Let’s All Watch Easy on Netflix

There’s a new eight-episode series coming out on Netflix next week, written and directed by the very awesome Joe Swanberg. It’s called Easy, and it’s set in Chicago. Here’s the trailer:

It’s always fun to see things that were filmed in Chicago, and it’s even better when they venture outside of the Loop into other neighborhoods. If you’re familiar with Lincoln Square, you’ll recognize the Davis Theater, Baker Miller, and more.

You’ll also recognize a lot of funny famous people, like Orlando Bloom (my #1 reigning crush from 2001-2003), Malin Akerman (Trophy Wife should still be on the air), Jake Johnson (national treasure), Hannibal Buress (best known as the 30 Rock hobo – j/k), Aya Cash (You’re the Worst is an unexpected delight), and Elizabeth Reaser (wonderful in everything she’s in, including my brother’s film One & Two).

And, there’s one more fun thing to keep an eye out for: our house!

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That’s our bedroom, but that’s not our quilt, and that’s definitely not Jarrod and me.

This past February, we turned our property over to a production crew, dropped off our cats with a friend (thanks again, Ben!), and checked into a hotel for 10 days. We had a wonderful staycation in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood while an episode of Easy was filmed at our house in Albany Park.

I have very little idea what transpired while we were gone, and I’ve heard only a few details about the show’s plot. Even if I didn’t know and love Joe, I would know and love his movies: they’re funny, candid, and sweet without being pandering. So, I’m doubly excited to see the show.

After filming wrapped, we returned to a clean house and inquisitive neighbors. Only a few clues remained to remind us that our home was someone else’s for a spell: a stranger’s pants in our closet, a production schedule in our garage. One morning, several weeks later, I took a carton of eggs out of the fridge and discovered they weren’t my eggs: they were showbiz eggs, neatly cracked and stacked.

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Easy comes out on Netflix on Thursday, September 22. Let’s all watch it and keep an eye out for omelettes.

Chicagoans: Sign Up for a Water Meter!

If you own a house in Chicago and don’t have a pool or an indoor water park: GET A METER. I am very grateful my coworker happened to mention MeterSave to me (thanks, Curt!), so now I am mentioning it here. If you don’t own a house in Chicago, tell your friends and loved ones who do.

When we bought our house, I had no idea how Chicago’s water service worked because I never had to deal with it as a renter. I was surprised to learn that the city estimates water usage based on the size of your house, or the number of faucets, or the cut of your jib. Chicago is moving to a metered system so that they can measure actual usage instead of guessing. Make sense. Having a meter installed will be a requirement in the future, but for now they’re trying to lure people to sign up via their fancy website (“Version 1.0 Copyright 2009”) and dreamy headshots.

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The meter and installation are free: absolutely no cost to you. The installers need access to your main water valve. That was easy for us, as we had recently gutted the basement. They installed the meter here:

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They also installed a small radio instrument to the front of our house. It’s currently the most attractive thing happening in that area.

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With only two people living in our house, I knew we’d use less water than the city’s estimate, but I was still surprised by just how dramatically cheaper our water bill is now. Without a water meter, the City of Chicago would have charged us $560 every six months — nearly $100/month, making it our most expensive utility on average. With the water meter, we’re averaging $18 a month. If the price and our usage remains about the same, the water meter will save us around $900 a year. 

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If you know your water account number, proceed straight to www.metersave.org and sign up for an appointment. Note: the online form suggests that you’re scheduling an exact time, but when you get appointment reminder it’s revealed that you signed up for a two-hour window.

If you don’t know your water account number, call 312-744-4420 to ask for it! Don’t wait until you get your first six month bill to find out your number, or you’ll have wasted money. They prorate your bill from the time of installation, so the sooner the better. (That “CR” in the statement above is a credit — our non-metered water payment is paying it forward.)

April 22 is both Earth Day and my husband’s birthday. Jarrod is my most enthusiastic and supportive reader, and he’s a pretty great teammate for life. So, this proselytizing post is in his honor. HBD, JMR!

House Offer Number 5

The risk with building up to our fifth and final offer is an Arrested Development-style “Her?” skepticism in response to our new house. If you have any doubt upon seeing these photos, you’ll just have to trust me when I say that, after a full year of searching, we know we landed a really great house for us. As I did with the other houses, these are the MLS photographs: I won’t try to make it look any better or worse. In real life, it looks both better and worse.

Offer Number 5: End of the Line

Location: Albany Park. Just south of the river, and so much closer to the train than we ever expected to be able to afford. It’s a 0.2 mile walk to the Kimball Brown Line station. That’s nothin’! We had hoped for the Kedzie stop, but homes simply weren’t being listed in that area. So, it’s the end of the line both literally and figuratively for us.

In addition to the Brown Line, we’ll be on three main bus lines. The Foster bus gets us to Andersonville, the Kimball bus takes us to Logan Square, and the Lawrence bus is a quick trip to Lincoln Square. We have friends along all of these routes and we’re excited to be so easily connected to them via public transit.

Why We Made an Offer: The first floor layout was unlike any other we saw. It felt so spacious and gracious. The living room flows into the kitchen/dining room, but there’s also a nice separation — one of us (Jarrod) can be in the kitchen listening to The Gist while the other (me) is in the living room watching Orphan Black. It’s also on an oversized lot: 40’x125′ vs the standard 25’x125′. In a crowded city, owning some extra outdoor space is a great luxury.

The open, light-filled kitchen is perfect for us. We don’t need or want a formal dining room, and I can see all our friends hanging out around that huge island.

The kitchen, of course, isn’t my style but I haven’t seen a single one that is. Remodeling a kitchen was in the cards for us no matter what, and this kitchen is functional and modern enough to last us several years.

Though it looks formidable in that exterior shot, it’s a great floor plan for us. Roughly 1600 square feet, with two large bedrooms and full bath upstairs plus a half bath on the first floor. Two toilets for the first time in 9+ years of living together: it’s going to be a game-changer.

I love this central staircase so much. If you’ve been in any Chicago bungalows, you know how rare open staircases are. They are usually cramped, steep afterthoughts. This one is sunny and beautiful. This staircase feels like a home.

Listing Price: $339k (no MLS link because, ya know, it’s our new address!)

Our Offer: $340k. We feel very lucky to have purchased this property in this market without getting into a bidding war. We have the tornado sirens and the Chicago Blackhawks to thank: we got into this house on that crazy Game 7 night and made an offer immediately. They accepted the next day and immediately had back-up offers from other prospective buyers.

There’s a great mix of short and long term projects: some expensive stuff we’ll need to pay for right away (e.g. plumbing work), some expensive stuff that will be fun to plan for over several years (e.g. redoing the kitchen, bathroom and, well, everything else), but also lots for me to do on my own. I see so many things that I’ll enjoy tackling without spending a lot of money. That’s what I’m most excited about: it’s a project house that is great and livable now, and I see a clear path for years to come to make it even better. PROJECTS FOR LIFE.

That’s it for now! I wrote this post on Thursday night and hit “Publish” as soon as we successfully closed today (hooray!). I’ll be back with so many more details: the exact timeline and all the drama that happens between offer and close, details about finances, and lots of photos of the house and all my plans for it.

House Offer Number 4

We’ve reached our penultimate offer, which I thought for sure would be our final offer. I was certain this house was The One.

Offer Number 4: Bernard Basement Bar

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Location: North Park. This house was south east of the property you saw yesterday, and it made a world of difference in how we felt about the location. It doesn’t seem like much, but 0.6 miles vs 0.4 miles to the train is a big difference when you’re trekking in Chicago weather. Bernard is a lovely street with well-maintained houses. It has a great neighborhood feel, with a new public library to the north and a quaint pedestrian bridge to the south. I would have crossed the Chicago River every day on my walk to the Kimball Brown Line stop.

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Why We Made an Offer: We loved this house. We didn’t have to talk ourselves into it: it simply had what we were looking for, both practically and emotionally. It was far from perfect — it reeked of smoke, the garage was falling down, they hadn’t done any major updates (roof/electrical/pipes) — but it was special in a way that made the flaws worthwhile.

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Most of the bungalows we saw had cramped floor plans, but this one felt spacious. It did have the traditional formal dining room, whereas we were hoping for a more open kitchen/dining area, and that’s one of the things I think about now to mitigate our disappointment.

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I didn’t expect to love the vintage bungalow aesthetic, but it was an appealing balance of historic character and a few modern cosmetic updates. Most notably, the kitchen had been renovated in the 90s — obviously not my style, but very clean and generally well laid out.

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There were three rooms upstairs that would have been great for guests. For our day-to-day lives, though, it was an overabundance of space for a family of two.

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I don’t have any photos of the best part: a vintage basement bar, complete with pool table. I’m sorry I failed you on that front! I usually don’t take pictures when we tour homes because I’m too busy asking questions and inspecting everything. I think this is the right way to tour a property, but the wrong way to be a blogger.

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Listing Price: $349k (Link to Redfin listing)

Our Offer: We initially offered $345k, hoping that the smoke, dilapidated garage, and lack of major updates would discourage other offers. In any other market, that would have been a strong offer for a house in this condition in this part of the city. But Chicago’s current market is inflating prices. The seller’s agent asked all bidders to submit their best and final offer. We raised to $360k and threw in a personal cover letter to the seller as a Hail Mary. Our agent responded “If someone trumps this, nothing you could do. Nice job of stepping up!” That made us feel good, and that’s what saves us from having any regret with this property. We did what we could, and offered the most we could given the amount of work needed.

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I want to give props to the seller’s agent, Carmen Rodriguez. She was the best we’ve encountered: she kept us informed at every stage of the process and we were never left wondering what the status was. She even emailed Seth after we lost the house, saying “This was a competitive process and my client did spend time to carefully review and consider all components of each offer she received. Your clients’ cover letter was, in particular, very well received. As it stands, she selected another offer that had a combination of sale price and terms which better suited her situation at this time.” That really softened the blow.

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I received the Redfin update yesterday that the property had sold for $362k. That doesn’t mean if we had thrown in an extra $3k we would have won the house: the price likely was renegotiated after the inspection, and the buyers had more appealing terms (e.g. a larger down payment). So, no regrets! Especially since we close on a house tomorrow that we are just as excited about.

See you tomorrow afternoon for our fifth, and final!, offer.

House Offer Number 3

If you’re just dropping in: we close on a house this Friday and this week I’m recapping each of the five properties we made an offer on. For other Chicago house hunt posts, check out Offers Number 1 and Number 2.

Offer Number 3: Garage By No Bars

5121drakeLocation: North Park.

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North Park is just north of Albany Park, with the Chicago River demarcating the two areas. It’s a nice neighborhood with reasonably-priced single-family homes and historic charm. It’s primarily residential, without many shops and restaurants, and it can be a hike to the train depending on where you’re located.

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The “by no bars” part of our nickname for this house is because North Park is dry. There are no bars, and the few restaurants in the area don’t serve alcohol. As we understand it, we have Mayor Daley’s 1990s vote-dry campaign to blame. Some neighborhood groups are working to overturn the ban: godspeed!

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Why We Made an Offer: This house was solid and filled with light. The owner’s renovations weren’t my style, but they were done well because he expected to be in the home long-term. He had paid for the un-fun, expensive major repairs: new roof, new wiring, and new copper pipes.

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To explain the “garage” part of our nickname: the owner had built a truly enormous garage. At least 18 feet high on the inside, custom oversized door, extra deep. I have no idea what he did in there, but we could have parked five Subaru Foresters. Check out this satellite view to compare it with the two garages on either side! You could see it from space.

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Listing Price: $340k (Redfin link to listing)

Our Offer: $320k. We could have moved into a clean, functional home on a nice street and made it ours over time… but nothing about this house sparked our excitement, and the location was a compromise. It wasn’t a must-have home, so we didn’t offer top dollar.

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When the seller’s agent put out a call for “best and final” offers, we chose not to raise ours — especially because a more exciting house had come on the market. See you tomorrow for Offer Number 4!