that will be executed during this offseason:

  • Home and Visiting Team’s Bullpen Relocation
  • New Seating Area in the Bullpens’ Former Location
  • Visiting Team Batting Tunnel
  • Partial Façade Restoration on Addison Street
  • Structural Improvements in Right Field
  • Continued Terrace Reserved Seating Replacement
  • Replacement of Seats Behind Home Plate

The following projects will begin during the offseason with work continuing during the 2017 season:

  • American Airlines 1914 Club (to be completed by Opening Day 2018)
  • Concession improvements near Gate F (to be completed during 2017 baseball season)

The following Hickory Street Capital projects will take place during the offseason with work continuing during the 2017 season:

  • Office Building and Plaza”

Hotel Zachary

The new Hotel Zachary is probably the development we are most excited about. We cannot believe how fast this has started to go up. This is probably the most logical place you will see us camped out in the hotel bar wearing Cubbie Blue pretending to be the most die-hard Cubs fans out there. (When in reality we just love the excuse to buy new clothes and feel part of the cool kids).

New renderings of Hotel Zachary show the view of the hotel from Wrigley Field, looking across Clark Street.


A new rendering for Hotel Zachary shows the spacious hotel next to Wrigley Field, looking on from the southeast corner of Clark and Addison.


Wrigleyville Monday!

On our drive to work today we decided to just see exactly how much has been done over the weekend and we have to say we are really impressed. Traffic is being adequately directed and the fans are already mingling around the friendly confines. We also wanted to include pictures of the new Cubs Plaza with the office buildings. The tents are set up and are ready to embrace our first opening day in 100+ years as World Series Champions.

There are so many changes happening in the area. Wrigleyville is getting a major facelift, Lakeview Developments are booming, and the entire city is starting to spark as this Spring Market hits. We are so excited to be part of what we call “ChiBoom 2.” With the new Cubs season finally hitting close to home, we are sure to see a rise in property values and an increase in desirability within the Lakeview Neighborhood. As always, we are here to help, we love referrals and would love to help you get in on the “ChiBoom 2” action. Contact us today! 

Play Ball!


The Chicago Spring Market has begun and as always, we are constantly looking for new clients to both buy and sell their homes. We pride ourselves on giving the upmost level of service to our clients we represent. And we encourage you to reach out to us to get to know us better and let us know how we can assist you or someone you know.

We are out daily with buyers looking at various interior finishes and trends in decor, but often over-looked is the exterior construction and what red flags need to be addressed with a prospective property. Transparency is key with us on both the listing and buy side of a transaction.  We love to educate our buyers on the construction of units with the materials used. One of the most popular construction on units built in the late 90’s and early 2000’s is Split-Faced Block. 

What is Split-Faced Block and Why Was It Used?


Split face as seen in this Lincoln Park condo. Typically used on 3/6 flats on the rear and sides of construction

By William Decker, CMI

Since the mid-1990s, especially during the building boom of the early to mid-2000, there were many new condominium buildings constructed in the Chicago area.  Many of these condominium buildings utilized a newer exterior masonry product that is commonly called split faced concrete block.  This material looked like an 8″ thick common “cinder block”, but had a rough face, making it look like stone (Right).  The material is manufactured using aggregate, Portland cement, and course sand.  During manufacture, a complete 16″ block is “split” in two so as to form two 8″ thick blocks, each with a rough face along the split edge.  The finished product resembles rock-faced masonry in Richardsonian Romanesque houses popular in the mid-1880s (below).  But, as we shall see, prioritizing form over function can lead to long term problems when building houses. 


Split-Faced Blocks as commonly seen in the gangway of a Lincoln Park 3 flat


Split faced block was commonly used as the exterior wall cladding on the sides and rear of 3, 6 and 8 unit condominium buildings and some single-family houses with the front of the buildings, usually, being covered with brick or stone.  “Was used” is the operative phrase because using this material in new construction residential buildings has, largely,  been stopped in the Chicago area, in late 2009.

Split faced block was chosen by builders for a number of reasons, but the biggest one was cost. 



Here are the cost factors:

– Split faced block material costs are low.

– Being larger than a brick, it is quicker to lay and faster to install.

– This block is strong enough to use as a structural wall (i.e. a wall that actually supports the building) and attractive enough to use as an exterior cladding wall at the same time (this is, technically, what is called a single wythe wall, a wall that is only one layer of masonry thick).

– The material could be installed by less expensive, sometimes newly immigrated, non-union masons.

Problems and Causes:

The problems seen with many split faced block buildings have been the result of water intrusion.  The symptoms include water stains and bubbling paint on ceilings and walls, warping and buckling hardwood floors, water dripping from exterior wall outlets and light switch boxes, musty smells and mold formation.  In extreme cases of long-term water intrusion, the roof and floor joist ends get wet and rot.  This can lead to catastrophic structural collapse, where roofs and floors collapse!  It is important to realize that these are not the problems, they are merely the symptoms of the real problem which is water intrusion into and through the block.  Many times, homeowners will have the roof replaced or “fixed”.  When water is coming through your ceiling or walls near the ceiling, people logically think that the roof is leaking.  I have many clients who had their roofs completely replaced, but the water kept coming in.  The best solution is always to solve the primary issue (the water intrusion) before addressing the secondary symptoms.

PLEASE NOTE: Many fly-by-night predators (and even some reputable masonry companies), seeking a quick fix and a quick buck, are going around promoting “sealing” the exterior of the block as the “easy fix”.  While using waterproof block or applying an exterior sealer may help in some cases, the block not being sealed is NOT the primary problem with these buildings.  It is only one factor and a minor factor at that.  In my research, I have found that only 8 – 11% of the water entering the building is coming in through the block, laterally.  There are many split block buildings that have never been sealed but have also never had water intrusion problems.  Each building is different in its construction and each building has to be evaluated based upon its individual construction details.  Quick fixes offered by the proverbial “two guys in white panel van” cost you money and time but do not fix the problem.

Why does the water come in?

To fully understand why split faced block houses and buildings have water problems, it is first necessary to understand how these buildings were built.  The first thing to understand is that all masonry is porous and absorbs water.  Brick, stone, cinder block and split faced block will all absorb water.  So why aren’t all the old brick and stone houses having water problems?  The reason is that they were built with multiple wythe walls.  Multiple wythe (width) walls are actually two (and sometimes three or four) walls in one.  The inner one or two widths are structural and support the building’s weight, while the outer wall (sometimes called a veneer wall) does not.  Between the inner and outer walls is an air gap, usually about 1″ wide.  Water will travel in pretty much any direction, based on gravity, pressure differences, humidity, capillary action and heat gradients, but the one thing that water will not cross is an air gap.  This is the biggest issue with split faced block buildings.  They were, almost always, built without an air gap as a single wythe wall.


Even when built in the single wythe configuration, split faced block buildings can avoid water intrusion problems if they are properly designed and built.  Looking at the diagram to the left, we see how a split faced block wall should be built, based upon building science best practices and industry standard specifications.  But these details are rarely used.


Coping flashing – The top of the exterior walls (also called the parapet) must be properly sealed.  The top of the wall is usually covered with a piece of stone.  This stone is supposed to keep rain water from entering the top of the wall and seeping through the masonry.  Think of an umbrella.  Many masons are not aware that this stone, itself, is porous and, given time, moisture will still get through.  Older buildings were constructed using limestone that was 3 – 4″ thick and would dry out faster than the rain made it wet.  The newer product (which is much less expensive) is a small aggregate concrete block that is polished to resemble limestone (Renaissance stone) and is usually 1 3/4 – 2″ thick.  It is also very porous to water.image01

Best practices call for the installation of a non-porous membrane of rubber or metal (called flashing) over the entire width of wall and under the coping stone.  This serves as a barrier to water intrusion.  This construction detail is crucial because the majority (70 – 80%) of the intruding water enters the wall through the coping stone.

Parapet wall ventilation – While the top of the parapet wall should be covered and sealed to keep water from entering the top of the wall, the wall itself should also be ventilated.  This is a classic construction technique that has been used for hundreds of years but seems to be lost to most modern Architects and Builders.



The Air Cells Within The Split Faced Blocks

The blocks themselves have air cells inside (left).  If these internal cells are allowed to ventilate to the outside, to “breath”, moisture that is in the wall will be able to evaporate and be less inclined to pass through to the interior.  This is was done in the older brick buildings in Chicago, where the parapet wall was “capped” with clay coping tiles and many of these buildings are over 80 years old and still in good condition.  The inside and outside edges of these tiles provided an air space that allowed the interior of the brick walls to breath.


Mortar and block cracks – Another concern is cracking of the mortar.  Intuitively, we think that big cracks in the mortar between the block will allow more water to enter the wall.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Big cracks do allow water to enter, but they also allow this same water to drain out.  Small, hairline cracks are much more of a problem.  They do not just “allow” water to enter the crack that actually sucks it in through a process called a capillary action.  Because the crack is so narrow, the surface tension of the water draws rain into the crack where it is soon absorbed by the blocks natural porosity.  Another problem with the mortar is caused by the employment of masons who do not understand the local conditions.  Many newly immigrated masons have a long tradition, “from the old country” to add extra sand to the already pre-mixed mortar.  They believe that this will make the mortar stronger when it also makes the mortar more water absorbent.  Both these factors lead to water being absorbed into the block. 

Flashing – When building a house, all areas that can possibly allow water to enter the building should be, so to speak, waterproofed.  The problem is that almost impossible because most building materials (wood, stone, masonry, and siding) are porous.  The exterior of a building is not “waterproof” but merely water resistant.  It allows water to “shed” off the exterior surface.  These susceptible areas must be “flashed”.  Flashing involves installing a water impermeable barrier (vinyl, rubber or metal) between the outside and the inside of the house, and between building materials of different water absorptive levels (i.e., between wood and masonry).  Flashing materials do not allow water (or water vapor) to pass through them and act to drainage plane to further shed any moisture absorbed in the wall down and out.  This is why some better-built properties have the flashing, along with small pieces or rope (weep wicks, below) sticking out of the side walls at the level of the floor joists.


Ropes in the blocks creating “Weep Wicks”


BTW:  Home Inspection Rule # 101: “Caulking is NOT flashing!”  Caulk will crack, come loose and deteriorate.  Any opening that is caulked (window and door frames, roof penetrations, bathtub/tile corners) must also have flashing of some sort behind the caulk.  Caulk alone will not stop water and, in most cases, is more cosmetic than functional.  Many times, in an effort to “fix” water intrusion problems, inexperienced workers will caulk an opening that should be left open to allow for water drainage.  This is commonly seen above windows and doors where the drainage space between the steel lintel and the block/brick is caulked or mortared shut.  Rather than stop water from entering the wall, it blocks the designed drainage opening and causes water to back up and drain down from the top if the windows and doors on the inside.

Joist flashing – The floors and roof of these buildings are supported by floor and roof joists.  Commonly, these joists are engineered wooden trusses, specially designed and manufactured assemblies that are much stronger than a normal solid piece of lumber.  They are usually constructed of lengths of 2 x 4 lumber secured with metal plates called gussets.  These truss joists are inserted into pockets in the block masonry walls.  There should also be a flashing membrane installed between the block and the wooden trusses to keep water away from the wood.  The truss should also be installed with supporting shims and there should be an air gap between the truss’s wood and the masonry.  The membrane and the air gap both provide protection against water wicking into the truss.  It is never a good idea for wood to get wet or be in contact with masonry.  Problems occur when the builders, a) do not install the flashing properly and/or, b) grout the truss end pocket instead of shimming.  In both cases, moisture from the masonry wicks into the wooden truss ends, rotting the wood and rusting the securing gussets.  As we shall see, later, this can lead to a very serious problem.

Exterior wall flashing – The other reason for the joist flashing is to catch any moisture that is draining down, within the wall, and direct it outward, away from the building.  This flashing membrane should be upturned on the interior side of the wall (so as to catch and drain the water outward)  and extend out of the exterior side of the wall, forming a drip edge.  The drip edge should extend, at least, 5/8″ away from the wall.  Current national construction standards call for the exterior drip edges to be made of stainless steel or copper, for durability.

Many times, the masons (or the insulation sub-contractors) do not properly turn up the interior end of the flashing and this allows water to drain into the building, warping hardwood floors and causing tiles to crack.  Similarly, many builders fail to properly extend the exterior drip edge far enough outward from the exterior of the wall which allows the water (both already in the wall and water falling on the wall) to be sucked back into the masonry mortar.  It is am an ironic circumstance that many builders do not install this flashing because the buyers will think it looks “ugly”.  Functionality should always trump any cosmetics of a building and they should be designed to be properly appealing in the first place.


Exterior wall sealing – Contrary to common believe, sealing the block is NOT the final solution, but does help (BUT DOES NOT CURE) the problem.  While it is better to have the block sealed, it is not necessary if the building was properly constructed.  Sealing adds water impermeability to the block and acts to shed water off the surface.  When the exterior wall of the block is not sealed and depending upon local weather conditions, rainwater and humidity in the air is drawn into the block.  This moisture travels through the masonry into the insulation and drywall.  It should be stressed that the majority (70 – 80%) of the water intrusion DOES NOT come, from the sides, through the walls but flows downwards from the unflashed parapet wall coping stones and stone window sills.  That being said, the moisture intrusion through the walls must not be ignored.

A curious phenomenon that we have observed, many times, is what is known as “solar loading”.  Imagine a large building with split faced block sides and the south and/or west sides exposed to the sun.  It rains for a couple of days, not a hard driving rain but just a steady drizzle.  There are no water intrusion problems while it is raining.  Finally, the rain stops and the sun comes out.  After 4 to 6 hours (around 1:00 PM or so) water starts staining the interior wall and dripping through electrical outlet and light switch covers on the south side.  One wonders why the water didn’t come in during the rain, but does when the sun is shining.

What is happening is that the sun is heating the exterior block wall.  Intuitively, one thinks that the sun will dry the water.  In reality, the sun is only “drying” the moisture on the very surface of the block.  The rest of the water that has already been absorbed is actually being driven further into the masonry because the heat of the sun is expanding its volume, increasing the vapor pressure and further pushing the water that was already in the masonry out into the insulation, drywall and out the wall.  This condition is exacerbated by the use of mid-efficiency forced air furnaces in many of these condominium units which draws a significant volume of air out of the building.  The negative interior air pressure works to actually suck the water in through the block.

It is interesting to note and contrary to common sense that masonry buildings, in fact, do most of their drying out during the winter, not the summer.  In the winter, heat moves outward from the heated interior living space.  As this heat moves, it pushes any moisture in the masonry ahead of it (heated water expands).  When this water reaches the exterior surface of the masonry, the cold, dry air causes it to evaporate. This sometimes leaves a white, fluffy powder on the outside of the wall.  This is called efflorescence and is the result of the outgoing water dissolving some of the lime in the wall mortar.  The water dries on the outside of the wall and leaves the lime.  Because of a couple of relatively warm (and wet) winters in our area, problems with water intrusion in masonry has been much more pronounced.

The old, commonly accepted best practices method of split faced block sealing used to be applying a “pigmented, silicone based, silane/siloxane, penetrating sealer”, but it has been found that such products only lasted 3 to 5 years (depending upon the manufacturer and the skill of application).  Many times, the sealing contractor has not been properly trained in how to apply the sealer, and the condition of many “sealed” buildings attests to this fact.  Silicone silane/siloxane sealers MUST be applied in a flood coat, completely covering the block and allowed to be soaked into the block.  Repeated sealing is also expensive, properly sealing a 3 story condominium building is expensive ($17,000 – 21,000, professionally done).  The current preferred sealing solution is a polyurethane or elastomeric based “plugger” type paint, installed by licensed, insured, trained and qualified masonry contractors.  This product will completely seal both the block and any small cracks in the mortar joints rather than just retard absorption and can last for 10 – 15 years.  But, this solution does not solve the larger problem and will NOT guarantee that the building will stay dry.


Antiquated Sealing/Repairing Techniques

Drying out the retained moisture – When a split faced block wall has been exposed to moisture for a long time, it tends to retain (or “sequester”) the water deep in the block.  Think of a wide sponge.  If you spray it with water it will absorb the water.  When the sponge’s capacity to absorb the water is exceeded (in building science, this is called the “hygric buffer barrier”) water will start leaking out the other side.  But, the water being leaked is NOT the same water that is being sprayed on the other side.  There is always going to be some water, “in the pipeline”, so to speak.  Split faced block can absorb its own weight in water, and this retained water has to be removed.

Once the exterior walls and parapet have been properly flashed and sealed, no more water will enter the wall.  BUT, there is still a great deal of water that is already in the wall, and will not dry out because the exterior has been sealed against water getting in, and water getting out.

To fully solve the problem, the water that has already been absorbed in the masonry has to be removed.  This can only be done by greatly lowering the humidity levels inside the house, which will draw the water out of the masonry through the insulation and drywall.  Remember, in a typical three unit, duplex down, condominium building with split faced block on the sides and rear, there is approximately 2,500 GALLONS of water that is still in the block.

This process requires time (3 to 4 weeks, depending upon the conditions) and multiple, industrial capacity de-humidifiers running, full tilt and 24/7, under closed building protocols.  This requires that the doors and windows in the house or building be kept closed (except for normal entering and exiting).  Many times, we have seen home and condominium owners who believe that once the cause of the water intrusion has been solved, they can just re-drywall and / or re-paint and everything will be fine.  They soon find the same water stains reappearing, sometimes in less than a week.  Solve the cause of the problem, then remove all the residual moisture before tending to the cosmetic details.  A car may have a really shiny and smooth paint job and cool chrome, but what really counts is  what is under the hood.

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