Behind the Build: Robbie Kolar

From sales staff and tradesmen to behind-the-scenes troubleshooters, dozens of personnel bring a Gallagher and Henry home to life. In “Behind the Build,” the Gallagher and Henry blog celebrates spirited members of our team.

Today, we introduce Robbie Kolar, a member of the Gallagher and Henry corporate office since 2016. An accountant who oversees the company’s payroll and key expense accounts, Robbie is more than the “numbers guy.” His diverse skill set has become prized at Gallagher and Henry’s home office in Countryside, where the Western Illinois University alum has emerged the in-a-pinch IT guy while also lending his creative sensibilities to advertising and graphic design projects as well.

What do you enjoy most about working at Gallagher and Henry?
It’s easily my coworkers. We all like to make each other laugh and I appreciate how reliable they are. I know I can count on any of my co-workers to get the job done. Plus, no day is the same as the one before. There’s variety here that makes the job interesting.

Gallagher and Henry’s home office is filled with people who have been with the company 20, 30, even 40 years. What’s that been like for you as a young professional?
At 29, I’m definitely the young guy in the office, but I love having all these seasoned professionals around me. They bring a focus and discipline to their jobs with endless wisdom to boot. There’s so much I can learn and do learn from them. It’s genuinely like a family here and I appreciate how they’ve accepted me.

Is there a specific example of that family environment you can share?
I recently purchased my first home and so many people rallied around me with guidance and encouragement. From the lender I used to the home inspection, so many of my colleagues were sharing insights as I went through the process and settled into my new home. There’s so much knowledge here and everybody was willing to share it with me. Honestly, I had no idea how much went into buying and owning a home, but no one here was going to let me go through the process with unanswered questions or make a silly mistake.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?
Sports is a major part of my life. I’ve been a bowler since high school and into college, so I enjoy hitting the lanes. When it comes to watching sports, I’m a huge Minnesota Vikings fan and love the White Sox and Bulls. I’m an avid video game player, too.

And when you’re hungry, what’s your go-to spot?
I’m born and raised in Lemont, so I’d have to point to two Lemont restaurants as my 1A and 1B. I’ll take the pepperoni pizza – well done, of course – at Turnabout Pizza any day of the week and you can never go wrong with a visit to the Lemon Tree on State Street.

A Seller’s Market, House Hunters, and the Undeniable Appeal of New Construction

Make no mistake, sellers of existing properties hold the edge in today’s real estate marketplace – and that clear reality is elevating the appeal of new construction.

With existing homes selling fast and at elevated prices as demand exceeds supply, homebuyers are facing intense competition for properties. For many, the homebuying process, one that should be filled with optimism and promise, has become overrun with stress and frustration. Buyers are being caught in bidding wars, forced into hurried, act-now situations, or confronting as-is properties that immediately place their investment in peril.

While some homebuyers are electing to trudge through market conditions, another – and growing – group of house hunters is embracing a different solution: they are building a new home.

It’s a (Hot!) Seller’s Market

Home sellers in the nine-county Chicago metropolitan area are in the driver’s seat right now. Consider these facts pulled from Illinois REALTORS and the University of Illinois’ Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL):

• Active listings in the Chicago metropolitan area are down nearly 50 percent from 2020.
• Current supply in the $300,000-500,000 price point, where most Chicago area homes were sold in March 2021, is half of what it was at this time last year.
• The median price of Chicago area home sales jumped from $260,000 in March 2020 to $295,000 in March 2021, a 13.5 percent increase.
• Whereas Chicago area homes in the $300,000-500,000 price range sat on the market for an average of 51 days in March 2020, those homes are now selling two weeks faster.

And it doesn’t appear homebuyers will get a reprieve anytime soon. REAL predicts that the median home prices in metro Chicago will continue to accelerate and increase by as much as 10 percent by July.

With Chicago area homes selling faster and for more money and the existing supply of resale properties on the market remaining low, homebuyers can expect more of the same in the near future, particularly on properties in the middle of the market.

New Construction Gains

Enter new construction as an antidote to the madness and a way for homebuyers to retake the wheel.

New home sales are surging across the country and locally. In fact, new construction activity from February 2021 to March 2021 soared 123 percent in the Midwest, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And for good reason.

At Gallagher and Henry, a family-owned firm that has been building homes in the Chicago area since 1954, prospective homebuyers avoid the intense, hurried environment dominating the current resale market.

Buyers will see transparent pricing on six different floor plans from Gallagher and Henry’s Lifestyle Series. With open concept layouts, flex spaces, and three-car garages, these home plans – two ranches and four two-story plans – were designed for the needs of modern living. Buyers can alter the existing floor plans and incorporate a vast array of options, in which case Gallagher and Henry staff will cost out the requested changes and share a detailed report to inform buyers’ decision-making.

In eight communities across Chicago’s southwest suburbs, you can select your lot and then finalize your home plan before crews begin construction work. A Gallagher and Henry sales associate will then guide you through the selection process one step at a time, from exterior selections like brick and the garage doors to interior selections, such as cabinets, hardware, flooring, and countertops.

The entire process, which typically runs 6-8 months, is managed and streamlined, allowing calm and calculated decision-making to replace the frenzied environment so commonplace in the resale market.

And given the frenetic pace of the resale market, doesn’t that sound nice?

Behind the Build: Ted Kielbowicz

From sales staff and tradesmen to behind-the-scenes troubleshooters, dozens of personnel bring a Gallagher and Henry home to life. In “Behind the Build,” the Gallagher and Henry blog celebrates spirited members of our team.

Today, we introduce Ted Kielbowicz, Gallagher and Henry’s controller. An invaluable member of the team at our Countryside headquarters, Ted oversees the company’s accounting functions, everything from bookkeeping and payroll to financial statements. In October, the South Side native, who is known around the office for his professionalism, collaborative spirit, and good-natured attitude, will retire after a 40-year career with Gallagher and Henry.

How did you come to Gallagher and Henry back in 1981?
I had been working in corporate accounting roles downtown, but I was eager for a change. Back then, every job hunter turned to the newspapers’ want ads and that’s where I saw the opening with Gallagher and Henry. Even though I had grown up on the South Side, where Gallagher and Henry had established itself as one of Chicago’s top homebuilders, I admit I didn’t know who they were. As a young guy, I just wasn’t too aware of who was building houses in the neighborhoods.

What appealed to you about the position with Gallagher and Henry?
Well, first, it gave me an opportunity to be closer to home and to skip the daily commute downtown. Second, when I interviewed with [Gallagher and Henry co-founder] Bob Gallagher, I could tell he was a no-nonsense guy. It wasn’t a corporate setting, but rather a family-owned business. The more direct, streamlined environment really appealed to me.

What specific roles did you fill over the years?
When I started in August 1981, the company already had numerous bookkeepers, so I started as a senior accountant type. As the company grew, I became the de facto office manager before I was made the controller.

What have you most enjoyed about your 40-year career with Gallagher and Henry?
Beyond the camaraderie with my colleagues, I have really enjoyed the work itself. In terms of accounting, this is not a simple operation. As Gallagher and Henry is a homebuilder, a land developer, and owns land, there’s quite a bit of variety and complexity involved that keeps the work interesting.

Having been with Gallagher and Henry for 40 years, seeing its evolution from the founding partners to the present day, what have you found most impressive?
Bob Gallagher purchased land at the right time and in places he thought would grow. He was such a visionary and had the drive and courage to make bold decisions. I always respected and admired his foresight and conviction. Then, from one decade to the next, the family has not budged one bit on its central mission: to build high-quality homes. Over the 40 years I’ve been with Gallagher and Henry, there have been ups and downs in the real estate market, times when it would have been easy to justify different decisions on a spreadsheet, but the family stayed committed to high quality. They have never swayed. Not one bit.

When you retire in October, what will you miss most?
Hands down, it will be the people I work with. People come here and stay here, and it is neat that so many of us have evolved together with family, kids, and other life milestones. I really treasure the relationships I have formed with my colleagues over these many years.

What do you think your colleagues might miss about you?
I hope they would say my friendship. I’m an easygoing guy and I hope they thought I was someone they could have a pleasant conversation with and considered me a thoughtful, reliable colleague.

What’s in store for retirement?
At the top of the list is certainly spending more time with friends, family, and, especially, my grandchildren. I enjoy live sports, especially the Bears and White Sox, and movies, particularly military and sci-fi action. The last couple years I’ve also gotten more involved in woodworking, so I look forward to tackling more of those projects.

Bring Health and Wellness Into Your Home

Life these days is stressful – and your home can help put you in a more positive frame of mind.

The shifting life demands have made the last year a challenging one. According to research from the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey, 67 percent of American adults report experiencing increased stress since 2020.

One noteworthy and accessible antidote: creating a healthy home environment to stimulate good vibes.

Even as we demand so much of our homes today, which have been tasked to function as classrooms, offices, gyms, and community centers all at once, some thoughtful changes can help you make your home a place a refuge and calm just as it should be.

Create Defined Spaces

When a particular space in the home is cluttered with multiple items – laptops and work files, fitness equipment, hobby supplies, and the like – it can seem overwhelming and drive anxiety. The more you can designate a space to something specific, even if it’s merely employing a curtain, bookshelves, or other furniture to create the illusion of separation, the better.

Gallagher and Henry’s six highly functional floor plans in its Lifestyle Series will support your efforts to create defined spaces that cultivate order. With spacious basements, flex rooms, three-car garages, and versatile plans that can be modified your needs, you can designate specific areas for specific functions.

Use Color to Enhance Your Mood

Not only is a fresh coat of paint on the wall among the easiest and most economical ways to invigorate your home’s interior, but certain colors also evoke certain emotions. Whereas red can be intense and frenzied, soothing colors like a periwinkle blue or muted sage can be calming and tranquil.

When purchasing a Gallagher and Henry home, you will select colors for each of your rooms. Whereas orange or yellow might be wonderful choices for a lively exercise room, soft blue walls in the home’s master suite can create a place of restfulness and relaxation.

Let There Be Light

Natural light plays an important role in affecting mood. It improves sleep (which then enhances overall health), combats depression, and increases productivity. As much as possible, let natural light flow into your home to create a bright, positive, and cheery environment.

In Gallagher and Henry’s Lifestyle Series homes, new energy-efficient Andersen 400 Series windows dot each home plan while other architectural and design features, from patio doors to transom windows to skylights, feed natural light into a home as well.

Bring the Outside In

A little greenery inside the home can go a long way to boosting your mood. Plants, after all, add color and fresh oxygen to your home. Research, meanwhile, has tied in-home greenery to higher concentration, creativity, and productivity as well as reduced stress and fewer in-air toxins.

With floor plans in Gallagher and Henry’s Lifestyle Series ranging in size from more than 2,200 square feet to nearly 3,400 square feet, you have plenty of space to incorporate greenery big and small into your home.

Create a Stress-Free Home

Your home should be a sanctuary and an environment that sparks positive energy. From fresh paint to greenery, natural light to defined, uncluttered spaces, your home can be a place that reduces stress and improves your overall mood.

Gallagher and Henry helps foster this with contemporary floor plans, thoughtful design, and the ability to customize floor plans to fit your needs and tastes.

Why a New Home Might Be the Most Affordable Home

Don’t look now, but the most affordable home might be a newly built home.

The last year has witnessed one of the most competitive real estate markets in history. Low supply and high demand for single-family homes ignited home prices, shrinking the price gap between existing properties and new construction homes.

Meanwhile, escalating renovation costs combined with the higher purchase prices have made it far more costly for homebuyers to modernize their property and bring up to speed.

Toss in the added purchasing power delivered by low interest rates and the draw of new construction has never been so great.

Supply, Demand, and a Hungry Market

Low inventory is driving the present-day’s heated real estate market. According to Realtor.com, available home inventory at the close of February 2021 was nearly 50 percent lower than February 2020.

Amid slim supply, there are also more house hunters in the market. The number of first-time homebuyers scouting properties has climbed in 2021 while move-up buyers, particularly those trading their spot in multi-unit dwellings for a single-family home with private spaces, have entered the market as well.

The mix of low supply and high demand has spurred a rather predictable consequence: elevated prices. Home prices are up more than 10 percent year over year, according to CoreLogic, and rising at a pace not seen since 2006.

And there seems to be little relief on the horizon, as forecasters expect prices to climb throughout 2021 and into 2022. Researchers at Zillow predict that the nation’s median home value will rise about 10.5 percent over the next year, while Freddie Mac’s researchers anticipate a more modest, yet still significant gain of 5.4 percent.

In the meat of the market – homes priced $300,000-500,000 in metro Chicago – buyers have flocked to existing properties, including some eager buyers making above-ask offers on the spot. The aggressive tactics then elevate the market on comp homes. Many sellers are asking themselves: If my neighbor sold in one day for $400,000, then why shouldn’t I list my similar home for $425,000?

Even for those who land an existing property, the price to modernize and renovate that home is bringing some sticker shock. Supply chain issues have made it expensive and challenging to secure materials like lumber while many contractors, flooded with job opportunities, have raised their prices as well.

Personal finance expert Sam Dagen told homeowners they should “expect everything to cost 50 percent more and take 50 percent longer.”

The Appeal of New Construction

The combination of low supply, high demand, and rising prices to purchase and renovate a home has placed a bright light on new construction.

Some house hunters are not only turning to new construction to escape the frenzied environment of the resale market, but because more and more see it as a feasible and smart investment, especially given mortgage interest rates.

At the start of 2020, the national average on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage rate sat around 3.75 percent. Then, it fell and fell and fell again, setting more than a dozen record lows over recent months. In June 2021, the 30-year national average hovered at 3 percent.

Today’s 30-year mortgage rates are down more than 50 percent from 2000 and about one-third lower than they were in 2010, a time in which “historically low mortgage rates” generated hefty headlines as the nation crawled out of the Great Recession.

Lower rates have given homebuyers increased buying power. Consider this: a homebuyer with a 30-year interest rate of 2.75 percent gains more than $23,000 in spending power compared to one holding a 3.25 percent rate.

Beyond the low interest rates, those buying new construction also avoid any immediate renovations, including the costs and hassles that come with remodeling and repairs.

This has all heightened the appeal of new construction.

With a new Gallagher and Henry home, for instance, you will pick your own flooring, cabinets, finishes, and more while the newly built home will feature all new materials and mechanicals to minimize maintenance expenses. Gallagher and Henry’s ENERGY STAR-certified homes, meanwhile, ensure lower costs and enhanced comfort.

New construction, once something a qualified homebuyer might have mistakenly overlooked, is now a more real and attractive reality, so don’t be afraid to dive in and explore the possibilities with Gallagher and Henry.

Couple Sees New Construction as the Clear Choice

With a clear eye on what they wanted in their next home and confidence in Gallagher and Henry as a homebuilder, Sarah and Dan pegged the family-owned homebuilder to construct the couple’s new home in Woodridge’s Farmingdale Village community in 2020. Sarah discusses the couple’s hunt for a new home, choosing new construction over the resale market, and putting faith in Gallagher and Henry.

Sarah and Dan began looking for a new home in the summer of 2020. “We were outgrowing our townhome in Naperville and were eager to set deeper roots with a single-family home of our own.”

The couple began their home search by exploring the resale market. “We didn’t know exactly what we wanted, but we knew what we didn’t like. We found so many homes needing a lot of updating and the thought of living through a renovation and having to invest in that wasn’t terribly appealing.”

Rather quickly, Sarah and Dan pivoted to investigating new construction with Gallagher and Henry at Farmingdale Village in Woodridge. “When we sat down with [Gallagher and Henry sales manager] Sandie Kanakes, we realized the advantages of building new and the choice became pretty clear. We hurried to sell our townhome and set up a contract with Gallagher and Henry.”

The Gallagher and Henry name was especially familiar to Sarah. Not only had about 10 family members worked for Gallagher and Henry over the years, including her grandfather, but Sarah grew up in Farmingdale Village. “I always wanted to stay in the area, so building with Gallagher and Henry in Farmingdale Village was the obvious choice.”

Still, the couple did their research. They scoured online reviews and queried family members with construction industry backgrounds. “And everything checked out. Gallagher and Henry was so highly recommended for the quality of work they do.”

A large, open kitchen was at the top the couple’s new home wish list. “Dan likes to cook and I like to bake.” The couple also wanted a basement, a large backyard, and lots of windows for natural light.

Initially drawn to the Calysta, the largest of Gallagher and Henry’s six Lifestyle Series home plans, Sarah and Dan fell in love with the Briarcliffe upon touring the model at Lemont’s Covington Knolls community. “With the open two-story foyer, the staircase, and the natural light pouring in, the Briarcliffe immediately caught our attention. Then, when we got into the kitchen and saw how it opened to the entire first floor, that really sealed the deal.”

Yet, the couple had some specific requests and wanted to explore modifications to the Briarcliffe plan. Sarah and Dan requested an extra one-foot ceiling height in the basement, a fireplace, and the addition of flagstone to the home’s front exterior. “Sandie got us pricing on those things immediately and we were able to move forward.”

Though friends warned Sarah and Dan of a complicated process when building a new home, Sarah calls her dealings with Gallagher and Henry “completely seamless” and free of stress. “I’m a second guesser by nature, but Sandie and [superintendent] Ed Holmquist were so reassuring and responsive and worked with us every step of the way. Having people who were super friendly and kind was the cherry on top of being able to build our home together.”

After selling their townhome in October, Sarah and Dan spent the next six months living with Sarah’s parents a block from their soon-to-be completed home. They visited the construction site daily and closed on the purchase March 23, 2021. “When the home was officially ours, it was actually kind of strange to have the keys all to ourselves and no one needing to lock up behind us.”

Now settled into their new home, Sarah and Dan look forward to a lifetime of making memories in Farmingdale Village. “It’s the perfect place for us to grow into.”

Construction of New Homes Is Rising. Here’s Why.

The construction of new homes in the U.S. is hitting levels not seen since 2006.

With construction starts on single-family homes rising at a double-digit rate throughout the spring and building permit applications climbing alongside them, the United States could host as many as 1.75 million new homes by the close of 2021.

So, what’s behind this new housing boom? There are four key factors driving house hunters to new construction:

#1: Limited Supply of Existing Properties

In the Chicago area and in many markets across the country, the number of existing properties on the market sits well below typical norms. In the nine-county metro Chicago area, for example, active home listings are half of what they were before the pandemic struck in March 2020. The slim supply of existing home inventory is fueling bidding wars on properties, pushing homebuyers to make fast decisions, and creating unsettling experiences.

In choosing to build a new home, you can avoid the chaotic resale market, a rushed process, and pricing ambiguity. Gallagher and Henry, for instance, is fully transparent on its pricing and has a defined, streamlined, and time-tested process for bringing your new home to life.

#2: Low Interest Rates

Yes, it’s true that low interest rates apply to an existing property just as well as they do to a new home. But rather than selecting a fixer upper or starter home – and dealing with that home’s inevitable updates, renovations, and repairs – buyers are taking advantage of historically low interest rates to get into their forever home now.

Combined with new construction’s lower maintenance costs and improved energy efficiency, buyers see taking advantage of current low rates to purchase a newly built home today as a savvy long-term financial play as well as one that gets them into their dream home.

#3: Convenience

After a year marked with inconveniences brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, house hunters aren’t much interested in additional disruptions and hassle. Many look to their home to be a place of serenity, not strife, and don’t want their home complicating life.

In building a new home, you get new mechanicals, new windows, new appliances as well as a home built in your image. That means no haggling with contractors about renovation projects or repairs and no long days spent hunting for a new oven or refrigerator at retail stores.

#4: Control

With so much out of our control over the last year, even seemingly pre-determined things such as kids being in school, so many people stand eager to regain control. New construction enables just that.

With Gallagher and Henry, you select your lot and your home plan. Then, you can customize the home to your needs and tastes, selecting colors and finishes while also working with the Gallagher and Henry team on any modifications to the existing floor plan. Whether it’s extending a flex room, a finished basement, or adding another full bath to the second floor, you have the ultimate say so on how your home looks on day one.

Join the New Construction Party

The surge in new home construction has not happened by accident. More and more homebuyers are rejecting the resale market and choosing to build a new home because of the clear financial and lifestyle benefits new construction provides.

Gallagher and Henry invites you to build your own home in eight different communities across Chicago’s southwest suburbs. With luxury elements and in-demand features like open-concept floor plans, three-car garages, and flex spaces engrained in its Lifestyle Series home plans and a track record of high-quality construction running across eight different decades, Gallagher and Henry offers an exciting solution to your home search.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, But They Both Want Updated Kitchens

Maybe men and women aren’t so different after all.

In Zolo’s 2021 Home Buyers Survey, both men and women identified an updated kitchen as one of the most desirable features in a home.

Two out of three men (67 percent) named an updated kitchen as a top priority, trailing only private outdoor space as the most prominent wish, while 64 percent of women wanted an updated kitchen. Among women’s top preferences, only updated HVAC (73 percent) and a patio or deck (65 percent) eclipsed an updated kitchen.

In a move sure to please both men and women, Gallagher and Henry’s six Lifestyle Series home plans feature gourmet kitchens packed with modern elements and high-quality materials designed for contemporary living. With its open-concept floor plans, the Lifestyle Series ensures the kitchen captures its title as the heart of the home.

A Focus on Function

We ask a lot of our kitchens these days. While the kitchen’s core purpose revolves around cooking, baking, and eating, kitchens also serve as family boardrooms, workspaces for children or adults, and social hubs. Gallagher and Henry designs its kitchens with these diverse everyday activities in mind.

In its Lifestyle Series home plans, Gallagher and Henry prioritizes functionality by mixing thoughtful layouts with usable space, extra seating, and ample storage.

  • In home plans like the Briarcliffe and Calysta, oversized kitchen islands offer additional workspace and seating, while the Fremont ranch plan hosts a second island for even more versatility.
  • The Amberwood, Briarcliffe, and Fremont plans include a walk-in pantry for hidden, yet easily accessible storage.
  • Both the Eden and Danbury have long kitchen walls dedicated to hosting various cabinetry configurations. This design offers exceptional storage solutions while also providing some visual design punch.
  • A chef’s desk in the Fremont provides another semi-private workspace, ideal as the home’s “back-office” nerve center for paying bills, crafting schedules, and other home management tasks.
  • A butler pantry in the Eden provides additional storage space and a side prep area away from the main kitchen.

In addition, Gallagher and Henry includes ENERGY STAR-rated kitchen appliances in every home. ENERGY STAR appliances use less energy, which benefits the homeowner’s pocketbook and the environment.

Delivering on Design

Alongside its clear focus on functionality, Gallagher and Henry understands homebuyers’ interest in aesthetically pleasing spaces. By blending durable materials with prudent interior design, Gallagher and Henry’s Lifestyle Series plans create style for the long haul.

You select your particular style and color of wood cabinets, a Moen faucet to sit above a double-bowl stainless steel sink, and your choice of granite countertops while countless options allow for one-of-a-kind customization.

A diverse array of hardwood flooring options, a standard feature in all Lifestyle Series home kitchens, also contributes to the overall look.

Finally, pendant lights illuminate kitchen islands and a chandelier hovering over the dining space serve a functional role while also adding a touch of distinctive style.

Kitchens for All

Pairing careful attention to detail with a mindful approach to kitchens that addresses both function and design, Gallagher and Henry’s Lifestyle Series home plans provide efficient, cozy kitchen spaces crafted for the needs of today and tomorrow.

And that’s something both men and women should enjoy.

How to Tackle Spring Cleaning with a Little Marie Kondo Inspiration

Spring is in the air, a time of blooming flowers, warming temperatures, and two words frequently uttered in homes across America: “Spring Cleaning.”

Celebrated organizing expert Marie Kondo champions a simplified, thoughtfully arranged environment as central to a serene life. Her much-ballyhooed KonMari method encourages a hands-on approach to home organization that begins with removing items that no longer belong in the home.

The KonMari method is the perfect complement to spring cleaning, where a commitment to tidying up, a focus on the essentials, and a work smarter-not harder approach can help you tune up your home and reduce the anxiety that a cluttered, messy home can induce.

Begin with a good decluttering escapade. If you can declutter first, you will capture some early feel-good spring-cleaning vibes and can more easily discern your next steps. Clear out any excess or out-of-season coats, shoes, umbrellas, purses, and other personal goods. Trash, recycle, and donate accordingly. Keep what you must and, in the spirit of KonMari, vanquish everything else.

Organize with a purpose. Everything you keep should have a place and then be in its place. In kitchen cabinets and the pantry, for instance, think like a grocery store merchandiser and stack items in a neat, orderly, and logical fashion for quick discovery.

Corral your cleaning supplies. To maximize efficiency, gather all your cleaning supplies together at the onset. Some must-have household items for spring cleaning: an all-purpose cleaner, a multitude of rags and paper towels, glass cleaner, gloves, a duster, and a sponge. Assemble the goods in one portable bin so you have what you need as you travel from room to room.

Enlist the help of the kids. Though few kids will volunteer for cleaning, it is important to make them a part of the solution – albeit with realistic expectations – so they are contributors to a well-kept home. While kindergartners might do little more than place items in a donation bag, that alone saves you some time and energy. Give one simple instruction at a time and perhaps outfit younger children with a “uniform” – gloves and an apron, for instance – to help them feel more engaged in the project.

Hit one room at a time. Adopt the baby-steps philosophy. Rather than thinking you must clean and organize the entire house in one motivated whirlwind of activity – a monumental, if not impossible task – focus instead on tidying up one room at a time, which is much more doable. Yet more, savor a sense of accomplishment when you leave that room sparkling and can move onto the next as opposed to having a series of in-process projects.

Slow and steady with the vacuum. Resist the need to hustle with the vacuum. In fact, the slower you go, the more dust and allergens you will remove.

Cap off the adventure. Find a candle or air freshener with a pleasing scent and let it run. Or, better yet, grab some fresh, fragrant flowers and place a vase on the dining room table. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

The Suburban Single-Family Home Surge

After years of homebuyers showing a preference for urban living, including multi-unit housing, the COVID-19 pandemic has put an intensely bright light on single-family homes in the suburbs.

In mass media and industry forums, mortgage brokers and real estate agents across the Chicago area and many other U.S. big cities have shared tale upon tale of city folk turning their eyes upon suburban homes. Some observers, in fact, have called it the latest urban exodus, the first of which occurred in the 1950s alongside the mainstream adoption of cars.

The appeal of dense, urban living has declined for many considering the novel coronavirus pandemic. With concerns over public health and safety, the city’s inherent allure – shorter commutes for downtown workers, public transportation, cultural events, and the city’s overall bustle among them – has withered.

More and more, urban dwellers are targeting the suburbs for a single-family home purchase, including never-before-lived-in new construction homes. Here are the top five reasons why.

#1: More Space
With homes doubling as workplaces, schools, recreation centers, and gyms throughout the pandemic, many urban residents have realized their homes are too small inside and out to accommodate such diverse needs. People, and particularly those living in space-constrained multi-unit housing, want more elbow room, more freedom of movement, and improved access to outdoor living. Quite naturally, that has spurred an increase in online searches of single-family suburban homes.

#2: Shifting Work Routines
Remote work soared amid the pandemic – and it is likely to exist well into the future for many Americans. While the swelling work-from-home reality has driven urban dwellers’ heightened interest in larger homes, including those with a dedicated workspace, the ability to telecommute has also empowered many to redefine their criteria when searching for a new home. With daily commutes reduced, if not eliminated, workers do not consider a close-to-city residence as critical.

#3: Affordability
Even the most ardent urban dwellers admit it is a challenge to get larger, economical homes close to a city’s downtown. That has fueled interest in the suburbs where homebuyers can often secure more bang for their buck.

Consider this: the median selling price of a single-family home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood hovers around $1.5 million, while condominiums in the North Side neighborhood sit over $500,000, according to Chicago area real estate data. In Gallagher and Henry’s Covington Knolls community in Lemont, a new 2,604-square foot Danbury home – a brick 4-bedroom home with 2.5 bathrooms and a three-car garage – runs less than one-third the median cost of a Lincoln Park single-family home and even less than a Lincoln Park condo. The Danbury at Covington Knolls starts at $488,700 with plenty of luxury features baked into that base price.

#4: Changing Dynamics of City Life
With its cultural events and hip restaurants, the urban lifestyle compelled many to trade space and affordability for the action outside their doors. Amid COVID-19, however, museums, ballparks, theatres, and restaurants closed, putting a dent in the urban lifestyle that is only now begin to relent.

Yet more, the pandemic has increased awareness around healthy home environments. Those who may not have thought twice about a shared elevator ride or a communal fitness center in a high-rise condo before the pandemic are now more attuned to the potential risks such spaces carry.

#5: More Focused Eyes on the Future
For many, the anxiety, stress, and uncertainty of COVID-19 prompted reflection about what they really want in their overall life, including their home. And as pandemics have happened before and could certainly happen again, individuals are increasingly open to making more permanent changes, including opting for larger homes in suburban communities.