By Lacey Sikora
In Oak Park several home-grown real estate firms recently joined forces with larger, national firms to increase their market prowess.
While bigger may be better in some respects, other experienced realtors are taking a different tack and staying small. Eli Schultz and Michael Nowicki formed a new boutique real estate company, Ideal Location, in 2017. By keeping their focus local and personal, they are acquiring a number of interesting listings, including a Queen Anne-style stunner on Elmwood Avenue.
Popular during the Victorian era, the American Queen Anne style is characterized by turrets, wrap-around porches, classical columns, second-story porches and gabled roofs. Builders utilized the style frequently in Oak Park through the early 1900s, and many of the local homes in the style are clad in wooden siding.
While 159 N. Elmwood Ave. checks the boxes for gabled roof, columns and porches, Schultz and Nowicki point out that the home is one of just a handful of brick homes in the Queen Anne style in the village.
Architectural surveys of the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District list its build date as 1902 and its original owner as A.J. Dove, but little else is known about its architectural provenance or early occupants.
Mix of old and new
Listed at $1,075,000, the four-bedroom, three- and one-half bathroom house boasts over 6,000 square feet of living space on four finished floors and blends the old and the new throughout.
The foyer includes original woodwork and an imposing staircase lined with leaded glass windows leading up to the upper floors. A double parlor at the front of the home has original touches such as pocket doors and a wood-burning fireplace. The dining room opens to the new addition. Schultz says of the kitchen and mudroom addition, "the back of the house is huge now."
The new kitchen features a large center island, professional appliances and white cabinetry. It leads directly to the atrium-style mudroom, which has a ground-floor access to the backyard and plenty of storage for a family's worth of gear.
A rear staircase from the mudroom leads to the basement media room. The room was dug out as part of the 2014 addition to the home and features radiant-heated floors. The basement also includes a full bathroom, a bonus family room, laundry room and a second set of stairs leading to the first floor.
Four bedrooms share the second floor, including a master suite with a private bathroom and sunporch. The other three bedrooms share a recently-remodeled hall bathroom.
The finished attic space is currently used as a bonus room, but Schultz sees many possibilities for the space.
"I really love how these windows up here are enormous," Schultz said. "You could make this the master bedroom and have a huge space."
Location, location, location
While the size and finishes of the house are impressive, there's more to the home than space and décor. A garage coach house offers a studio apartment, and the realtors agree that the location of the house is one of the best in the village. Within walking distance of schools, Lake Street, the CTA Green Line, the farmers' market and parks, the home may be an ideal location for many prospective buyers.
For Schultz and Nowicki, it is just affirmation that they made the correct choice when choosing to name their boutique real estate firm Ideal Location. Nowicki notes that he and Schultz paired up in 2017 after he found out that the larger real estate firm he worked for was being sold. He notes that change is never easy, but it seemed like a good time to make a leap.
"After meeting with several bigger firms, we decided that it was the right time to go off on our own," Nowicki said. "Real estate is local, and Oak Park is a niche market. We like to think of ourselves as your local alternative to the 'big box' firms."
For them the timing was right to make a go of it on a smaller scale, in part because of the tools available to all realtors, and in part because of their strong belief in the community they both call home.
"Advancements in technology level the playing field for small firms like ours," Nowicki said. "Our listings go everywhere the big firms' listings go. What separates us is our involvement in this community. Not only are we putting our personal reputation out there, but also the reputation of our families."
The two native Oak Parkers are dedicated to making selling homes a business that is local on all levels. They support independent vendors in the neighborhood and local contractors for painting and repairs. In doing so, they say, they're part of the ecosystem of local businesses helping each other out.
It also helps that the duo live in Oak Park and raise their kids where they work. For Nowicki, keeping it local means a better experience for their clients.
"Eli and I help our clients like we'd help one of our siblings," Nowicki said. "I think that's why we have such a strong personal referral business."
Answer Book 2018
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