By Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago

While many of their empty-nester friends have swapped suburban houses for condos downtown, Susan and Butch Honaker opted to stay in Northfield. They had owned a house on an acre of land for 32 years, and in January they moved into a newly built house 2 miles away.

“We still want the trees and the yard and the patio,” says Susan Honaker, whose husband recently retired from Goldman Sachs. “We’re changing our lifestyle but we didn’t want to let go of the comfort we feel in Northfield.” Staying in the same town kept them close to their preferred shops, restaurants, clubs and doctors.

Seniors like the Honakers are a hot market these days for North Shore builders, several of whom are rolling out developments designed expressly for empty nesters. These aren’t vast subdivision tracts but small clusters, some a few blocks from village centers, with as few as two and as many as two or three dozen houses. Builders aren’t pursuing frugal seniors who buy on the fringes of suburbia to trim costs, but people who can afford to stay in pricey locations but need something more aging-friendly.

Empty nesters are a good group for builders to target now because “their finances are in a better position than the first-time buyer,” says Jerry James, president of Glenview-based Edward R. James. His company built the six-home Hibbard Gardens development where the Honakers, both 68, now live and has similar projects selling or on the way.

“They have equity in their homes and they’re usually buying with that or with cash,” James says. While many first-time or move-up buyers may struggle to secure financing, he says, high-end empty nesters make up a “more secure sector of the housing market to be in.”

Edward R. James has larger developments that cater to empty nesters selling in Glenview and Park Ridge, and has submitted plans for a 37-home development in Northbrook. Jacobs Cos. has five projects teed up in Highland Park, Northbrook and Deerfield, with a total of 55 units designed for empty nesters, according to CEO Keith Jacobs. In Deerfield, seven homes are planned for a site off Deerfield Road by a partnership of Investcom and Group One Investments. Robert Wolkoff of Group One says his firm is scouting similar opportunities.

Some of these builders were aiming at empty nesters before the housing bust and are reviving their efforts. In 2010, Wolkoff did a set of six empty-nester condos in Northfield called the Isabella, with prices in the upper $700,000s and $800,000s. During the downturn, when many seniors were holding on to their old homes because of shrunken equity, he ended up renting some of the units. The last two sold this spring.

With seniors’ home equity rising, Wolkoff says, “they’ve got the resources again and when they step down to something smaller, they want to live well.”

Prices started at $1.5 million at Hibbard Gardens. Other developments range from the upper $500,000s up to the Hibbard Gardens level. Comparisons on a per-square-foot basis aren’t easy, because they offer differing packages of amenities, such as landscape and home maintenance.

Building these homes requires making accommodations for aging bodies, such as first-floor master bedrooms, doorways that can accommodate a wheelchair and bathrooms with space to install grab bars.

The buyers’ high net worth adds another set of considerations. “They came from larger homes and they’re used to what that offers,” says Claudia McLaughlin, whose Chicago-based company, CMF Transitional Organization, helps wealthy seniors move to their later-stage homes. “She’s used to having a spacious kitchen with potentially storage for five or six sets of china and her silver, and he’s still going to his club for his golf game” and wants to come home to a wood-paneled library.

On top of that, “you think about the fact that they probably have a second home they spend time in,” Jacobs says. At his developments, that means putting most serviceable utilities in the garage so that tradespeople can work on them without entering the home. He also includes web cameras and microphones so out-of-town owners can respond to people at the front door back in Chicago.

“You can be at your vacation home in Mexico but answer the doorbell, so people think you’re home” but unable to come to the door, he says.

Jacobs has targeted North Shore empty nesters for two decades, building Highland Park’s Hybernia subdivision in the 1990s and Legacy Club in the early 2000s, among others. Building simmered down for several years because of the downturn in the economy. But as things have improved, he says, “people kept coming to us saying there’s nothing for them in these communities they’ve lived in and raised their kids in.” They want ground-floor living and low maintenance while maintaining the luxury and location to which they’ve been accustomed.

After focusing for the past few years on family homes, Jacobs expects about 50 of the 65 homes his firm plans to build in the next two years will be for affluent empty nesters.

But that’s not what he calls these couples whose kids are grown and out of the house. He refers to them as the “newly liberated.”

Andover Sunroom

By Taylor Johnson As seen in PATCH

Longer days mean more hours of sunlight to showcase some spectacular homes – especially those with sunrooms.

Sunrooms are popular among townhome buyers  according to Jerry S. James, president of Edward R. James Homes. The builder is currently developing Brighton Mews, a new community of 29 luxury townhomes in the heart of downtown Park Ridge. Buyers have the choice of four different floor plans, which offer the option of a four-season sunroom or a screened porch, plus an 11’ x 8 ½’ deck. “Homebuyers love the feeling of being connected with the outdoors, even when they’re inside” said James. “And the great thing about these spaces is that they are easily accessible from the main living area, offering lots of natural light into the kitchen/great room area where buyers spend a lot of their time.”

By Taylor Johnson as seen in Wilmette-Kenilworth PATCH / Chicago Tribune –Deerfield Community

Chicago developers build luxury ‘spec’ homes in top north suburban locations

If you build it they will come” has never seemed more true than now for a handful of Chicago developers building luxury ‘spec’ homes in top north suburban locations. With luxury home sales in the Chicagoland area continuing to thrive and the North Shore posting some of the lowest inventory for homes over $1.5 million, firms such as Edward R. James Homes, Foxford Communities, Kinzie Group and Meritus Custom Builders, all have various styles of new-construction, custom-designed homes on the market in established, sought-after neighborhoods like Glenview, Lake Bluff, and Winnetka.

“While today’s time-strapped, savvy homebuyers want a home that’s been customized to suit their lifestyle, most don’t want to commit to the long time frame that comes with building a custom home from the ground up,” said Peter Brennan, president of Foxford Communities. “With a custom spec home, we can save buyers months off the home-building cycle, and still deliver the luxury home they envisioned with one-of-a-kind features such as reclaimed wood ceiling beams, intricate tile work and hand-stained wood panels, ensuring no two homes are alike.”

Here is a sample of just some of the luxury spec homes currently available in the north suburbs:

1425 Glenview Road, Glenview – Edward R. James Homes Designed and built by Glenview, Ill.-based Edward R. James homes, one of the North Shore’s oldest and most respected builders, this 4,300-square-foot custom residence features five bedrooms and 4.2 baths, and is nestled on a wooded ½-acre lot in southeast Glenview, just a short walk from downtown Glenview and the Metra. Listed at $1,595,000, this home’s large enclosed rear yard and deck make it a perfect fit for families looking for a lot of space and access to Glenview’s outstanding public and private schools.

The home boasts natural light, large bedrooms, a spacious mudroom with a three-car tandem garage and a finished lower level, to name just some of the elements that cater to an active family. And for the discerning buyer, finishes and design details include first-floor hardwood floors, Viking stainless steel appliances, Brookhaven by Wood-Mode cabinetry, granite countertops, arched openings, a formal dining room and butler’s pantry, and crown moldings.

“Our goal for this home was to combine the charm, elegance and craftsmanship of an older home, with the amenities and proportions that today’s modern family wants,” said Priscilla Schumacher, director of sales and marketing for E. R. James Realty. “We’ve included a large eat-in kitchen, complete with an island, family eating area, and an adjoining place to relax in front of the fireplace. Beyond those goals, we wanted to offer a great location, exceptional schools and a home that provides superior costs of ownership and lower maintenance than competing re-sales. We’re pleased to say, we think we’ve hit all of those objectives and are excited for the fortunate buyer that ends up making this their next home.”

For more information on 1425 Glenview Road, visit

Glenview, IL based homebuilder Edward R. James Homes announced that Westgate at The Glen, a 171 –unit community in Glenview, Ill is 50 percent sold just over seven months after opening sales.

Local builders discuss why purchasing a new home during winter months can be to a buyer’s advantage. Jerry S. James, principal with Edward R. James Homes, share’s that “builders like to maintain sales momentum, with fewer buyers coming through their doors, the odds are better that you’ll be able to secure a home at a better price or on better terms than waiting until the spring when builders have more traffic

Edward R. James Homes community draws buyers to maintenance-free rowhome, cluster single-family and mews townhome units

CHICAGO (January 9, 2015) –Glenview, Ill.-based homebuilder Edward R. James Homes announced that Westgate at The Glen, a 171-unit community in Glenview, Ill., is 50-percent sold just over seven months after opening sales. An additional 32 reservations have been made for the community’s 70 rowhomes, 38 cluster single-family homes and 63 mews townhomes, which will be delivered in two phases.

“The sales for Westgate at The Glen have been terrific, and reflect the strength of demand for the right type of home in the right location at the right price,” said Jerry S. James, president of the Edward R. James Companies. “We’re seeing buyers of all ages who desire maintenance-free living in a quality home that’s in a prime North Shore location. It’s the trifecta many of today’s homebuyers have been waiting for.”

The first phase of Westgate at The Glen includes 38 rowhomes, all of the cluster single-family homes and 38 mews townhomes. Delivery for the first phase is anticipated for the summer of 2015. Pricing at Westgate at The Glen ranges from the upper-$400,000s for the mews townhomes, on up to the $800,000s for the cluster single-family homes.

Each of the three housing lines offer a minimum of three bedrooms, with 2½ baths, a two-car attached garage, private outdoor spaces, and high-quality interior finishes. There are four mews townhome floor plans, which range from 2,030 to 2,217 square feet, include three bedrooms and 2½ baths, with an optional fourth bedroom with full bath. Each plan features a rear private deck connected to a screened-in porch that has an option to be converted into a den, and the interiors include hardwood flooring, Kohler® Coralais kitchen and bathroom fixtures, and energy-efficient utilities. “Like the available single-family homes and rowhomes, the mews townhomes feature very elegant interiors, and the private outdoor spaces further elevate the living experience,” said James.

Both the cluster single-family and rowhome floorplans include a first-floor master and unfinished basement. The remaining two-story cluster single-family homes range from 2,620 to 2,971 square feet, and some plans offer an optional fourth bedroom and finished basement. The rowhome floorplans run from 1,885 to 2,464 square feet, with an option for a finished basement.

James noted, “The appeal of a maintenance-free community extends beyond those looking to downsize, and includes first-time buyers who value the convenience of the location and the lifestyle these homes offer. Professionals of all ages like the peace of mind that their home is maintained while they travel for work.”

All homes at Westgate at The Glen are located within a pedestrian-friendly land plan, and within proximity to the Glen Town Center shops, restaurants, Metra train station and both the Glenview Prairie Club Golf Course and The Glen Club’s 18-hole championship golf course.

“When we built Southgate, our first community in The Glen, our buyers were looking for traditional larger, single-family homes. Today, some of those same buyers and many others from around the area have seen their kids grow up, and now, they’re looking to downsize while remaining close to where they raised their families. They’re looking for less upkeep, more time, quality finishes and convenience. At Westgate, we’ve introduced three different home styles that appeal to that customer segment. And having reached the 50-percent sold mark in just seven months signifies to us that the right product, in the right location at the right price is the winning combination for both builders and buyers.” said James.

Located less than 20 miles north of Chicago, Ill., at the corner of West Lake Avenue and Shermer Road, Westgate at The Glen is a maintenance-free community within The Glen, an 1,100-acre mixed-use development on the site of the former Glenview Naval Air Station. For more information on Westgate at The Glen, visit

The Westgate at The Glen Sales and Design Center is located at 2090 Shermer Road in Glenview, Ill., and will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every Thursday through Monday. To schedule an appointment, please call 847-955-1213.


About Edward R. James Homes

E.R. James Realty, LLC, provides sales and marketing services for the Edward R. James Companies communities, using its own staff of licensed real estate professionals to manage and supervise all sales and marketing activities. The firm shares the Edward R. James history of delivering superior homebuying experiences in the Chicago area and Midwest for more than six decades.

About Edward R. James Companies

Headquartered in Glenview, Ill., the Edward R. James Companies are a privately held group of companies engaged in real estate development and homebuilding. The group has developed properties in the Chicago area, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Florida, and specializes in unique infill locations. Edward R. James Companies’ experience spans six decades, and includes single-family and multi-family planned developments, high-rise and mid-rise condominiums, custom homes, as well as golf course, marina, senior living, retail, and transit-oriented mixed-use communities. For more information, visit

Editors:           For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Julie Liedtke at [email protected] or (312) 267-4521.

Photo caption:The Edward R. James Homes community, Westgate at The Glen, is 50-percent sold. Located in Glenview, Ill., the 171-unit community includes 38 cluster single-family homes, 70 rowhomes, as well as 63 mews townhomes (shown).

Chicago Tribune, Glenview Announcements

Glenview Based, Edward R. James Companies has a long history of being a business committed to families and the village. “We believe a community is a community of people, where they work, live and play. We try to build something that is an enhancement” says Jerry James.

Click here to read full article and learn more…

Less Competition Means More Choices, Lower Pricing, Less Stress over Move-In Dates and More Room to Negotiate

Housing market is expected to see gradual growth in home prices and inventory in 2015. Real estate experts share their 2015 housing market predictions and offer insight on the current market and how it will impact buyers and sellers in the coming year.

North Shore Weekend features the latest custom, luxury home built by Glenview based, Edward R. James Homes located at 1425 N. Glenview Road.