Monday, June 26, 2017

Last Wednesday, I flew out of my comfort zone and into St. Louis, Missouri for the Young Professionals Network's annual 30 Under 30 event. They had kindly invited me a few months before -- each year, the board asks a few 30 Under 30 winners from across the country to come together in STL for a happy hour and educational panel. I hesitated initially. Airplanes make me very nervous, as do social events. The night before, I was beside myself with worry and thought about staying home. I mustered every ounce of courage, asked God to do it and successfully got myself to the airport the next morning.

I was picked up in STL by Liz and Rob, two YPN board members that knew so much about their city. Jessica, a fellow 30 Under 30 winner from Nashville, was in the car, too. Suddenly, I was cruising around a brand new place in a black stretch limousine. We picked up the third 30 Under 30 winner, Lucy, from her office. With that, we were off: checking out listings, driving by the Gateway Arch and eating custard from Ted Drewes.

A few hours later, we arrived at the happy hour in the penthouse of one of the city's luxury rental buildings. I had someone to talk to at all times, and it was actually quite fun being "Melanie from Chicago." I met so many realtors, some asking me for advice and others just wanting to know about my life.

We went sometime later to a popular place called PW Pizza. I rarely eat pizza or ice cream, but on this trip, I indulged. The YPN board treated us like royalty, taking us to dinner and drinks on the restaurant's rooftop afterward. These people were so passionate about real estate, but additionally, they loved their YPN. I felt honored to be their guest.

That night, Jessica and I each slept in our own private apartments -- complete with a living room, full kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Mine had views of Busch Stadium.

We awoke the next morning and walked a few blocks for coffee with some board members. I really loved spending time with that crew (Dan, Spencer and Christa). They were hilarious and so open -- I felt like we were old friends. We laughed the entire way to the STL Realtor building for the main event.

I sat next to Jessica for the panel, and as soon as we got to our chairs, Lucy gave us two little bags. She'd made each of us a candle. Mine said: "Chicago' Finest: 30 Under 30." I wanted to cry. It was the sweetest gesture, and Jessica and I were beside ourselves.

The panel itself was also a surreal experience. I've never been a special guest before, so it was equally scary and thrilling to have 100+ people watching me. This felt different from my SYWTBAC seminars -- instead, I had a new friend and sister-in-Christ next to me (Jessica) and two rockstar realtors (Lucy and Krista) on the other side of the table. The pressure was off, and I felt like I could be myself.

On the plane home that afternoon, I scrolled through the pictures on my phone. My time in STL went by quickly, but I learned a few things: I can go on a trip without knowing anyone and come out okay. God will take care of me and meet every need. Strangers will turn into friends in less than 24 hours.

Until next time, STL Realtors. Thank you so very much for having me.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

At the start of our friendship, Sarah and I both lived in Lakeview. She rented an apartment near the lake, and I lived about a mile west. Our first friend date was at a bar in between us (Vander Mill ciders at Sheffield's) and from that night on, we did a lot of life together: trips, church retreats, walks, pool & patio hangs, wine outside, wine inside, and many more memories.

^ Trying so hard to make Ave Tav a thing.

Last spring, I moved to the Gold Coast, and shortly after, Sarah did, too. I loved that summer and fall. It was surreal to have a best friend living so close to me. I'd walk there or she'd come over -- we saw each other all the time.

By Christmastime, Sarah was searching for her first condo. We saw a few places in the South Loop, but when we opened the door to a sunny loft in the Prairie District, we both knew it was the one. The rest of the process -- negotiations, inspection, attorney review -- flew by. Sarah closed on her new home in January. We laughed our way through the final walkthrough, Snapchatted at the closing table, ate celebratory burrito bowls for lunch and spent the entirety of that afternoon together.

It's been almost six months since Sarah closed, and I'm feeling all sorts of sentimentality as I write this post. I miss having her as my neighbor, but I've also loved seeing her enter this stage of life. Her place is so special. She can take Webster to the dog park, read on her balcony and entertain friends (s/o to the MDW fam).

A belated congratulations to a best friend, sister-in-Christ and homeowner. Hashtag sloop.

On Giving Gifts

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I am surrounded by thoughtful gift-givers. My closest people know me better than anyone, and over the years, they have graciously given me some very special things. One friend recently gave me a little Parisian trinket dish -- I look at it every morning. Another friend mails me encouraging cards. My boyfriend gave me Quest Bars (unashamedly my favorite food) at Christmastime. And last but not least, my mother is perhaps the best gift-giver of all. She has lavished me with hand-picked presents of every kind.

It's no wonder that I love the art of gift-giving, too -- in business and in my personal life.

Before a closing, I spend an inordinate amount of time in shops -- from small-town boutiques (personal fave: The Yankee Peddler in Hinsdale) to big-box furniture stores (I see you, Crate & Barrel). There is no better feeling than stumbling upon the perfect gift for a buyer. I've found precious trinket dishes at Anthro and drool-worthy coffee table books at Art Effect. Always, my favorite moment happens at the closing table. I wait for a break in signing paperwork, and then I make my move, sliding the gift across the table and watching my client open it.

For friends, I especially look forward to cards. I'll find one at Foursided, usually, and then write inside. Sweet notes mean the world to me -- I've saved almost every single one since high school. Last month, I took three of my closest girlfriends to RM Champagne for dinner and drinks. After our first bottle of sparkling rosé, I handed out three envelopes. I wrote a letter for each girl, telling her how grateful I am for our relationship. These friends help me in every aspect of my business, and for that, I was brimming with thankfulness.

There is a verse in James that says "every good and perfect gift is from above." I wholeheartedly believe this. Gifts are a human expression of love -- but ultimately, that love comes from Jesus. He is who propels me to show my affection and thankfulness for others. He is the motivator, and although these tangible things are just for Planet Earth, I will treasure them all the same.

MSC in D.C.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The last time I went to D.C., I was thirteen years old and I'd just gotten my braces off. My eighth grade class at Clarendon Hills Middle School flew to Washington for a few days of history and general middle school awkwardness. I will never forget standing atop the Lincoln Memorial and posing in front of the massive columns with my friend and D.C. roomie, Erin. We laughed our way through that trip.

I went back this past Thursday for the Women's Council of Realtors mid-year meetings. The National Association of Realtors was here, too, for legislative meetings on Capitol Hill. Realtors across the country flooded the city to bring change and make connections, including many of my peers in Chicago. Our association surprised us with very thoughtful gift boxes -- mine was waiting for me at the foot of my bed. (That cookie from Manny's was such a treat.)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am infinitely impressed by the people that give up their time to advocate for our industry. These realtors have passion and commitment -- I admire them greatly. As for me, I spent my time in and out of WCR meetings. I slipped away for a quick video shoot for NAR (more on that later) and rubbed elbows with some real estate greats.

It was a 90 degrees and sunny in D.C. last week. On the first night, we attended a patio happy hour and a rooftop party. It was so hot, so hot. I thought I might melt away. Miraculously, I did not, and I was able to go meet one of my best friends, Dom, for dinner downtown. We went to The Hamilton for hamburgers and a bottle of red. After the sun went down, we walked to see the monuments: The White House, Washington Monument, World War II Memorial and Lincoln Memorial. At night, each one was beautifully aglow. I sang silly America songs and enjoyed the time with an old friend.

The next day, I attended many more meetings: about real estate, about leadership, about event-planning. I admittedly spent a lot of time on my phone, negotiating contracts and scheduling showings. Spring is a very busy time of year -- leaving on a weekend can be unforgivable. Somehow, I managed to get my clients into whatever they wanted to see (big thank-you to fellow agents who were willing to cover me and show my clients).

My introverted self needed alone time that evening. I changed into comfy clothes, pulled on my gym shoes and walked down Connecticut Avenue. Dupont Circle is a very happening place. I passed WeWork, DryBar, organic bistros and game bars and small boutiques. Eventually, I arrived at my intended destination (Chipotle, obviously) for a burrito bowl and solitude. That evening, the sky was churning with black clouds and the wind was picking up. Still, the streets were filled with people, and I felt perfectly alone.

I flew home yesterday afternoon, relieved to return to my beloved city. D.C. was a mini-adventure -- I'm grateful for the opportunity to get outside of my comfort zone once more.

(And one more from the middle school memory book, for good measure.)

Jerel + Margaret

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Jerel and Margaret are some of the kindest and coolest first-time buyers I've ever worked with, and their closing was the best way to end 2016. I met them in October 2015 (2015, you guys) at the very first So You Want to Buy a Condo, back when I was teaching it at Old Town Social. The following summer, we met for drinks at Farmhouse and plotted out their path to homeownership. At that initial meeting, my heart swelled a little bit -- Jerel and Margaret made me feel comfortable, and they were so completely open. I promised to join their team and support them through their home search.

Months later, snow covered the ground, and Jerel and Margaret made an offer on a gorgeous condo in Roscoe Village. It had everything they were looking for and then some: tons of space, light, tasteful updates, a park across the street and a red front door. They fell in love. We wrote an offer, and soon, they went under contract.

It was a Christmastime closing (how dreamy are these holiday plates from Anthro?) and as thrilled as I was for Jerel and Margaret, I was sad that our working relationship was over. They were the best, and they even called me "MSC." 😇

Congratulations to two wonderful people.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Emily's condo had been on the market before. It was an adorable one -- two bedrooms and plenty of outdoor space in Roscoe Village. When I saw the original listing expire on the MLS, I picked up a pen and wrote Emily a letter. I told her how much I loved her space, and should she ever decide to re-list, I'd happily try again with her.

Some time later, Emily invited me over. She had three dogs running around, and I remember sitting on the couch with her as they ran from end to end. As they barked in the background, I promised her that I'd do my best to sell her place this time around. We eventually did get a buyer, and Emily said goodbye to her Roscoe Village condo.

The beauty of selling with someone is that, usually, you get to buy with them, too. Emily's dream for her next place was a bungalow in Portage Park. This past fall, she closed on the most charming home. I will never forget its historical features (the woodwork! the stained glass!) and its modern updates (the subway tile! the giant pantry!).

Congratulations, Emily, on the sale of one home and purchase of another. I am honored to have walked with you through the process. (Sidebar: How darn cute are these glasses from Foursided?)

MSC MAG | April/May 2017

Monday, April 24, 2017

MSC MAG will forever be one of my favorite things about my business. The latest issue included a spring market survival guide, another sweet review, an update on my current transactions and a short thank-you note to those who helped me achieve 30 Under 30

The April production night was a wonderful one because of the people who helped me. We grew up together, and our friendship became *official* the summer before my junior year of high school. On a church trip to San Francisco, we bought octopus tattoos and decided to call ourselves "The Octos" (in true high-school-girl fashion). 

As sisters-in-Christ, the eight of us navigated our teen years together. We went to a few different places for college, but during breaks, we would joyfully reunite. Much has changed in our lives since our high school days, but much has stayed the same. Our faith will always be the common denominator. 

Most of us live in the city now, so I asked them to help me put this issue together. We drank wine, ate popcorn and berries, and laboriously labeled and glue-dotted. MSC MAG came together with the great help of some my oldest friends, and I was (& still am) filled with thankfulness.


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