6 Things to Consider Before Buying Land to Build on

It can sometimes be a challenge to find a home on the market that checks off all the boxes on your list of must-haves. If that’s the case, there’s always the option to buy a piece of land and build your own home, customizing it from top to bottom to your heart’s desire.

But while buying vacant land is a potential alternative to buying resale, there are certain precautions you will need to take before you sign on the dotted line. Without in-depth research into the land you have your eye on, your enjoyment of your new home can be negatively affected.

Prior to purchasing land to build on, be sure to take the following factors into consideration first.

1. Location

The absolute most important factor to consider before buying land is its location. In the world of real estate, location trumps everything else and should always be the first thing to think about before buying. And not only should the municipality be considered, so should the precise lot location in relation to the overall community. For instance, a lot that’s situated at the end of a quiet culdesac and backs onto greenspace would be worth more than land in the same neighborhood that’s adjacent to a busy roadway.

Depending on your exact needs, you’ll want to assess the location of the lot and its proximity to amenities like public transit, highways, schools, parks, and so forth. You’ll also want to factor in the proximity of the land to your place of work in order to ensure the commute isn’t going to be much longer than you’d like it to be.

2. Property Setbacks

The setbacks of the land – which are the rules that stipulate how far the structure can be set back from the lot’s border – need to be considered before purchasing a plot of land. Where you’re allowed to build the house on the lot will be dictated by the property’s setbacks. And if you have a desire or need to build a home of a certain size, you’ll want to be sure that the lot can accommodate that size, and the setbacks play a big role in this.

3. Zoning Requirements

Jurisdictions may have land that’s zoned for residential or commercial use, or both. You’ll need to find out if the land that you buy is allowed to have a residential structure built on it, especially if the surrounding area is used primarily for commercial purposes. Besides, you probably wouldn’t want to build a home in an area where a bunch of industrial buildings will be erected.

Further, you will need to determine whether or not the area is zoned for additional structures – such as sheds or detached garages – if you have intentions of building them. In addition, there may be zoning restrictions that dictate the minimum size home that can be built on the lots in the area. If you don’t want or cannot afford to build or operate a large home, make sure the minimum structure size fits within your means.

4. Natural Hazards

Ideally, the parcel of land that you purchase will not be vulnerable to specific natural hazards. Depending on exactly where the land is located, it could be at risk for fires, which has been a huge problem in parts of California as of late. Determine whether or not the land is located within a fire zone before buying.

In addition, you’ll want to have the soil assessed on the land to check for its quality and composition, which will affect how your new home is built, the cost of the home’s foundation, and any landscaping you may want to do.

5. Easements

If there’s an easement on title of the property, you’ll want to know about it before you commit to buying. An easement gives another person or entity the legal right to use another person’s property for a specific purpose, regardless of who actually owns it. If, for instance, there’s an easement on your property that allows others to cross over it in order to gain access to another lot, it could have an impact on your level of privacy.

6. Utility Sources

Once your home is built, how will it be powered? Where will your water source come from? You’ll want to find out how your home will gain access to water, electricity, gas, waste, and even phone or cable. This is especially important in remote locations where the cost to hook up to municipal utilities can be extremely expensive. You’ll want to get in touch with the water and utility companies before putting in an offer on the land to find out what the costs would be to connect water, power, waste, and other connections.

The Bottom Line

There’s no better way to ensure the home you buy is fully customized to your liking than to build it yourself. But your first step is to buy some land to build on, and that doesn’t come without its own set of tasks. Do your research on the lot you plan to buy to make sure it’s exactly what you want without restrictions. Team up with a real estate professional who is well-versed in buying vacant land to help you find a lot that meets all your needs without compromising how you’ll be able to use and enjoy it.

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – Having Fun While Helping Others!

Not sure what to do with yourself this last weekend of January?  Well, there are several events where you can have fun while helping others!  Interested?

Join the Street Samaritans team for their 1st annual Polar Plunge Charity Brunch on Saturday (11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) at the IO Urban Roofscape at the Godfrey Hotel (127 W. Huron St.) in the River North neighborhood.  This winter fundraiser benefits the Street Samaritans to bring aid to Chicago’s homeless community.  And, for the first time, a Dunk Tank will be brought to IO so guests can donate and drop a bathing suit outfitted board member into an ice bath!  Get ready to eat a delicious brunch buffet, enjoy cocktails and mimosas, listen to great music and just enjoy IO’s winter wonderland!!  Invite family and friends to join you at this great cause!

The Field Museum (1400 S. Lake Shore Dr.) in the South Loop will be hosting the Junior Council’s 30th Annual Snowball Event on Saturday (8:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m.) with all proceeds benefitting the Lurie Children’s Hospital.  This annual black tie gala event for young professionals is a night of fun with food tastings from dozens of Chicago’s premier restaurants, music provided by a Chicago favorite, Rod Tuffcurls, a DJ, a premium open bar, and a silent auction!  Not ready to turn in after the event ends?  Hop on a trolley outside The Field Museum taking you to Hubbard Inn and the Joy District for the after party where you’ll receive express entry and your first drink free!!

Sunday (8:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.) brings the 21st annual AON Step Up for Kids to the Aon Center (200 E. Randolph St.) in the Streeterville neighborhood.  Climb 80 floors to the top of the Aon Center, one of Chicago’s tallest buildings, while benefitting the patients and families of the Lurie Children’s Hospital!  Time to kick off those New Year’s Resolutions!!

This Saturday and Sunday (10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) brings Passions & Vanities to you in time for Valentine’s Day at the Randolph Street Market.  Located at Beaux Arts Plumber’s Hall (1340 W. Washington St.) in the heart of the West Loop neighborhood, this indoor market offers 125+ vendors selling vintage fashion for men & women, antiques, global goods, décor, fancy foods, and much more!  It’s the most interesting Chicago shopping, eating, and drinking extravaganza you’ll experience!!

Or, there’s the Jefferson Park Winter Market held at the Copernicus Center (5216 W. Lawrence Ave.) in the Jefferson Park neighborhood on Sunday (10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.).  Besides loads of local craft vendors, there are a variety of produce and food vendors such as Covered in Chocolate, Fannie’s Pastries, Garlic Underground, The Little Bison, Sausage Konig, Wright Way Farm and many others!  It’s a day of shopping, brunch, and live music with friendly neighbors!!

And finally, the Chicagoland Fishing, Travel and Outdoor Expo takes place at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center (1551 Thoreau Dr.) in Schaumburg on Saturday (10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.) and Sunday (10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.).  This expo features indoor fishing, daily seminars, a 5,000-gallon fish tank stocked with monster large mouth bass, a birds of prey exhibit, a family-friendly interactive exhibit with snakes & reptiles, and much more!  It’s the ultimate indoor fishing event and there’s no better place to learn, shop, compare and save!!

What Will You Be Doing This Weekend?

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS: Bucktown and Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Logan Square, Portage Park

Bucktown and Wicker Park: Still committed to your 2018 resolutions? Mark your calendars for February 6! Located at the HealthSource of Wicker Park (1448 N Milwaukee), come here Dr. Kari’s famous “Half Hour to Health” presentation. In this short talk, Dr. Kari talks about simple ways to improve your well being. The event is from 6:30 to 7 pm. Find more information here.

Lincoln Park: Join HopCat for a beer dinner with Forbidden Root! This Tuesday, January 30 from 7 to 10 pm, the evening will feature a 5 beer, 4 course beer dinner. Randy Mosher, Forbidden Root’s alchemist, will be speaking about the brewery and its beers throughout the dinner. The first course is bacon seared scallops with a creamy truffle sauce, paired with Sparkling Rose, a Belgian Style Ale. The second course is mixed greens and arugula with red pepper vinegar, paired with Dragon Zest, a Belgian style tripel. The third course is flank steak topped with blue cheese and roasted red pepper, paired with WPA, an American Pale Ale. The fourth course is chocolate mousse with a cookie crumble, paired with ME DRINK COOKIE!, an American Brown Ale. Admission is $33.08 per person. RSVP here!

Lakeview: Looking for a little comedy? Check out Shark Tank: The Musical at Annoyance Theatre (851 W. Belmont). In case you’re unfamiliar, Shark Tank is a reality show where entrepreneurs and small business owners pitch their concepts to a panel of potential investors. Greg Ott and Jennifer Estlin (owner of the Annoyance) have transformed this series into an improvised musical where panelists give contestants the third degree about their products, services, or business; all made up on the spot! General admission tickets are $20, $15 for students. The show is every Friday at 8 pm on the main stage and runs until March 30. 

Lincoln Square: The bar is open at The Chopping Block! Join them for Happy Hour every Thursday evening from 5 to 7 pm. Select wines will be featured each week for $7 per glass. You can go as early as today, January 25! Find more information on their website.

Logan Square: This Sunday, January 28, join Harmony House for Cats for their “Kitty Cocktails at Easy Street Fundraiser”. From 5 to 8 pm, admission is $30- including call drinks, 20 varieties of import/craft beers, sangria, and house wine. Food will be available for purchase, including appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and pizza. The event is located at 3750 N Central. Find more information on their website!

Portage Park: Summer is the time of farmer’s markets, but that doesn’t mean winter has to kill our fun! Check out the Jefferson Park Sunday Winter Park. This fabulous winter market is at the Copernicus Center Annex (5214 W. Lawrence) this Sunday, January 28 from 10 am to 2 pm. There will be live music, provided by singer/songwriter David Smith. There will be shopping bags for sale, but select booths will have them for free for the first shoppers! Vendors include Barefoot Books, Buckaroo Pepper Jam, Covered in Chocolate, Little Bison, Pappardelle’s Pasta, and WineNot Candles. Find more information on their website!


Restaurant Review – Cesar’s

When the going gets tough, the tough get Mexican food. That’s how that saying goes, right? This week took me to Cesar’s: Home of the Killer Margarita. I went to the location on Broadway (2924 N Broadway). The restaurant is gigantic, with tables spread over three floors. We came in on a weekday afternoon, so we had our pick of tables. Our waiter brought us complimentary bowls of the Sopa de Fideo: angel hair pasta simmered in a light chicken and tomato broth, topped with cilantro. It was absolutely delicious; the perfect way to start a meal on a cold Chicago day. My dad decided on the Bare-It-All-Rito, the same as a traditional burrito without the tortilla. The large bowl was filled with rice, black beans, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, topped with pork and fresh pico de gallo. The portion was huge and he said it was very tasty! My mom and I shared the Spinach Quesadillas. The fluffy flour tortillas were stuffed with melted chihuahua cheese, sautéed spinach, mushrooms, onions, and tomatoes, served with a side of chipotle ranch. These were very tasty and the portion was perfect to share. My friend ordered the Mini Burritos and I immediately had order envy. The order includes three mini sized burritos stuffed with beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and your choice of meat (she chose chicken). They are served with a side of rice, beans, guacamole, and sour cream. She loved them and I know I’ll be ordering them the next time I visit Cesar’s!

Cesar’s has another location at 3166 N. Clark St. Hours are Mondays through Thursdays from 11 am to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 am to 11:30 pm, and Sundays from 11 am to 8 pm. Hours at the Clark location are the same, except for Sundays when they are open until 10 pm. Both locations accept reservations, but they must be made 24 hours in advance and have a minimum of 8 guests. Find more information about this great restaurant here!


Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Easy Cleaning Hacks

Lemons are one of the greatest cleaning ingredients around. Use lemon juice to clean, freshen and sanitize wooden utensils and cutting boards. Grind lemon halves along with ice cubes in your disposal to seep it fresh and clean! Disposal still smelly? Clean underneath the rubber collar with a toothbrush sprinkled with baking soda. Sprinkle cut lemon halves with salt and use to scrub stainless steel sinks for a clean, fresh shine. The acid in the lemons dissolve hard water stains and works on all stainless fixtures.  Place a lemon wedge in the dishwasher for a fresh smell.

Pour a little Pine Sol in the bottom of your toilet brush holder. It will keep the brush smelling fresh and clean. Use a screwdriver and a disposable disinfectant cloth to clean the toilet crevices between the tank and the bowl.

If you have a glass cooktop, you know how grimy and greasy it can get. Combine a little Dawn dishwashing liquid with some baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Scrub the top well and let sit for half an hour. Wipe clean. Shine with a little car wax for easy clean up.

Fill a sandwich bag halfway with white vinegar. Tie around your shower head and leave overnight. This cleans all the hard water particles for a clean running shower. Vinegar is great for cleaning the microwave. Microwave a mug with ¼ cup vinegar and ½ cup water. All the baked on gunk will wipe right off.

Speaking of baked, stove grates are impossible to clean no matter how much you soak and scrub. There is a fool proof way to get them clean and shining. First, make sure you are in a well-ventilated area. Pour ¼ cup ammonia into a gallon sized freezer bag. The fumes from the ammonia do the work! Put in the grate and seal well. Layer in the sink and let sit overnight. Rinse well and scrub off any remaining gunk.

Wrap microfiber cloths around each blade of a set of tongs, secure with rubber bands. Lightly spray with all purpose cleaner such as 409 or Fantastic. Use to clean your blinds, top and bottom in one pass. Use a similar technique for air vents, wrapping a butter knife in a microfiber cloth, again spraying with cleaner.


Things Guests Notice About Your House Right Away

It’s always nice to have people come to visit, but being a host typically involves a little tidying up. But getting your home ready for guests might involve a little more than just clearing the shoes out of the front entrance or getting that pile of dishes done. Your guests will notice a lot more than what you may think.

The Smell

You may have gone “nose blind” to the scent in your home because you’ve become accustomed to it, but that smell will be noticeable to your guests once they walk through the front door – whether it’s pleasant or not. Regardless of whether the scent is coming from burning incense all day or last night’s fried fish dinner, you can bet that anyone who comes over will notice it right away.

To make sure you don’t turn anyone off, try to neutralize the odor in your home. Even smells that you might enjoy could be off-putting to others. Eliminate the source of the odors, then take some steps to improve the smell of your home. Open the windows to let some fresh air in, light a candle, or lay out a few vases of freshly-cut flowers to infuse the interior air with a waft of pleasant smells.

Counter Clutter

Your front entrance and floors may be tidy and clean, but what about other areas of your home? Table and counter surfaces are notorious for accumulating clutter which doesn’t exactly do much for the look and feel of your home. All those small appliances, cell phone chargers, or piled-up mail can create unsightly clutter that guests won’t be too impressed with.

In order to keep clutter at bay, make it a point of staying on top of the tidying. Toss out items you don’t need, and put things away in their proper places. Keep a few decorative boxes or baskets handy to store little knick-knacks that tend to linger on surfaces for longer than they really should.

Poor Lighting

One of the most underestimated and neglected components of home decor is lighting. Homeowners often pay plenty of attention to color schemes, furniture, finishes, hardware, and artwork, but it’s not uncommon for them to forget about the lighting that is needed to illuminate such components. Inadequate lighting can make a room feel dull, dingy, or even off-balance. 

Every room in the house requires its own particular type of lighting. For instance, the kitchen does well with pot lights, pendant lamps, and under-cabinet lighting, while the living room should ideally have recessed lights on dimmer switches, table lamps, and floor lamps. Proper lighting can make a huge difference in your home’s atmosphere, which your guests will certainly notice.

Bathroom Amenities

Anyone who uses your bathroom will definitely notice if you’re missing any necessities. Toilet paper, tissues, and clean towels, for instance, should always be well-stocked in any bathroom that is used on a regular basis. And if you’re hosting any overnighters, the list of amenities will grow to include things such as bath towels, shampoo and conditioner, bath soap, and maybe even a robe or hair dryer.

Before you have guests over, make sure your bathroom is equipped with everything they’ll need to enjoy a comfortable stay.

Dirty Bathroom

While we’re on the subject of bathrooms, the level of cleanliness should be mentioned. There’s nothing more disgusting than a filthy bathroom. All surfaces – including the sink, toilet, bathtub, and floors – should be wiped down before your first guest arrives.

It goes without saying that your bathroom should be kept clean at all times, whether or not you’ve got visitors. But if not for yourself, clean for your guests, because they will likely form an opinion about your level of sanitation if you don’t.

Wall Art

Whatever is hanging on your walls will grab your guests’ attention. You might not necessarily care too much about what people think about your taste in wall art, but you should know that people will definitely notice it and develop an opinion of it. It’s common for people to judge homeowners based on their choice in artwork, so if you want to make a good impression, then you may want to take a closer look at what’s hanging on your walls.

Plants and Fresh Flowers

Speaking of greenery, people have a tendency of noticing the presence – or lack thereof – of plants and flowers in a home. Generally speaking, fresh greenery evokes a positive vibe thanks to the colors and scents that it gives off. Plants and flowers have a knack for livening up indoor spaces, especially those that are lacking in decor. Just be sure to keep your greens well-watered so they’re not wilted.

Messy Fridge

If you’ve got good friends coming over who are accustomed to fetching their own drinks or snacks, then you’ll want to make sure your fridge is clean. Any caked-on spills on the shelves or rotting food products that are giving off a nasty odor should be eliminated right away. All it takes is a few minutes to go through the items in the fridge, remove whatever has stayed past its shelf life, and give the shelves a good wipe.

While you’re at it, make sure your fridge – as well as your pantry and/or bar – is stocked with everything you think your guests will need to fill their bellies and quench their thirst. One of the first things hosts usually do is offer a drink or refreshment, so be sure to have what you need to please your guests.

The Bottom Line

If making a good impression on your guests matters to you, then perhaps you might want to take a closer look at what they really notice and make any necessary changes.  Don’t bother with time-consuming tasks that guests likely won’t even notice, like vacuuming under the sofa or reorganizing your linen closet. Instead, knowing what visitors are really paying attention to can help you focus on elements of your home that really matter when it comes to impressing your guests.

THIS WEEKEND IN CHICAGO – Still Winter – Enjoy It!!

Good news is we’re halfway through January! Bad news? It’s still winter in Chicago. So, you might as well as enjoy it!

Join the Chicago Polar Bear Club for their 17th annual Polar Plunge fundraiser this Saturday at Oak Street Beach (1000 N. Lake Shore Dr.) in the Gold Coast neighborhood.  The plunge will take place at noon sharp and will be done as one big group.  Remember, all plungers MUST wear shoes and don’t forget to wear your best costume!  After all, you’re doing something crazy, so why not embrace it?  Plus, there’s a costume contest!  Afterwards, head on over to the after party at Old Town Social.  Your $35 ticket will include food, a special drink package, games, and more.  Most of all, YOU can make a difference in a family’s life who’s in need!!

There are several Chicago Park District Events taking place this Saturday for both kids and the adults (bigger kids), which include:

“Family Flakeout” at the North Park Village Nature Center (5801 N. Pulaski Rd.) in the North Park neighborhood from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Learn all about snow!  Capture and identify the different types of snowflakes, make snow people inside, and see frost crystalize right before your eyes!

“Sno-Way 16” Softball Tournament” at Rainey Park (4350 W. 79th St.) in the Scottsdale/Greater Ashburn neighborhood from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

“Polar Adventure Day” at Northerly Island (1521 S. Linn White Dr.) in the South Loop from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Activities include touring the Northerly Island natural area, seeing Siberian huskies, wolves, and other live animals, enjoying a treat at the CLIF kid healthy snack station, sipping hot cocoa while strolling across the prairie, and much more!

Join the 2018 Chicago Ale Fest – Winter Edition at Navy Pier (600 E. Grand Ave.) in the Streeterville neighborhood this Saturday in the Aon Grand Ballroom for the largest winter craft beer event in Chicago.  This fest will feature more than 150 American Craft Beers with a strong focus on winter seasonals!  There are two sessions: 12:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.  Plus, Chicago’s favorite food trucks and a DJ spinning your favorite hits will!  It’s one of the most anticipated winter beer events of the year!!

Join Joe’s Bar (940 W. Weed St.) in the Goose Island neighborhood this Saturday (1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.) for their Chitown Beernival.  It’s a beer-themed, adult carnival benefitting Autism Speaks.  Activities include a beer pong tournament, competitive flip cup, carnival games, great prizes, and more!  There’s even an after party at Sully’s House (1501 N. Dayton St.) from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  It’s guaranteed to be a great time for a great cause!!

Or, join Hofbräuhaus Chicago (5500 Park Pl.) in Rosemont this Saturday (6:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.) as they celebrate their fifth anniversary!  Festivities include a traditional keg tapping ceremony, an authentic “oompah” band direct from Germany, and performances from a 40-piece German Bugle band.  And, the first 300 guests to arrive will receive a free commemorative t-shirt!!

Enjoy Winter! It Will Go Faster!!

CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS: Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Bucktown and Wicker Park, Chicago Loop, Edgewater, Oak Park

Lincoln Park: Lincoln Park Zoo presents Murder Mystery Dinner: Totally 80s, Totally Murder. This fabulous, interactive 80s theme party has the audience participate in a live-action Clue-style game! With a three-course dinner and drinks, guests can play either a murder suspect or a detective. The event is from 7 to 10 pm on Friday, February 16 and Saturday, February 17 for ages 21 and up. Tickets are $60 for Lincoln Park Zoo members and $65 for non members. Find out more here!

Lakeview: Do you need plans for Valentine’s Day weekend? Get your tickets now for the “My Bloody Valentine” murder mystery dinner at the Skyline Club. Vlad & Peni Dreadfull’s Ma Cabaret and Cavalcade of Curiosities present their first charity mystery dinner and fundraiser in partnership with USO of Illinois. Cocktails and clues begin at 6:30 pm on Friday, February 16. You can buy your own character, participate in a fabulous raffle, and a silent auction. Dinner includes a carving station, buffet appetizers, side dishes, and a cash bar. Get your tickets for this fabulous event now, here!

Bucktown and Wicker Park: On a chilly weekend, now’s the perfect time to explore museum exhibits in the city! The Ukranian National Museum (2249 W. Superior) presents Warming Art Exhibit. Les Panshyshn is a 26 year old artist and photographer from Ukraine. This exhibit explores global warming through vibrant colors, golden planets, flamingos, and penguins. The exhibit opened on Friday, January 12 and will continue through Sunday, January 28. Hours are Thursday through Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. Admission is $5 for adults and free for children.

Chicago Loop: Chicago Symphony Orchestra presents “Singin’ in the Rain”. The CSO will perform the gorgeous music by Nacio Herb Brown live! Performances are Friday January 19 at 8 pm and Sunday January 21 at 3 pm. If you plan on attending the Friday performance, join conductor Richard Kaufman and drummer Brian Miller for a pre-concert lecture in Grainger Ballroom. These performances are part of “CSO at the Movies”. Buy your tickets here!

Edgewater: Need a little theatre in your life? Check out “Nice Girl”, opening at the Raven Theatre this Wednesday, January 24. Written by Melissa Ross, “Nice Girl” tells the story of Josephine, a 37-year old woman feeling stuck in her job, her single life, and living in her mom’s house. A new friendship and a budding romance open a world of possibilities to her. Raven Theatre “proudly presents the Chicago premiere of Melissa Ross’ play about the tragedy and joy of figuring out who you are and letting go of who you were supposed to be.” The show plays Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. It runs until March 11. Get your tickets now here!

Oak Park: Even with the super cold temperatures, there are still ways to have fun! Come to the Winter Park Fest in Oak Park on Saturday, January 27! Located in Austin Gardens, this winter event starts at 11 am. Snow or no snow, this will be a fun-packed event; complete with outdoor ice skating, music, and food. Admission is free and skate rental is just $1 (limited availability). No registration required, just show up ready to have a good time!