Profile: Jill, the Carfree Realtor

by crandell | 02/15/2009

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Jill Press takes the express bus to downtown.

Jill Press is a Chicago Realtor who manages her work and home life without a car. Born in Chicago, she received her BA in Journalism from Temple University in Philadelphia and remained in Pa. before returning to her home city in 1995. Jill has been a Realtor since 1997 and specializes in lakefront properties in the city. She lives in East Lakeview. You can read more about her experience as a carfree Realtor on her new blog, Jill Press Box.

How long have you been carfree and why did you choose that lifestyle?

I've been car-free since 1983.

I'd moved to Philly in August 1982 along with my then four-year-old son, leaving our 200-year-old log cabin-turned-three-bedroom-house on two secluded, wooded acres in rural Berks County, Pa.

After a few short months living in Center City, I came to realize that owning a car in an urban environment was just not for me. I was not geared up (!) for auto maintenance; insurance rates were sky-high; finding parking was a major debacle if I'd get home after 8 p.m. Sound familiar?

Plus, Center City was such a cute, self-contained little neighborhood. I had all the shops, my gym, everything within easy walking distance; there was no reason to keep a car.

So I bought a bicycle, a Fuji 12-speed which I still ride, placed an ad for my white VW Rabbit in the Philadelphia Inquirer, sold it for my asking price and never looked back! In fact I have had a goal ever since: never to own a car again...

I'm guessing being a buyer's agent, you have to travel around the city a lot with clients. How do you show clients properties without a car?

As a car-free realtor, working with buyers is easy and enjoyable! First, understand that most people in the city own a car; couples often own more than one. Example: I'm working with a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, and we're scheduled to see six houses one afternoon in the Jefferson Park/Portage Park areas. Depending on where I'm meeting them and where I've been just prior to our appointments, I simply take CTA (bus or train) or a taxi and meet them at our first showing; then I ride along in their car for the remaining five showings. When we're done, I make my own way to my next destination.

I feel I add far more value to buyers as their agent when I am pointing out neighborhood sites, answering their questions, and discussing pertinent real estate issues while one of them does the driving and the parking.

Before I start working with a new buyer I let them know that I am a "hard core urbanite" who doesn't believe in having a car in the city; that it is a personal lifestyle choice, one that I embraced long before getting into real estate; then I proceed to explain how I work and no one has ever objected!

In the rare instance that a buyer of mine does not own a car, he or she will be looking to live somewhere along the lakefront in close proximity to CTA. Makes sense! So, again, I will meet the buyer at the first location, most often a downtown high-rise. Then we can usually walk to the other buildings in the same vicinity. If it's not an easy walk, I take us in a taxi.

One out-of-state couple actually asked me to show them how to take the CTA. They said, "We want to be like Jill." So we took a bus, we took the Red Line, we took taxis; and they bought a condo and moved to Streeterville. Shortly after they moved in the lease on their car was up and they did not renew the lease! That was over two years ago; and to this day (I just had lunch with them last week) they are thrilled to be car-free; they shop locally and if they need to go out to the 'burbs they rent a car. Quite simple!

I love the idea of showing the local train stop along with the property. In the city, I feel like you're not just buying a home with real estate, you're buying a neighborhood. Considering how many people in my neighborhood take transit even if they own cars, I'm curious how important you think transit is to the real estate market in Chicago.

OMG! Transit is very important to most city buyers even if, as you correctly point out, they own a car. First, as buyers (and not yet owners) they're always thinking "resale value" and inherently understand that "Close to Transportation" is a very good place to be. Location Location Location, the prime mantra of any real estate market.

But more important, once they become owners, they want the convenience of hopping on the "L" for an evening concert at Millennium Park; or taking the 135 LaSalle Express downtown and back each workday; or the Red Line to a baseball game; the Blue or Orange Lines to the airports! And they want all of the above easily accessible from their homes! So, yes, transit is very important to the Chicago real estate market. If only more people knew it...

I couldn't agree more that people buy not only the real estate but they buy into a neighborhood. In relation to the downtown buyer without a car: Our real estate search is, in effect, a practice run for how the buyer will live her life on a daily basis. We walk, we see, we feel the fabric of the neighborhood. We board a bus for a short ride and we are connected to greater humanity. And I'm not being melodramatic.

I know that without a car in Center City I got to know Philly in a way that I would never have experienced if I'd stayed in my car. Walking from river to river, biking to the Italian Market and beyond, what a great way to feel the neighborhoods, to get to know the people! I got my degree at Temple University in North Philly via the Broad Street Subway and my trusty Fuji!

Chicagoans KNOW that the city is way too congested; they want the transit to be there for them when they want it. They know good public transportation increases the value of their real estate. Easy access translates into more commerce, more diversity and opportunity -- in sum: a greater quality of life.

Do you have a favorite memory of a moment when a bus or train ride gave you that feeling of being connected to Chicago and greater humanity?

I could enumerate many dramatic moments that would be of interest, but for me it's not about one favorite memory.

The feeling I have as a commuter -- a deeper connection to Chicago and greater humanity -- has developed over a great deal of time. Remember, I've been car-free by choice for longer than some of your readers have been alive! So, call it a cumulative effect.

When I'm surrounded by strangers all being transported to different destinations, I am drawn to a sense of mystery; and at the same time I detect a similarity. Whatever the case may be, I suppose I merely enjoy being part of, contributing to the mystery that is humanity!


Cool find. Nice to see a

Cool find. Nice to see a realtor outside the typical box.

We realtors come in all

We realtors come in all sizes and shapes!My positive attitude as a realtor mirrors my perspective on life. Thank you for recognizing my individuality. Whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope you're doing well!
jp

Jill, Good for you! I am

Jill, Good for you! I am glad to see that you are someplace that you are so passionate about! I will look for your posts.

Michelle, Thanks for

Michelle,

Thanks for encouraging me to pursue this avenue!
jp

What a lovely portrait of

What a lovely portrait of you! It captures your essence. And the article wasn't bad either. It was nice to "see" you again. When I saw the article title, my eyes deceived me and I thought it said you were the "carefree realtor." Maybe without a car, you are!

Hey Rick! Carefree,

Hey Rick!

Carefree, car-free, it's all good! I told Dylan that I've been inundated with emails, most of which have commented on the great photo he took of his mom! Thanks for your lovely comment. I wonder, are there many car-free realtors in Seattle?!

I wonder, are there many

I wonder, are there many car-free realtors in Seattle?!
---
Unfortunately, I doubt it. Seattle is very pedestrian friendly around the downtown area, but its public transportation is simply not at the level of other cities that you can go without a car. That said, if you live and work in close proximity to downtown, it's doable, but I would imagine realtors move around too much to not have a car.

Jill - That's great - Quite

Jill - That's great - Quite impressive!

John D' - I'm almost

John D' - I'm almost overwhelmed by all the positive emails I've been receiving all day, as well as the supportive comments posted here! Thank you for your kind thoughts!
jp

Hey Jill, I recently moved

Hey Jill, I recently moved to the city and ditched the car. I live near the West Loop so public transportation abounds......but early on it has been a bit of a shock to my system.

Out of curiosity when was the last time you actually drove a car and do you keep a valid drivers license?

Congrats on ditching the

Congrats on ditching the car! The shock to your system will subside and you will thrive... Yes, I keep a valid driver's license. It has been a number of years since I've been behind the wheel of a car. I can't say exactly but I'm guessing five years ago I was with another realtor in the Loop and he had to deliver something and couldn't find a parking space so I drove around the block a few times. Pretty uneventful. Not unlike riding a bike, it comes right back to you!

What an incredible attitude

What an incredible attitude and outlook on life you must possess. I'm guessing that you don't give in easily to adversity of any type.

An upbeat attitude has

An upbeat attitude has helped me to persevere, indeed! Rather than "give in" to negativity, I prefer to find the positive in a given situation. This helps me to understand the big picture... Thanks for your encouragement, Ross!

For skiing destinations like

For skiing destinations like Vail etc, they don't really need their cars. In Switzerland, you can easily take the train to most any Alps destination, and most people who live there do. I've talked to many would-be tourists who'd love to take a train from DIA out to CO mountain resorts and avoid the hassles of having to rent a car just to get there or to get around there, and then driving on I-70 through the potentially hazardous traffic and weather in the winter. I'd use it too and I live here. As long as I can either take my skis along or rent a decent size locker at my favorite ski resort and just leave it there. If people want to deal with the traffic and weather on the way out, that's their prerogative. Bet you lots would opt to take a nice fast train out instead.

I agree! Lots would opt for

I agree! Lots would opt for a fast train, if/when available. I'm cautiously optimistic that fast rail will take off in this country. In the meantime, more people simply need to leave their cars behind and use public transportation or better: walk or bike to their destination.

Do buyer's agents really

Do buyer's agents really drive around with clients anymore? These days with so many pictures and information on the internet about houses, it seems like buyers can get plenty of information to research at home, and then once their prospects have been narrowed down, they can make an appointment to meet a realtor at the house.

I've never been driven anywhere by a realtor and I don't know anyone how has. Seems like realtor is becoming a more car-free-friendly job.

Yes, realtors who represent

Yes, realtors who represent buyers in real estate transactions still drive their buyers to showings. At least the buyer's agents I know continue to do plenty of driving around.

The internet has, indeed, as you pointed out, afforded buyers a wealth of information so that buyers can and do narrow their search on their own from the comfort of their home, thus decreasing the drive-around factor for all parties involved. This is a good thing!

But buyers often want to view multiple properties at a time, and when they do so, if they are being represented by a buyer's agent, they tell their agent which properties they want to view; their agent sets up the appointments and drives them to each showing. Or, in my case, I meet them at the first showing and drive along in their car to the remainder of the properties. I suppose if you're looking at only one property at a time you certainly can meet your buyer's agent at the showing.

You're a rare but most

You're a rare but most pleasing addition to our fair city! I've a nearly carless, rarely careless, but definitely urban college friend in Philly--so it's possible but much harder there. I toured that town by bike back in 1993, so I know the limits.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful karma...
I walk, and bike exclusively downtown from the Social Security Bat Bldg; but unfortunately still reside in Wheaton; DuPage is hard to fully do by bike, but wonderful for bike tripping.

I don't know if I could bear

I don't know if I could bear living in a big city without a car but it's admirable what she does. There are jobs that don't allow you to live car-free and my job is one of them. The best I can do is find good deals in maintaining my car, an affordable insurance quote, I've even found cheap parking London close to where I live so until further options I am keeping my car.

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