It’s easy to start to feel a little cooped up or even anxious as we all adjust to our temporary “new normal” at home. There’s a lot of uncertainty right now, and many people are feeling some extra stress. Fortunately, there are lots of relaxing and rejuvenating hobbies that people of all ages can use to step away and decompress when cabin fever starts to settle in. (more…)
The fourth episode of Your Competitive Edge with Baird & Warner is live now and features Heidi Rogers, the assistant managing broker of our Oak Park office. In this episode, Heidi shares her expertise on working with investment buyers versus traditional homebuyers — how to find them, what they need from an agent, and what skills and training resources Baird & Warner can provide.
When it comes to setting agents up for success, we don’t just have the best tools and resources — we have the best people. That’s why we’re highlighting leaders and experts within our company in a 12-part video series with Inman. Each video will feature individuals from our company covering everything from training, culture, technology to sales strategies and our one-stop-shop approach.
Work with people who can help you really succeed. Join us. It’s easier here.
While many of us across Illinois are staying at home right now, it’s important to remember that staying home doesn’t always have to mean staying inside — especially as we head for the warm, sunny days of summer.
Going outdoors and enjoying some fresh air and sunshine can have remarkable benefits for your health and well-being. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can give you an energy boost; improve your memory and concentration; and offer a broad range of significant health benefits.
In addition to spending time in Chicagoland’s many wonderful parks and greenspaces, look for ways to make the most of your home’s outdoor living spaces. Whether you have a sprawling backyard or a small patio, here are a few ways to really enjoy your home’s outdoor areas while staying safe and comfortable this summer: (more…)
Whether you’re looking to hone a new skill, laugh your troubles away, or talk to someone who understands what you’re going through, there are lots of free or low-cost resources that can help make social distancing easier.
Remember that you don’t have to go through these unprecedented times alone. While we may all be staying distant right now, individuals and organizations from around Chicagoland have created new virtual resources and programs, so that we can all stay connected and take care of each other — while staying safe at home. (more…)
In our new normal of social distancing, video calls have become a fact of life. Video conferencing apps like Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype make it easy to stay connected with work, friends, and family — while staying safe and comfortable at home.
In the real estate industry, brokers are using video calls to reach out to their colleagues and clients, and even help lead virtual tours and open houses of listings. Baird & Warner Title Services, our very own title company, has also developed methods for 100% contactless and remote closings, to provide a seamless experience while social distancing.
Outside of work, video calls can be a great way to have a game night with friends from around the country, or even host a virtual party or get-together with your neighbors.
It can take some time to get used to video calling, especially if this technology is new to you. Looking for some tips for making sure your next video conference goes off without a hitch? Whether you’re checking in for a work meeting or celebrating a holiday with family, here are five simple ways to prepare before your next video call:
1.) Pick the Perfect Spot
Location, location, location. Before your next video call, try to find a spot in your home that can help you focus on the conversation — and minimize the risk of issues and distractions for everyone on the other end.
Look for a quiet spot in your home where there will be minimal “foot traffic” from family members (including the furry, four-legged ones). Before the call, you can even hang up a “Do Not Disturb” or “Recording In Progress” sign, to remind people to be quiet.
Try to find a place where you can speak without too much of an echo, and try to cut down on ambient noises in the background by closing the window and making sure you’ve turned off the TV and radio. Test your microphone before the call to make sure your audio input sounds clear and free of feedback.
And remember that nothing interrupts a video chat like lags and internet outages. Avoid taking calls in a room where your WiFi tends to be spotty. To help ensure better call quality, you can plug into the internet securely with an ethernet cable, or invest in a system to help boost your wireless signal.
2.) Clean Up Your Background
During a video call, remember that the other people on the line want to focus on you — not the rest of your home.
Before a call, open up a video window and see what will appear in the background behind your head and shoulders. Take some time to clean up any visible messes, and take down artwork or decorations that might be distracting or clutter up the screen.
If you can, try to find a background that is plain and simple, with solid colors that can help keep the focus on you. If you’re nervous about showing off your space, Zoom allows you to add a virtual backdrop to your calls.
3.) Be Mindful of Your Lighting
Have you ever wondered what makes professional movies and photo shoots look so good? One of the keys to a great image is proper lighting. Fortunately, you don’t have to invest in expensive equipment to optimize the lighting for your next video call. Instead, just focus on following a few important principles.
First and foremost, avoid rear lighting. When you sit directly in front of a light source, it can make your face look shadowy and obscured. Instead, try to position yourself so that the light source for the room is in front of you or off to the side, where it can brighten up your face completely.
If possible, try to avoid being lit from below or from directly overhead, as both of these positions can also create deep shadows. If you can, try to look for a light source that will look clean and natural on camera, and avoid lighting that casts you in a distracting color or makes it hard to see you on video.
Looking for more lighting guidelines? Here are a few resources worth checking out:
- The BBC offers “five tips to look your best on video calls”
- USA Today has gathered five easy ways to improve the lighting during your video calls
4.) For the Best View, Keep Your Camera at Eye Level
Whether you’re using a smartphone, a built-in laptop camera, or a separate webcam, try to set up your equipment so that you can get a clear and unobstructed view of your face.
Sit a comfortable distance away from the camera — not too close or too far. If you’re nervous about looking just right, you can have a test run before your call, to see what distance looks best, and if there are any seating arrangements that help you stay in frame comfortably.
When possible, try to set up your camera so that it is at eye level. As Aliya Chaudhry explains for Verge, this makes it so that “it appears as if you’re looking at the person you’re talking to” when you’re on screen. If your camera is too low, it looks like you’re leaning over your viewer; too high, and you’ll look small or removed. You can always create a quick, DIY platform out of books or a box to elevate your camera to just the right height.
5.) Plug In Your Favorite Headphones
Wearing headphones can make video calls easier for you and everyone on the other end of the line. On your end, plugging in headphones can make it easier to hear the people you’re speaking with, and block out ambient noises and distractions.
For the people on your video call, plugging in headphones can help cut down on echoes and feedback, and help make sure that your call remains private and secure.
How Are You Making the Most of Your Time at Home?
This is the time to remember what’s truly important — health, family, and the bonds that tie us together. Whether it’s now serving as a school, office, playground, or simply a safe space, our home has never been more important. We know this is as well as anyone. At Baird & Warner, Chicagoland has been our home since 1855.
We are here for you, no matter what. We understand that you still have important real estate decisions to make, and our mission is to make achieving those goals easier. We will continue to provide the most updated information and guide you through this extraordinary time with a calm and steady hand.
We believe in doing the right thing — for our people, for our clients, and for our communities. In fact, we developed our One-Stop Shop model so we could do the right thing for buyers and sellers by giving them the best real estate experience possible. Now we’re using our One-Stop Shop to give back to the community during this critical time.
From now until June 30, the Baird & Warner Good Will Network fund will make a $100 donation to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund whenever our clients choose to work with our own Key Mortgage or Baird & Warner Title Services. And that’s on top of the $150,000 donation we announced on March 31 to support those affected by COVID-19 across Chicagoland.
These donations help organizations across Chicagoland provide increased access to things our neighbors need right now: food and basic household supplies; rent, mortgage and utilities assistance; and nonprofit safety and operations assistance.
Our agents, loan officers, and staff have always taken great pride in supporting the communities where we live and work, and that have supported us over all these years. Now, more than ever, we’re committed to being there for our clients and our neighbors in need. So when buyers and sellers choose our One-Stop Shop, they can rest assured that they’re not only getting an easier real estate experience, they are making a real difference in our communities.
As Steve Baird said in his open letter: Chicagoland, we’re by your side — no matter what.
With the Lakefront Trail, 606, and Riverwalk out of commission for the time being, Chicagoans are without two of their favorite recreation hotspots for exercise and recreation via bike. In the suburbs too, closures have affected forest preserves and other bike-friendly green spaces.
However, biking for exercise, relaxation, and to enjoy warming Chicago weather is an excellent socially distanced activity to partake in right now, so here are a few places to still check out.
This nearly two mile path along the Chicago River between Belmont and Montrose will soon become one of the most well-known bike paths in the city. The highlight is a bridge that flies along and over the River just north of Addison (pictured above). Because it just opened last November, however, it hasn’t caught on with the masses as much as it soon will. Now is a great time to experience this beautiful ride with less people around.
The lengthy remains of a former commuter rail line, the Prairie Path stretches west from Forest Park to Wheaton, where it splits into branches to Elgin and Aurora. Following surprisingly straight lines through many populous communities, it alters between wooded forest or open space trail, running along streets and railroad tracks, sidewalks and residential streets. The impressively coordinated system, which stretches over 60 miles in total, is regarded as the first major rails-to-trails conversion in the United States.
Patching together stretches of abandoned railroad and purpose-built path additions, the Fox River Trail technically stretches over 38 miles from Algonquin all the way to Oswego. Running along one of the larger rivers in the region, this trail can offer truly spectacular views, especially in the popular stretch between Elgin and Aurora. While a few parts involve crossing surface streets, the trail’s continued popularity encourages further improvements: the City of Aurora closed a crucial mile-long gap a few years ago with a protected bike lane along River Street.
Cal-Sag and Major Taylor Trails
The 26 mile Cal-Sag, one of the region’s newest trails, ties together the south suburbs in a way no other trail can. It follows the small Cal-Sag Channel from near Lemont all the way to Calumet City near the state line. “If the Cal-Sag Trail were a health club, it would be a 3.7 million square foot recreational and fitness facility that serves everyone and costs nothing to join,” boasts the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail group.
Near Riverdale, the Cal-Sag meets its older cousin, Major Taylor. A 1990s rails-to-trails conversion, Major Taylor runs straight northwest into the city from Riverdale through West Pullman and Beverly to the Dan Ryan Woods around 83rd Street. The majority of the trail is on a comfortable, paved off-street path, but there is a 10 block gap between 95th and 105th where you’ll be on standard surface streets.
None of these near you? Here are some great resources to find other bike routes throughout our region. In the city, a great place to start is the official Chicago bike map, which maps out all bike routes and infrastructure. Taking it a step further, the Chicago Reader’s “mellow” bike map suggests hundreds of low stress corridors for bikers — bike lanes or not. There are also useful bike maps to be found for the Cook County Forest Preserves, Lake County, DuPage County, Kane County, Will County, and the entire state of Illinois.
As we all play our part in flattening the curve and keeping our communities safe, it’s easy to start to feel a little bit cooped up at home.
Fortunately, there are all sorts of ways to refresh and revive your space when you’re getting tired of your walls, furniture, and decor. Looking for some inspiration? Here are ten simple, creative ways to make your home feel just like new in no time: (more…)
Looking for fresh ways to feel inspired? In these uncertain times, it’s easy to start to feel a bit cooped up.
Whether you’re looking for meaningful words of wisdom or a fun way to relax and reconnect with your community, here are a few ways to find motivation when you need it most — and all from the comfort and safety of home: (more…)
With Illinois’ stay at home order in place for the foreseeable future, we’ve got to get creative in how we enjoy the warming Chicago weather. Physically distancing from others and avoiding large groups remain vital to slowing the spread. However, taking a scenic drive can be a refreshing, safe way to get out of the house. Here are a few of our favorites across the city and suburbs.
Lake Shore Drive
Chicago’s grand lakefront highway is obviously a tremendous place to start. Stretching over 15 miles from Jackson Park to Edgewater, LSD is easily Chicago’s most picturesque ride. With traffic at record lows these days, there is hardly a better time to enjoy the drive. It’s not only traffic that’s missing from the lakefront, though: warming temperatures usually brings Chicagoans by the thousands to the adjacent Lakefront Trail and beaches. Seeing as these areas are closed for now, a cruise down LSD is essentially the closest you can get to the lakefront.
Bluff Rd., between Lemont and Romeoville
Who says Chicagoland isn’t hilly? A stretch of this small road about two miles long between Lemont Road and Joliet Road is a local gem. It cruises along the side of, you guessed it, a bluff, and offers a great view of the adjacent Goose Lake and Des Plaines River. As the road and views are unlit, this one is definitely best enjoyed between dawn and dusk.
Sheridan Rd., north of Winnetka
The North Shore has its own answer for hilly and windy roads in a famous stretch of Sheridan Road. Heading northbound, around Tower Road in Winnetka is where things start getting interesting. Through many curves both soft and abrupt, you’ll wind your way through beautiful forestry and homes in a handful of communities along the way. It’s easy to get carried away, especially as Sheridan continues over 40 miles to the north into Racine, Wisconsin.
Ever notice certain large Chicago streets that are flanked by green space on both sides, with homes set back significantly and accessed by smaller service roads? You’re probably on the city’s historic Boulevards system, an interconnected inner ring of such streets that wrap almost entirely around the city, connecting many notable parks along the way. It begins along the famous Midway Plaisance at the University of Chicago’s campus and continues to the west and north, connecting Washington Park, Gage Park, McKinley Park, Douglas Park, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square. Conceived by a developer to raise property values on what was then the outskirts of the city, it began construction in the 1870s and remains not only a beautifully coordinated system, but a fascinating cross section of dozens of diverse communities.
Thatcher Ave., between River Forest and River Grove
Many streets run through the Cook County Forest Preserves, but this stretch of Thatcher Ave. is particularly pleasant. Some parts divide quiet residential areas from forest land, while others are wholly surrounded by woods. It also provides easy access to the Jerome Huppert and Thatcher Woods, as well as the Des Plaines River Trail.
Stony Island Ave., near Lake Calumet
When you think of scenic drives in the city, what comes to mind first? Perhaps Lake Shore Drive or vibrant neighborhood corridors? It certainly isn’t this stretch of Stony Island, which few people ever have reason to take as it’s arguably the sparsest area of the entire city. But take it you should, as you’ll find a stunning expanse of desolate prairie right in the city. You’ll also find Big Marsh Park, a massive park known for biking, hiking, and even bird watching.