Rising Star Jane Bishop Lillegard

Katherine Bishop

Navigating the Waters of Real Estate, Community and Family

By Susan Cushing

A woman of many talents and seemingly boundless energy, Jane Bishop Lillegard of Coldwell Banker Lakeview, is a true phenomenon. Never one to do anything halfway, she gives generously of her time, expertise and heart.

Born and raised in Chicago and a self-proclaimed, die-hard Cubs fan, who has raised her children to be the same, Lillegard has called Roscoe Village, home for most of her life. A tight-knit community nestled on Chicago’s North Side, Roscoe Village not only offers charming streetscapes featuring classic frame and brick homes, cozy cafes, and a delightful array of independently owned shops, featuring everything from antiques to upscale fashions, this “village within the city” also boasts some of the best schools in the country.

“It’s a wonderful atmosphere for families,” she says. “My son Erik even went to Audubon, the same elementary school I attended, which consistently ranks among the top schools in the Chicago area.”

Staying close to “home” also means being even closer to her mother, Marianne Bishop. It made Lillegard’s decision to go back to work a lot easier.

“I became a stay-at-home-mom shortly after Hallie and Erik were born,” she says, “As they got older, I felt I could return to work, but wanted to take baby steps, so that they and I could gradually adjust.” Working part-time at a hardware store in Lincoln Square was Lillegard’s way of easing back, but she had another career goal in mind.

“I had been considering real estate and they always say, ‘location, location, location.’ Well, there was a Keller Williams literally minutes from my home,” she says with a laugh. “Of course, that’s not the only reason. A friend at church was with Keller Williams and recommended them very highly. I was also very impressed with the training program they offered; it just seemed like a great match.”

Plunging into a vast sea of licensed agents, Lillegard realized from the start, that she needed to set herself apart. Phase one was to study voraciously, listen intently, and learn as much as possible about the real estate business. Aligning herself with professionals she admired, Lillegard was a quick study and readily absorbed every bit of advice and instruction.

“Everyone was very kind and supportive,” she says. “Colleagues such as Mary Ellen Considine, Tom Rice and Paulette Bezazian were especially helpful, as were the previous managing brokers Joe Siciliano and Debbie Wood. Of course, I couldn’t run my business today without the strong supportive staff of Jeanine Pistello, Cindy Stead, Nora Dwyer and Christy Stead, as well as our current managing broker Lewis Jones.”

Creating her own brand was phase two. Naturally creative, with the added advantage of a Bachelor of Arts in television from Columbia College Chicago, Lillegard effortlessly came up with the perfect tag line – “Bridging the waters of buying & selling Homes.”

“I came up with the line when I first began in real estate,” she says, “but it was just this year, that I finally got it copyrighted and registered as a trademark.”

BUILDING THE BRIDGE
It has not always been smooth sailing for Lillegard. Indeed, the past 12 years have been quite eventful. She has been through the highs and the moments that felt like she may never come up for air again. Through her tenacity, drive and sincere passion for what she does, Lillegard has not only survived, she thrived.

Less than four years into her new career, Lillegard was faced with the most catastrophic housing crisis since the Great Depression – an economic fracture that even some of the most veteran REALTORS® could not survive. Yet somehow, she remained afloat with a positive outlook, even if her cash flow wasn’t always.

“Our whole family has made sacrifices for my career,” she says. “My husband’s job has allowed me to stay in real estate, even when things were darkest. For a long while, I kept my part-time job at the hardware store. It’s been challenging, but thanks to family and colleagues who believed in me, I’ve managed to survive, and believe I’m a better REALTOR® for it.”

It may have started as a “tag line,” but from the very beginning, Lillegard was determined to live up to her promise. Becoming a bridge for her clients, meant starting from the ground up.

“I acquired something of a nickname, ‘Jane’s House Calls,’” she says. “I saw a strong parallel between the personal services a doctor provides, and that of a REALTOR® – making house calls.”

This is literally what she did, going door-to-door, meeting and building relationships with all her Roscoe Village neighbors. She has sustained these relationships both with “house calls” and through community involvement.

When in 2012, Coldwell Banker purchased Chicago Keller Williams offices, Lillegard faced another decision. “Overnight I became a Coldwell Banker agent,” she says. “I had never even considered or interviewed with another real estate company. I had been with Keller Williams from the outset, and would have stayed with them forever. But Coldwell Banker gave us all time to adjust and decide if we wanted to stay or move on.”

For Lillegard, this was both a revealing and rewarding experience. Exploring various options, and interviewing with several companies, made her realize she was quite happy where she was.

“Sometimes you must venture out of your comfort zone to discover just how great your situation really is,” she says. “Coldwell Banker made the transition very smooth for those of us who decided to stay, keeping the same office for about a year, which allowed us time to become acclimated and learn their procedures and day-to-day operations. When we moved to our new offices, I felt confident I had made the right decision and everything was working out for the best.”

FAMILY TIES
Life is ever-changing and evolving. Lillegard’s daughter, Hallie, is now a freshman in college, and her son, Erik, is a sophomore at Lakeview High School. It might be bittersweet to watch your children grow, but other changes in life are much harder.

“This has been a year of transitions,” says Lillegard. “My brother, Joe, passed away suddenly in May. He was the one who took care of my mom, maintained her property, made her lunch and dinner, took her shopping and to doctor’s appointments.

“Now, my husband, Mark, our kids and I have taken on those responsibilities. Mark, Erik and a family friend have taken over various projects at her property, where we all live together as one big family. But it’s twofold because Mom helps us out in so many ways, especially with marketing mailers.”

Despite grief over her brother and additional responsibilities, Lillegard still sustains her positive outlook on life and full-tilt energy. Always eager to learn new things, she achieved the luxury ALHS designation from the Luxury Home Council of the National Association of REALTORS® a year ago.

“I’ve always believed in professional development,” she says. “It’s so important to stay abreast of the latest trends, technology and changes in laws. I take full advantage of the many courses offered by Coldwell Banker and every other source available, in order to provide the best advice and service possible. But, earning my ALHS was particularly significant for me. Since moving to our Lakeview offices, I’ve naturally expanded my area of expertise and there are many homes that fall into this category.”

Lillegard has always been very active in her church and both children’s schools. As a member of the Queen of Angels church, she not only sang in the choir for more than a decade, she has also served as a confirmation table leader, as a leader of Children’s Liturgy of the Word. In both 2014 and 2015, Lillegard served as popcorn kernel for her son’s church Boy Scout Troop, #894. In addition, she’s a OMA/FOIA officer at Lake View High School – PAC officer.

Working with the local Metropolis Coffee Company and Aspire, a nonprofit helping families with developmental disabilities, Lillegard was heavily involved in fundraising events at both of her children’s schools.

“When Erik was in eighth grade, we raised money selling coffee to pay for the 2014 class trip to Washington, D.C. and participated in a similar fundraiser for my daughter’s Lake View High School 2016 class trip to Europe.”

Almost another full-time job, is Lillegard’s involvement with the Columbia Alumni Association Network. Serving as both a board member and previously as treasurer, she is currently vice president of the Chicago Chapter and continues to give back, helping assist students and alums with furthering their craft, via networking, fundraising and marketing.

“I not only feel fortunate to be part of such a wide circle of good neighbors, friends and colleagues, but I sincerely believe that staying so involved helps me better serve my clients,” she says. “I know every corner of our community and can offer advice with substance.”

Coldwell Banker Lakeview
1457 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 935-4466
www.coldwellbanker.com