Newport Cove Blog

Choose the Right Materials For Your Suburban Chicago Home

Is Your Builder Choosing the Right Housing Materials?

The right building materials, like the right location or style of home, is subjective. A good way to determine if your builder is choosing the right materials for your house is to communicate what you want, where and at what cost.

Where the house is located may be a strong factor in what materials to use. A good siding choice in the desert may be a bad choice for a suburban Chicago home where climate fluctuates often. Homeowner style varies greatly too. What is beautiful to one may be ugly to another. How a material feels is important to some people.

Cost is relative too. Consider lifecycle costs as well as sticker price. Material maintenance and longevity may add to or reduce demands on your wallet and time. Energy efficiency and recyclability may also be important considerations for some people. At the least, discuss material choices for your roof, siding and deck with your builder.


Roof Materials Options

Putting a roof over one’s head is a primary objective for most people. The cost of roofing depends on the material used, the size of the roof, and the cut of the material —either shake or shingle. The most popular roof material (used on about 75 percent of houses) is asphalt or fiberglass composite shingles. This is an inexpensive and easy to install choice – durable, fire resistant, low maintenance and with good curb appeal. Styles and color choices abound.

While wood shake roofs offer a nice aesthetic appeal, regular maintenance is required to prevent mold, rot and insect infestation. Shakes also are costlier than other materials. Clay tile and slate roofs are distinctive looking and expensive as well. Their long lifespan and low maintenance may be appealing enough to withstand the initial cost – which is high. One caveat is to make sure the walls can support the weight of this style of roof. Walking on these materials may also be risky because they can break.

Metal, rubber or cement tiles are newer roof material choices. Each of these materials presents a different aesthetic, lifecycle and price. Technology improvements have overcome some of the initial problems experienced with these materials. Metal can be noisy when it rains.

When exploring roofing options, ask your builder what material will be used for roof decking, rafters and other framing material as well.

Siding Materials Options

Siding materials include choices of wood, brick, aluminum, vinyl, plastic, fiber cement, composite wood, stone or stucco. Assess your priorities. Is fire resistance important? What about energy efficiency, cost, warranties and longevity forecasts? Do you need a low maintenance solution or is curb appeal more important?

Fiber cement and composites look like wood, wear well and last a long time. Because both hold paint well, while resisting rot and impacts from hailstorms or high wind, they are sustainable, “green” products Vinyl is easy to maintain and inexpensive, but can crack in cold weather and may fade over time. Aluminum siding is fairly easy to maintain and lasts a long time but may lack curb appeal and durability. Wood is pricey. It requires routine maintenance. Brick and stone veneer siding or stucco may be good choices for a particular style of home, but do require regular maintenance.

Deck Materials Options

Pressure treated pine is a popular choice for decking with it being installed in nearly 80 percent of existing decks. However, non-wood materials including vinyl and plastic composites are other choices. When engineered well, these can be a lower maintenance alternative to wood, but typically are significantly more expensive and require scrubbing to prevent mildew. Pieces of the fastening systems can be affected by temperature changes. Wood offers the aesthetic and durability most people prefer.

Decks can be built in all shapes and sizes. Include the grades, widths and type of treatment when determining costs. Ask your builder for a sample of the material to be used so you can get the actual feel of it.

There are so many options when deciding on the right building materials for your house. Work with a builder who understands what will work best for your style, your location and your wallet.

Newport Cove Building Materials

At Newport Cove we build roofs using architectural asphalt shingles that come with a lifetime warranty. Our siding is made of fiber cement or composites that have multi-decade warranties. Our decks are built with no-maintenance, treated lumber, but many homeowners upgrade to the new composites.

We are located on the Chain O’ Lakes, within commuting distance to downtown Chicago. See how beautiful and durable our housing materials are. Come for a walk- through by appointment during the week or anytime between noon and 4 pm. on weekends.

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Is Your STUFF Stressing You Out?

DSC_0020 Many people who buy at Newport Cove talk about simplifying their lives or, in the jargon of the day, downsizing. They see a move to a waterfront community as a step toward serenity. But, few of them realize how difficult downsizing can be. When the proverbial rubber hits the road, most folks simply do not like letting go of any of their possessions, even though commonsense says this is a wise thing to do.

Think about your own stuff. Does it give you more joy than stress? A recent survey, conducted on behalf of the Huffington Post and polling more than 1,000 U.S. adults, revealed that most Americans are stressed; 91 percent of those polled said the were stressed about something in the past month, and 77 percent said they were stressed regularly. In the “regularly stressed” group, 84 percent said that clutter and disorganization in their homes was a major cause of stress and worry; in fact, this particular stress was almost at the top of the heap of ALL worries. Moreover, the survey found that those who are stressed about home organization tend to be more stressed in general; 70 percent of them were stressed in general every day, versus 35 percent to those who were not worried about home clutter.

A recent IKEA study came up with another whole set of statistics: 1) On average Americans spend 55 minutes a day looking for things they have misplaced. 2) Eliminating clutter typically reduces 40 percent of housework. 3) Sixty-four percent of Americans say they do not have enough storage space in their homes, but good organization could eliminate 80 percent of their storage.

The conclusion drawn from these studies is clear: Having an organized home is instrumental in creating a calming environment where you can relax and find peace.

Face it. We live in a culture of clutter. It is estimated that 80 percent of what we Americans own we never use. When it comes to home ownership, consider what that 80 percent costs us. Stuff takes up space. Assume the space costs on average around $160 per square foot to build, plus a homeowner also pays property taxes, utilities and insurance on that space.

As homebuilders, we have watched many homeowners attempt to downsize. We have seen people try to jam everything they had in a 7,000-square-foot home into a new 2,000-square-foot home. We have seen people build homes simply to house their stuff. For example, rather than part with a dining room set they use once a year, a couple might build a formal dining room onto their home. Or, customers will enlarge a room to fit a difficult piece of furniture when, if they did the math, it would be much more economical to trade in the existing piece and buy something that fits.

Suppose 300 square feet of your home is used simply for storage of things you rarely utilize. The construction cost of that space is, on average, $48,000. Annual property taxes on the space run probably $1,200 per year. So, at the end of a decade, owning that 300 square feet costs you well over $65,000. Is the value of the stuff you are storing worth that? Could you have put those dollars to better use? If you are hanging onto most of this stuff “in case you might want it someday,” would you be better off financially to get rid of it now and buy new when – and more importantly, IF – you should ever need it?

One of the reasons we find it so difficult to part with our stuff is because we look at an item and recall how much effort or cash it cost us. Maybe we should recalibrate our thinking and determine the cost to continue to hold onto things we likely will never use.

One of the pluses of moving into a new home is that it gives you the perfect opportunity to take stock of what you own and what you can live without. Many home organization experts suggest that culling the excess is the first and most important step.

As Happier At Home author Gretchen Rubin advises, “Don’t get organized.” Instead, she says, the first priority should be ridding yourself of the stuff you should not keep. Once you take that step, then figure out your total space needs, your storage needs, organizational systems, etc.

The experts suggest following a process like this when downsizing:

First, take an inventory of all you own and then ask yourself: If everything we had were burned in a fire, what would I replace?

Then, take sticky notes and color-code all your possessions into one of three categories: 1) Keep – things you simply cannot live without. 2) Sell – things you can sell and recoup some of your investment. 3) Donate – things you can give to friends or charity.

Next, go back to the “to keep” pile. For the things in that pile you are storing (except family photos and sentimental items of that ilk), put them in a box with an expiration date a year or two in the future. If you have not used an item in the box by the time of the expiration date, sell or donate it.

Finally, stay decluttered. If you buy something new, vow to get rid of something old.

Downsizing, decluttering, simplifying – whatever you call it, parting with things you own can be emotional. But consider how much lighter and freer you will be, how much more serene, if you are able to accomplish thi

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When Buying Is Better Than Renting. . .

Boardwalk U.S. mortgage rates plunged this month, sending borrowing costs for 30-year loans below four percent for the first time in 16 months.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped to 3.97 percent, the lowest since June 2013. The average 15-year fixed rate fell to 3.18 percent. These figures came from a report released by Freddie Mac on October 16.

Earlier this year, when rates were about a point higher, Zillow Inc. estimated that, in the Chicago area, buying made more sense than renting IF you planned to live in the home for more than 2.3 years. With rates now even lower, that time frame will be even less.

According to Trulia’s recent Rent Versus Buy Report, it was 38 percent cheaper to buy a home rather than rent in the third quarter of 2014. Low mortgage rates and rising rent prices were cited as the causes behind the growing disparity between the costs of renting and buying.

“So, show me,” you might say. Okay. Let’s start with some assumptions.

Let’s assume you rent a new home for $2,100 per month. Let’s assume rents increase an average of 3 percent a year (a significantly lower annual increase than in the recent past). At the end of one year, your rent will increase to $2,163. By the fifth year, with the 3 percent annual increase, your rent will be $2,364 per month, by the 10th year, $2,740, by the 15th year, $3,176, and by the 30th year, $4,949. You probably also would be buying renter’s insurance.

Now, let’s assume that, instead of paying rent, you buy. Let’s say you buy a $350,000 home at Newport Cove. Assume your down payment is 10 percent and you lock in a 30-year mortgage with interest fixed at 3.97 percent.

Your monthly payment, including principal, interest, property taxes, home insurance and HOA fees, is estimated at $2,321 per month. This monthly payment will remain the same in the first year, the second year, through the 10th year and onto the 30th year. Moreover, these numbers do not account for the income tax savings you receive for deducting the interest and property taxes so, depending upon your tax bracket, after taxes your monthly payment may net out to be significantly less.

When you rent for 30 years, you have nothing to show for the dollars spent. But, when one is a homeowner for 30 years, at the end of that time, you have made a major investment. You own a house free and clear. No more mortgage payments. No rent.

Or, maybe your life is less “settled” and a move is in your far-off future. . . Then, you might consider an Adjustable Rate Mortgage. These mortgages are based typically on a 30-year term, and the monthly payments are FIXED for a certain number of years (5, 7 or 10 years). After that, the rate can adjust either up or down. Today one can secure a 5-year ARM loan at a 2.88 percent rate. On our example, that would calculate out to a monthly payment of $2,130 for principal, interest, property taxes, homeowners insurance and HOA fees. Plus, if you itemize deductions on your income tax, the interest and taxes are deductible, so your monthly outgo would ultimately be even less.

The experts continue to say that these low rates will not last, so it is very possible that, at this moment in time, houses are the most affordable they will ever be in our lives.

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The ARM Is Making a Comeback

A type of loan that fell out of favor following the housing meltdown is starting to look good again to bankers and homebuyers.

Adjustable rate mortgages, or ARMS, were blamed for playing a part in the financial crisis. But, these once-shunned loans are becoming an increasingly attractive option.

Banks typically charge significantly lower initial interest rates for ARMs than for fixed-rate loans. However, after the initial period ends, an ARM interest rate will change periodically, usually in line with an index. Your payments might go up or down. An ARM loan typically has a “cap,” the highest interest rate that the loan can adjust to.

Currently the most popular ARM has a fixed rate for five years, but other versions fix the rate for as long as 15 years. Generally, the shorter the fixed-rate period, the lower the initial interest rate, while the longer the fixed-rate period, the more time before the loan’s interest rate adjusts and a higher rate could potentially click in.

Some banks are even doing interest-only ARM loans again. For example, PNC Bank recently introduced several interest-only ARMs that allow borrowers to postpone paying any principal for as long as 10 years. The interest rate also can remain fixed for up to 10 years.

Does an ARM work for you? It depends on many factors – if you expect your income to rise, how long you plan to live in your home, if you think your home will appreciate. But, the wise homebuyer does look at the downside; if the rate would rise to the maximum cap, can you still afford your mortgage?

The savings can be considerable. Borrowers who sign up for a $400,000 10-year ARM with an initial interest rate of 3.64 percent would save $2,000 per year compared with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of 4.14 percent.

One financial planner we know suggests that homeowners taking out ARMs use the monthly savings to reduce principal.

If you are curious about mortgage payments, use the Newport Cove’s mortgage calculator to see how your monthly payment adjusts depending upon your interest rate. (Incidentally, ARM loans are usually loans with a 30-year term.)

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To Rent or To Buy – That Is the Question

DSC_0011 Is it cheaper to rent a home or to buy one? With rents rising much faster than home prices, the answer these days definitely comes down on the buy side. And, in Chicagoland the difference is even greater than in much of the country.

Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia, published a research study a few weeks ago showing that across America it is cheaper to buy than to rent – some 38 percent cheaper. Kolko also looked at specific metro markets, and his study found that in the Chicago area it is 47 percent cheaper to buy than to rent.

This research assumed that buyers had a 30-year fixed rate loan with 20 percent down and a 4.5 percent interest rate, itemized their income tax deductions, are in the 25 percent tax bracket and stay in their home for seven years. Kolko also wisely used a very conservative annual price appreciation number – between 1.7 and 3.1 percent, depending upon the metro area. (Most experts say you should never look at a house as a short-term investment – in other words, less than five years.) Of course, as the assumptions change, the benefits of renting vs. buying change, too.

Interestingly, the rent vs. buy math indicates that, under current conditions, buying beats renting until mortgage rates hit 10.6 percent, then renting becomes cheaper than buying.

If you are thinking of buying at Newport Cove, our waterfront development on the Chain O’ Lakes near Antioch, Illinois, we do work with our customers to make that happen. Besides helping locate mortgage professionals who can adapt to your particular needs, we also are open to discussing rent-to-own or mortgage assistance programs.

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For Staycationers There’s No Place Like Home

999727_10153132060350637_1504846125_n A waterskier at dawn off the shores of Newport Cove

Staycations are not just for the budget conscious. They are for people who love the comfort of home, for those who enjoy putting their heads down on their own pillow each night. Staycationers are intentional and tend to occur in environments that others describe as “year round vacation.” They make the best of each day, each room in the house and leisure activities outdoors. For the staycationer, there’s no place like home.

Staycations make sense for boaters living in lakefront houses, for people who like to hike around or fish in a nearby lake, for those who gather family together. They know how to create the feel of a vacation in their own back yard.

Staycation Rules
There are some unwritten rules for the time-designated staycation. Even though you may be close, do not go to work during your staycation. Limit the time you view your email. Eat out. (Nobody likes doing dishes during vacation.) This is the “splurge while you’re saving” mindset. For any night spent watching TV, an evening is spent in front of the fireplace or taking a walk or gazing at the stars.

Planning the Staycation
For some official tips on planning the perfect staycation read Matt Wixon’s book, The Great American Staycation. His advice is to plan ahead and stay focused on leisure. Forget the rut routines and start something new. Enjoy a wine tasting, sunset cruise, historic house tour and local festivals. Bring the family together for quality time fishing, swimming and boating. Alas, there should be a start and end date for the staycation.

Staycation Destination
After a few days of visiting a friend at Newport Cove, Jane S. was ready to sell her west suburban home and head for the shores of Bluff Lake, near Antioch. “It’s so peaceful. My friend works from home, so she can live anywhere. I love visiting her. It’s like being on vacation, but still close.” The term for this type of experience is “nearcation.” No kidding.

So imagine a vacation with all the comforts of home, no lodging costs or travel expenses, no flight delays or hungry kids, a vacation that lasts year round. If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. To find the perfect staycation house and nearcation destination, call today to get a view of Bluff Lake, take a golf-cart tour of the area and a walk through of our Newport Cove house models.

Does your house environment invite you to stay home when vacation time rolls around?

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The Strong Case for Buying vs. Renting

When it comes to housing, is renting better than purchasing? We say, NO! In most instances owning a home is less expensive – and more satisfying – than renting.   DSC_0011

So, before you decide to sign that lease, consider these points:

1. Rent usually goes up. If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, your payment will be the same for 30 years – or 15 years, if you can manage a 15-year mortgage. At the end of that time, you will have no house payments whatsoever.

2. A home is an investment. When you pay rent, you are putting money in someone else’s pocket. When you pay a mortgage, part of that money is being invested in your property. In a sense, as you pay off your mortgage, you are being forced to save. Eventually you will own your home free and clear.

3. A lease is short-term. If you have a one- or two-year lease, at the end of the lease, your landlord can decide to no longer rent the property. If you own a home, you can live there as long as you like (if you pay the mortgage and taxes).

4. You will pay less income tax. The interest you pay on your mortgage and the dollar amount of your real estate taxes are tax deductible on your federal and state income tax returns. The tax savings lowers your cost of ownership. On the other hand, rent is not tax deductible.

5. Real estate tends to increase in value. This fact is difficult to believe if you only consider the last four or five years, but in the long run real estate prices have done nothing but go up. Historically home prices have risen four to six percent annually.

6. You become part of a community. Homeowners tend to stay longer in their residences, put down roots, be more invested and involved in their communities.

7. You have more influence. Municipal officials, whether it is fair or not, tend to pay more attention to property owners than to renters.

8. You can plant a garden. With a home usually comes a little land – a place for a garden plot or a swing set.

9. You can paint the walls red. When you own your home, YOU are the landlord. You can paint, decorate and create a home that is a reflection of your personality and lifestyle. (By the way, “Red Gumball” from Pittsburgh Paint’s Fallingwater Collection is a great red paint choice. . .)

10. Mortgage rates are at historic lows. Today offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lock in interest rates that are lower than they have ever been in our lifetimes.

According to Trulia’s chief economist Jed Kolko, across the United States owning a home now averages 44 PERCENT less expensive than renting. Moreover, owning is cheaper than renting in all of America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, but particularly in the Midwest. Kolko arrived at this conclusion using these assumptions: a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage, a down payment of 20 percent, a 3.5 percent interest rate, a 25 percent income tax bracket, a taxpayer who itemizes deductions, an owner who stays in the home for at least seven years.

Of course, as one changes Kolko’s assumptions, the picture does change.

As mortgage rates rise, the cost difference between being a renter or a homeowner goes down. For example, at an interest rate of 4.5 percent, the average cost difference between owning and renting falls to 39 percent.

If the homeowners do not itemize deductions on their income tax, the difference between owning and renting drops from the 44 percent average to 35 percent.

If a buyer stays in the house for less than seven years, the 44 percent average also declines. It goes to 37 percent for five years and 20 percent for three years.

At Newport Cove, our waterfront community on the Chain O’ Lakes, we are offering a rent-to-own option for those who have the income but – because of the recent recession – are unable to presently qualify for a loan. Call 847.726.2727 to talk to us about this program!

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Chain O’ Lakes Past: Millionaires and Hoi Polloi, Pols and Gangsters

While you cruise the Chain O’ Lakes this summer, pause a moment to consider the ghosts of those who once traversed these lakeland waters – from Native Americans to explorers, mobsters to politicians, boaters to 1920s flappers.


The area’s original inhabitants were Native Americans from the central Algonquian tribes, primarily the Miami, Mascouten and Potawatomi. The first Europeans appeared in the mid-1600s. They were French trappers and traders, including explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet.

By the late 1800s the area had become a popular hunting and fishing area for wealthy Chicago sportsmen.

The site now known as the Mineola Hotel was originally built in the 1880s by members of the Chicago Board of Trade as a private club for boating and fishing. In 1897 a group of powerful Chicago business leaders and politicians founded the Pistakee Yacht Club, still alive today. Starting in the 1890s, the Chain O’ Lakes began attracting weekend visitors from Chicago who boarded steamboats to view the “Egyptian Lotus” beds on many of the lakes. Moreover, famous merchants and industrialists from Chicago built Gadsby-esque summer mansions along the miles of Chain O’ Lakes shoreline.


With the 1901 opening of the Milwaukee Road railway between Chicago and the Nippersink Point Station, the Chain O’ Lakes became a tourist destination for the masses (while the wealthy moved on to more exclusive locales farther north). With improved access by rail and road, resorts and cottages began crowding along the water’s edge. Dance pavilions and ice cream parlors sprung up. The steamboats filled with sightseers competed with fishing and sailing boats and – each year – more and more motor boats.

Chicago mayors Big Bill Thompson and Fred Busse vacationed along the Chain, as did Illinois governors William Stratton and Otto Kerner. In 1922 some 5,000 people watched then Cook County Board President Anton Cermak, later famed mayor of Chicago, win a boat race on the lakes. The name of his boat? The City of Chicago.

But, although wholesome family fun was prevalent, there were other things to do in this popular vacation spot. Gambling, booze and prostitution were big business.

Lake County officials, not ignoring this lawlessness, staged raids on numerous establishments. So, in order to keep the bars going and the County vice squad at bay, in 1907 business owners around Nippersink Point incorporated as the town of Fox Lake. The new town had only 500 permanent residents, but its summer population was as large as 20,000. The town government placed few restraints on resorts within its borders and, just prior to prohibition, issued 48 liquor licenses. As prohibition became the law of the land, Fox Lake turned a blind eye toward alcohol.

This permissive attitude brought in the mob. Infamous gangsters Al Capone and George “Bugs” Moran vied for control of the illegal booze and gambling business. Capone owned a summerhouse on Bluff Lake (where our Newport Cove community is located). He also was known for frequenting the popular Mineola Hotel. Legend says the Feds caught Moran, who reportedly also had a summer home on Bluff Lake, at Elizabeth Cassidy’s Bluff Lake resort.

The Chain’s worst prohibition violence occurred on June 1, 1930 when three mobsters were gunned down at the Manning Hotel on Fox Lake. Occurring about a year after Chicago’s famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and supposedly involving the same players, this  unsolved crime became known as the Fox Lake Massacre.

1930 – TODAY

Gangsters did not hurt tourism, but the Great Depression did. It decimated businesses around the lakes. Many hotels and restaurants closed, their heyday ended. Numbers of families, after losing their year-round homes in Chicago, permanently moved into their Chain O’ Lakes summer cottages. Developers bought up bankrupt resorts and, following World War II, many returning soldiers bought homes in the new housing developments that now claimed the land. The area evolved into suburban, middle-class communities.

Some remnants of the old days remain. A few mansions and resorts survive as private  homes or public buildings. The Mineola Hotel, although in disrepair, still stands and is included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Then, there is Blarney Island, the self-proclaimed “greatest boating bar in the world.” In the beginning (the early 1900s), Blarney Island was a houseboat owned by Jack O’Connor and docked at the water’s edge. Across from O’Connor’s establishment was Shorty Shobin’s place. Jack and Shorty were intense competitors. Their heated feud came to a head during a game of poker. In the last hand the two men wagered their businesses, and Shorty came out on the short end. Folklore has it that Shorty left the poker table and took his life in the back room of the bar. Soon after that, Jack O’Connor’s houseboat burned down, forcing him to move Blarney Island over to Shorty’s bar.

In 1939, when the Stratton Lock and Dam opened in McHenry, it caused permanent flooding around some of the lakes. Blarney Island was cut off from any dry land and became an official island one mile off shore – thus, the current tagline, “a mile away from reality.”


Today Blarney Island is the most famous spot on the Chain O’ Lakes and is known for what it calls “the five Bs – babes, bikinis, boats, bands and beer.” Those who come by boat to this all-bar island can tie up at its large network of docks. If you do not own a vessel, a shuttle which departs every hour from the bar’s mainland satellite location, Port O’ Blarney on Grass Lake Road, can ferry you over. If you like speed, be sure to catch the drag boat races at the Island on Thursday nights.

Although here we have focused on Chain O’ Lakes history and entertainment, the area offers a wide range of recreational options. With some 7,100 acres of water, 15 interconnected lakes and 45 miles of river, this self-styled “Key West of the Midwest” accommodates activities for every water-lover: canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing, tubing, fishing, swimming, even hunting and birdwatching. Complementing these activities are many local businesses, including numerous marinas and restaurants, several of which sponsor special events throughout the summer: boat shows, fishing tournaments, festivals and live music.

For a quiet afternoon on the water, boaters can visit the 3,000-acre Chain O’ Lakes State Park and adjacent conservation area, or follow the Fox River out of Grass Lake and north to Wisconsin where, just a few knots above Blarney Island, you will find an area so untouched, so beautiful and so remote it seems you are back in the days of the Miami, Mascouten and Potawatomi.

Below: From the Lake County Discovery Museum, this colored postcard shows Bluff Lake in the early 1900s.

Bluff Lake Antioch LCDM M-86-1-24_new watermark

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The Chain O’ Lakes Floats Your Boat!

bluff lake view The Chain O’ Lakes, about an hour’s drive from Chicago, Milwaukee and Rockford, is a boater’s paradise. It is made up of 10 lakes connected by the Fox River and another five lakes connected by channels.  This waterway system has, is and will continue to be a boating enthusiast’s dream environment protected and defended by residents, businesses, state and federal agencies.

Water, Waterfront Homes and Boats

Once a summertime getaway for Chicago residents who traveled to the lakes by train, the Chain O’ Lakes now has year-round housing options ranging from modest to million-dollar custom homes. What all those living in Chain O’ Lakes waterfront homes have in common is their enthusiasm for lakeside living and water bound vessels.

While water skiing or jet skies are often the stereotypical image of watersports on the Chain, the boating community is much more diverse. Those who enjoy paddle sports, sailing and fishing also enjoy the variety of lakes, as well as the upper Fox River.  Bluff Lake, where the Newport Cove planned community is located, has a depth of 31 feet and 1.6 miles of shoreline, and is famed for its deep fishing holes.

Canoes and Kayaks

Canoeing and kayaking are popular on these inland lakes and rivers. Paddle sports enthusiasts can hand carry their vessels from garage to shoreline. These folks like the exercise as well as a close and unobtrusive connection with nature. They are often bird watchers as well.


Sailors compare their sails to wings.  These boaters love harnessing the wind. Small sailboats are often seen flying across the waters of the larger lakes of the Chain.

Speed and Ski Boats

Speedboats offer a thrill and, for the person cresting the waves behind with skis or tube, unforgettable memories. Because there are no horsepower limitations for boats on the Chain O’ Lakes, fast boats are in abundance.  Weekly boat races in the summer months attract many residents and visitors.


A pontoon boat can carry a small crowd across the water’s surface with little effort. Floating along with friends and family, then anchoring and taking a swim at one of the many sandbars along the Chain, makes for an idyllic afternoon.

Fishing Boats 

The fisherman (or fisherwoman) can be seen in small motorboats on the lakes in early morning and evening. For the determined and calculating, there is a Chain O’ Lakes daily fishing forecast that relies on solar and lunar influences.  Among the fish found in Bluff Lake (according to old timers, the best fishing lake in the Chain) are yellow bass, bluegill, large mouth bass, yellow perch and walleye.

Waterway Transportation

Often referred to as the Key West of the Midwest, the Chain O’ Lakes is dotted with bars and restaurants. Boating to such “hot spots” as Steitz’s on Bluff Lake or the Sand Bar on Lake Marie is a summer tradition.  Establishments throughout the Chain (everything from a McDonald’s on Fox Lake to the famed Blarney’s Island in the center of Grass Lake) cater to the boating community by providing pull-up-and-tie-up marinas.

chain O' Lakes

Chain O’ Lakes boaters stay abreast of current boating conditions and weather forecasts at the Fox Waterway Agency website.

Newport  Cove’s Marina

Residents of Newport Cove can dock their watercraft of choice at our community’s private marina. It is a safe harbor, anchored by a place called home. To learn more about lakefront living, Newport Cove’s lake homes and boating on the Chain O’ Lakes, email us or call 847.726.2727.

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‘Not So Big’ Reaps Big Rewards

If you watch HGTV or read home magazines, you probably have heard of Sarah Susanka, celebrated architect and author of the Not So Big series of books. Susanka, in the proverbial right place at the right time, published her first book “The Not So Big House” in 1998. It called for the end of the McMansion and advocated the idea of building smaller, higher quality homes. Ultimately her book started a movement that changed the focus on what a house needs to be.

With the new economic realities of the 21st century, Susanka’s message became even more meaningful to homebuyers and builders, including those of us building the Newport Cove community. By speaking against sprawl and faux mansions, Susanka gave voice to the fact that not everyone wants to live in excess.

As a result, thoughtfully designed homes proportioned to one’s actual lifestyle have been consistently gaining market approval and success. Articles proclaiming the “death of the McMansion” are found throughout builder trade magazines.

The “Not So Big” philosophy of home building works for homebuyers on many levels: financial, environmental and personal.


Affordability, according to Susanka, can be as simple as taking inventory of what you really need. Will you use it? If not, forget it. Rather than increasing costly square footage, put money into enhancing the quality of space. Builders can make less feel like more by using varied ceiling heights, open floor plans and architectural details. What is needed is not size, but a custom-designed space that is personalized for the owners. Once those owners are able to define what they need, their ideal home becomes more easy to afford.  A sense of home, sought by so many, can be achieved.


Environmental awareness can reduce home costs and protect the eco-system. Twenty percent of all carbon emissions come from existing housing stock. “Leaky” houses have an enormous environmental impact. New houses, built according to today’s energy-efficient standards and using the latest in building technology, are less costly to operate and save precious resources.


Beauty matters, too. A house may be efficient and affordable, but if it’s not pleasing, its owners will not care enough about it to take care of it. When a home offers a sanctuary for its occupants, it becomes a place of refuge. And, that’s where personalized and universal design concepts come into play. For example, a niche designed for one’s family portraits can be a source of joy for a homeowner. Or, a wide entry door with no steps ensures that residents can age gracefully in the home, but also becomes a plus for baby strollers and moving furniture. At Newport Cove we recognize that everyone uses a kitchen differently, so we work with our buyers to design their personalized kitchen layouts.


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