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Interiors & Exteriors

When looking at a home, here are a few essential items to know about the interior & exterior.



  • A few of our favorite high-end appliance brands are Wolf, Viking, SubZero, Miele, Aga, and Bosch. 
  • For more affordable but very reputable appliance brands, we like Whirlpool, KitchenAid, and GE. 
  • Knowing the age of appliances can help you anticipate when you may need to replace them. Here is what you can expect on average:
    • Gas range: 15 years
    • Fridge: 13 years
    • Dishwasher: 9 years
    • Microwave: 9 years


  • Similar to appliances, knowing the age of the mechanicals is also important! Here’s what you can generally expect:
    • Water heater: 8-12 years
    • Furnace: 15-20 years
    • A/C unit: 14-20 years
  • Most high rises operate on a two-pipe heating/cooling system. This means that the building controls the heat and air. The best case is a four-pipe heating/cooling system, which allows you to turn on your heat or A/C.
  • Single-family homes & duplexes may have dual-zoned HVAC. The lower and upper levels have separate controls so that you do not have to pay to heat/cool the floors you are not using.


  • Hardwood floors are generally preferred over engineered wood floors. Hardwood floors can be refinished & restained.
  • Engineered floors are real wood floors, but the wear layer of the flooring is thinner than hardwood floors. This means they typically cannot be refinished, although some types allow for 1 refinishing. There are varying levels of quality when it comes to engineered hardwood flooring. Here’s some additional info.
  • In basements or duplex-down levels, tile is an excellent water-resistant flooring option. 


  • Quartz or quartzite is an awesome countertop material because it’s durable and easy to clean. 
  • Marble is more expensive but also more challenging to take care of due to its porousness.
  • Granite is fairly common and durable but not as upscale as marble or quartz.
  • Other materials you may encounter: soapstone, wood or butcher block, laminate, solid surface/Corian, tile, & terrazzo. We recommend you do some research to see if it fits your lifestyle!


Here are some interior upgrades to keep an eye out for:

  • Kitchen
    • Countertops
    • Appliances
    • Backsplash
    • New cabinets or painted cabinets (new = preferred)
    • Soft-close drawers
  • Bathrooms
    • Vanity/mirror
    • Tilework
    • Heated bathroom floors
    • Glass shower door
    • Fixtures
  • Throughout the home
    • Light fixtures
    • Carpet replacement
    • Hardwood floor refinishing or replacement
    • Neutral paint
    • LED lighting
    • New door hardware/new doors
    • Decora light switches
    • Nest thermostats & other smart home features

Renovation Planning

If the home is not upgraded, here are some tips to think about for the future:

  • The biggest value-add to a home is renovation in the kitchen & baths. Other important improvements include flooring, windows, appliances, and mechanicals. 
  • The all-white kitchen is still desirable, but many designers have moved toward adding color back into kitchens. Think about two-toned cabinets or a colored island. 
  • HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide is a great resource if you want to know how much a typical project might cost. It provides a price range based on location. 
  • Money in does not always guarantee money out when you sell later on.
  • You can spend less and make minor cosmetic updates (lighting, pulls, paint, etc.) or pay more to do a full gut. 
  • Many contractors will provide estimates for free.


Standard Chicago Lots

  • A standard Chicago lot is 25 x 125 feet.
  • Agents will market a home as “extra-wide” if they are situated on a larger-than-standard lot.

Exterior Building Materials

  • Brick is the preferred exterior building material. It does require maintenance, known as tuckpointing. Well-maintained buildings will have regularly scheduled tuckpointing completed. Ideally, the building should have a clean-looking brick exterior.
  • Vinyl siding is cheaper than brick. It is relatively easy to maintain, but it can tear or rip.
  • Split-faced block is one of the most controversial building materials because it is porous. Many Chicago buildings were built with this in the 1990s through 2009 because it was cheaper and faster, but it caused a lot of moisture issues! It can cost anywhere from $15-20k to seal a 3-unit building constructed with block, & sealing does not necessarily fix the root problem. We encourage our clients to do some research on this. 
  • Dryvit or EIFS is something to look out for. It’s basically stucco. It can be more prone to water infiltration and may cause hidden damage to the building. There is no visible evidence of this damage — it would require a separate and invasive inspection outside of a home inspection.
  • TLDR; in order of preference, you are looking for:
    1. Brick
    2. Siding
    3. Block
    4. Stucco


  • On average, here’s the average lifespan of roofs based on material:
    • Slate, copper, tile: more than 50 years. 
    • Wood shake roofs: 30 years. 
    • Fiber cement shingles: 25 years. 
    • Asphalt shingle/composition roofs last about 20 years.
  • Most roofs in the city will last about 20 years.


  • Most windows last 15-30 years.
  • In terms of materials:
    • Wood windows: known for longevity
    • Fiberglass windows: super low maintenance
    • Vinyl windows: more affordable.
  • Newer windows should be double-hung. 
  • Pella and Andersen are reliable window brands. 

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