Saturday, September 30, 2006

Car Sharing gets more publicity

The Tribune wrote another story covering "car sharing" in and around Chicago in today's paper. Has anyone tried this? My wife and I own a sedan for my business and a truck we've had since 2001. I can't see parting with either of these at the moment... the truck comes in handy with my business when I need to haul something. My wife (who uses the truck primarily) sometimes takes the Brown Line to work, but has family in the burbs she visits often.

So, not a fit for us at the moment.

However, I use public transportation whenever I'm "not working" and for trips downtown for closings. We also had only one car for a few years before I strated in Real Estate. The car share was definately an option then.

Links about Car Sharing:

Car Sharing News

I-Go Car Sharing

Friday, September 29, 2006

Open houses in Chicago, contracts and showings...

If Real Estate agents tell you it's slow... they're not trying! Sure listings can take forever to sell if you don't price correctly... but that hasn't slowed down the action overall.

I'm available all weekend between, during, around and somehow... after these events. A day in the life.

-Saturday morning I'll be sitting with great clients to formulate their offer on a new conversion unit in Rogers Park. They are first time buyers and I have been counseling them on the differences of buying a re-sale unit vs. a new development or conversion. I try to make this big step as fun and as less stressful as possible.

-Open House on Saturday from 1PM to 4PM at 4518 N Ashland... yes this is one of my listings pictured above... but it's a great way to meet up and talk about what you're looking for. The condo is a great buy too... listed at the bottom of pricing in the area for a two bed, two bath unit.

-Sunday morning out with a buyer in the Lakeview area. What can I say? One of the best places to live in the country. Values have been very strong here and will remain so... great restaurants, transportation, near the lake. We're looking for the perfect two bed two bath unit with parking... sounds easy.

-Open House Sunday from 1PM to 4PM at our new construction development at 1141 W Patterson. A little tucked away one way street just west of Wrigley Field, enter at Racine just north of Addison. The building has a few units available...unique floor plans, garage parking, roof top decks. Quiet place to live but just steps from the Wrigleyville and Southport Corridor

Maybe I'll take Tuesday off...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Illinois Association of Realtors home sales report

I've posted a few stories over the past week concerning the amount of sales and pricing in the state. These various sources will give you a better picture than quick hit stories on local news broadcasts... they drive you nuts, don't they?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Good take on Chicago sales slow down

Why are buyers on the fence?

Crain's reports on the 21% reduction in the number of August single family home sales from last year. The best quote in the story describes buyers waiting for the bottom and sellers refusing to adjust their prices.

Our Chicago-centric brokerage just had a long meeting about the media reports versus the reality of the housing market in Chicago. We reached a conclusion not all too shocking... but without the media emphasis on the negative.

Yes, there is a greater supply of housing than in the past in Chicago. This will effect sellers bottom line and create a slower rate of appreciation from a year to year basis. Low supply and irrational investment has been replaced by traditional buyers with more choices than ever.

But here is the reality as we see it. The conditions for buying a home are excellent. Great interest rates + good supply + highly desirable area to live. The financial and social reasons for owning a home are still the same. Equity + pride in ownership + appreciation. And, that preceived bottom of the market may never come in many, many Chicago neighborhoods. Home prices continue to appreciate by 3.4% in Chicago... Your rent might too!

The home buying and selling mentality must switch from the purely investment minded and anxiety centered on how much you'll make on your place (or what your friends and family made on theirs...) and back to realizing the value of buying and selling in the Chicago community.

There are many reasons to make sure you are not buying an overvalued property. And there are many ways to make sure you don't. One of them is not sitting on the fence and paying another year of rent.

Back in the saddle again

I've been out of town quite a bit lately... miss me? Check out a few real estate stories I read on the plane.

Great Story about Mod Pre-fab homes I report on from time to time

Chicago area avoids price drop in homes as reported by Mary Umberger of the Chicago Tribune

Designed for Lincoln Park living... great reference to Mid Century Modern furniture which I prefer

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Crazy buyer incentives

No Kidding... here is the MLS ad and photos (above) for a 2 bed, 2 bath penthouse duplex unit located at 4835 N Springfield in the Old Irving neighborhood:


This brought to us by Tony Inacay of Remax City Realtors. Only $295,000 and it's all yours. I gotta see this. Dude, I just spoke with clients about offering a buyer incentive... but geez.

30, 50, or 75 year mortage?

Really easy money! Or is it?

Published September 18, 2006

You want to buy the house. You really want to buy the house. Trouble is, the softening of home prices across the U.S. hasn't reached this house on this street. So you can't afford this house, even with a mortgage that spreads out your payments over 30 long years.

Of course, if you take on one of these innovative 50-year mortgages that you've read about recently in the papers, well, you could be living large. The envy of your friends. Better, the envy of the snide brother-in-law who predicted that you wouldn't amount to squat. But, a 50-year mortgage? Payments for half a century? Or as the Tribune's Mary Umberger sardonically put it in a recent story, just 600 monthly payments and the house is all yours.

These semi-eternal loans are now available across the country. Not a lot of people are grabbing them--yet. Finance types say these mortgages, like "interest only" loans that don't require you to pay down principal, can be a terrific way to learn about a horror called "negative amortization." In essence, that's all about owing more, not less, on your home as time passes.But the monetary risks of 50-year mortgages don't interest us as much as the implications for living the American dream. Or just for living.

Most of us aspire to be homeowners. But if the mortgage-burning party is five decades off, are you really a homeowner? Or are you a perpetual home buyer, a hapless candidate for the lead role in a real estate remake of "Failure to Launch"? Put another way, would you conclude over time--you'd sure have plenty of that--that you had jumped up to your ears in debt in order to foolishly live beyond your means? Yes, conventional mortgages produce some of that anguish. Every borrower endures the occasional bout of insomnia as the monthly payment-due date approaches.

What most of us don't do, though, is embrace with a bear hug the notion that debt is our most loyal companion, now and forever. Granted, debt-free in 50 years is still debt-free. But a 28-year-old wouldn't know that bliss until age 78, when she might be shopping for a prime location, location, location in assisted living. Yet why stop at 50-year mortgages? Why not 75? With American life expectancies now nicely into the 70s for both men and women, we could issue mortgages to newborns and, a lifetime later, combine mortgage-burnings with wakes:Dust thou art, crinkly loan documents, and unto dust thou (and thy homeowner) shalt return.

For some borrowers with special needs or unorthodox credit histories, 50-year mortgages may make sense. Suppose you want a lower monthly payment, you don't plan to stay put for very long, and a chorus of angels promises you that the value of your new house is guaranteed to increase. If that's your story, then accepting a super-long-term mortgage for a short time might help you through some tight years.But you need to ask those cherubs tough questions about how much you can expect your home to appreciate. The Wall Street Journal reports that while many homeowners have enjoyed big run-ups in recent years, the historical average is that home prices rise only about 2 percentage points a year faster than inflation.

And that which has gone up can come down. Long-range historical averages tend to reassert themselves, sometimes fast and viciously.S o if you're counting on the supposed investment return from a house to justify overborrowing in order to acquire it, well ... angels would never fib, would they?

Buying a house isn't just a financial transaction, of course. Owning four walls and a roof gives you somewhere to live. Then there are the intangibles--the glad-to-be-here sensation, the gradual accumulation of memories--as a house becomes a home. Those are arguments for stretching to buy the house you desire, even if it costs more than the house you can comfortably afford. You'll have to decide this for yourself. If you weigh all the factors and conclude that long-term indebtedness would give you more happiness than worry, maybe you're a candidate for the 50-year mortgage. Still, that phrase "weighing all the factors" gets more lip service than it does unpleasant evaluation of the serious risks that come with being financially overextended. Walk too close to the cliff's edge and a stiff gust of wind can push you into the abyss. It's that powerful realization which nudges most Americans toward buying houses they truly can afford.

A few Americans, though, are accepting the burden of a long-term mortgage because its comparatively lower monthly payments buy them more house. Simple as that. If you still don't know what to do, here's your dilemma reduced to its essence: Do you want to own the house? Or do you want the house to own you

For the buyers

Buyers: Use your advantage wisely (Chicago Tribune)

Stop, look and listen before you leap

Old rules soften in new market

For the Sellers

Seller story round up from the weekend. Get up and dust yourself off and read these stories!

Glut Reaction (Chicago Tribune)

5 steps to selling a home in today's buyer's market (Robert Bruss)
Notice what he states about commissions

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mortgage rates low, sellers freaked... buy now!

The early spring predictions of the 7.0% rate by the end of the year looks to be distant history. Most analysts of major mortgage web sites, such as feel rates will remain unchanged going into the new year. They may even lower as economic news is good, unemployment and oil prices are down, and the Fed's rate raising party seems to be over.

The Chicago Tribune this weekend reported Freddie Mac has average US rates for a 30 year fixed at 6.43% with a 0.5 point. Not bad. has the same.

So buyers... get off the fence. There are people out there moving on and need to sell their place. Let us think about this. Many buyers and investors (my in-laws included) worry about investing in real estate now because the market is "soft". Geez! Of course you should invest now!

Simple question... would you have bought Enron, GE, Lucent, or any other number of stocks at the very top of the booming stock market in 1999-2000 because it was the "hot" thing and the whole country was in a frenzy and you were missing it? Or, would you have bought that new condo conversion or re-sale unit at the beginning of last spring because you had been left out of the hot condo market and finally were going to jump in? Sounds silly now, but that's exactly what people did and lost their !#$%*!

Soooo instead... buy low and sell high for a change. We have just experienced a slight glut in the condo market, a one year, full on media blitz of negative real estate news, and the average folks are psyched out! This is opportunity time.

Your low ball may be the only offer. I mean, why not write a bunch of deals on places you like and see what happends. It's just a matter of pushing for way below market from a couple years ago.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"Lease Option" for Sellers

I'm in the business to represent and complete buy and sell transactions for my clients. But, ultimately I want to provide options for my clients that are in their best interest. Real estate 101 suggests not selling your first home when you are ready to move up to the next place. Not possible for all, but if you were savy in your purchase, paid down extra principle, and maybe have benefitted from extraordinary appreciation, you may want to hold on and rent your first home out.

Your money man can help you with the numbers. To learn more, check out this post by a primo buyer's agent in Boston. He references Bob Bruss, a national real estate expert, and adds a little extra.

Is this an option for you?

Read: Lease options-one way to protect yourself from low prices

Friday, September 15, 2006

Open House at 2852 N Halsted 1PM to 4PM

It will be another busy weekend. Economic news has been positive, with the stock market having a terrific two weeks, unemployment down, and Chicago housing prices stable.

There is no shortage for open houses this weekend as well. The fall season is traditionally the second busiest time of the year for real estate transactions.

I'll be at 2852 N Halsted, a new construction development, on Saturday and Sunday. There are five three bedroom, two bath units available. Each floor plan offers a little something different... including one remaining penthouse unit with a private, full roof-top deck.

Open from 1PM to 4PM, it's a great way to check out our work and learn about other developments and real estate available. Almost 100% of the time, the people I meet at open houses learn about a place they would like to see.

Furniture scratch and dent sale this weekend

Quick hit... Z Gallerie on North Avenue on North Avenue is having another weekend long "scratch and dent sale". The items include special orders that have the wrong colors etc...

Call Heather at 312-475-9809 or stop in and ask for her. She called today and let me know two truck loads will be available.

Going on Saturday and Sunday. I swear I don't have any financial interest in the store... Heather is just great about giving me the heads up. Some of my clients will be there to outfit their new places.

Good luck!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More than you bargained for on mortgage application

Another story of information selling tied to mortgage applications. Kenneth R. Harney from the Washington Post describes how the wheel turns...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Lakeview East Real Estate

I have a couple of great clients who have rented in the Lakeview East neighborhood for quite some time. They really wish to buy in this area of Lakeview, east of Halsted.

What is interesting about pricing in this neighborhood is how "tight" it is. The demand is consistently strong for this area regardless of the national market. The neighborhood is not a speculative buy... it's about living in one of the greatest cities near the lake, entertainment, restaurants, and with diverse people.

It's pretty easy to tell, for the trained eye, what is offered at the top of the market and what is offered in the lower quarter... the deals! This is also true for Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, and the River North where housing stock is consistent and people buy less as an investment but more to live in and enjoy what the city has to offer.

If you're stretching for these neighborhoods... take heart. It's generally less of a risk and you'll live in the neighborhood you truly love.

A good Realtor makes it easy

Great column below that made me laugh.
Avoid the paralysis of do-it-yourself real estate transactions by using a trusted Realtor. Read below and make the connection.

Buyer paralyzed by `feature fatigue'

By Jim SollischPublished September 8, 2006

I'm suffering from a condition that hasn't gotten a lot of press but may be at the tipping point of becoming an epidemic. The first symptom is fatigue. A deep weariness that's made it difficult for me to do even simple tasks like swipe my credit card. Eventually the fatigue gives way to paralysis. I've actually lost all feeling in my wallet.

I became aware of this while shopping for a cell phone. There were so many choices, I couldn't decide. So I kept the one I've had for the last six years. It may actually be a rotary phone. It's counterintuitive, but marketing researchers have discovered what I (and many simple-minded people) have known for years: Too many choices can suppress sales. In the book "Blink," Malcolm Gladwell describes a very simple study in which shoppers at a grocery store were offered the chance to buy one of six specialty jams. Thirty percent bought a jar. When the choices were increased to 24 varieties of jam, only 3 percent bought.

Yet, it seems the mission of every company in America is to give me total freedom of choice. They talk about choice in the same tone the Founders used for the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And I do want the freedom to make choices. Like who to vote for. Where to live. What college to send my children to. But not which of 27 wireless plans to choose from. Or which of 74 digital cameras to buy.

I really want a digital camera. In fact, I tried to buy one twice. The first time the sheer number of choices freaked me out and I ran out of the store. The next time I brought my brother for support and actually made it to the point where I held a few cameras in my hand. But then the number of features made me light-headed. Just before I passed out, I heard my brother tell the clerk that I had been living with the Amish for 20 years.

But the sad truth is, I've spent the last 20 years working in the capital of consumer America as a creative director of an advertising agency. I've actually designed campaigns to sell lottery tickets, tires and, believe it or not, wireless plans. So if I'm confused and dazed, I can't be alone. And research is showing that I'm not. Professor Roland Rust of the University of Maryland has even coined a term for it--feature fatigue. And it's the result of companies making toothbrushes so complicated and loaded with features that they come with a DVD to explain how to use them. Feature fatigue is the inevitable consequence of feature creep, the tendency for designers and programmers to bundle every feature they can imagine into every single product. I don't know if the axiom about using only 10 percent of our brains is true or not, but I'm pretty sure that's about the percentage we use of our gadgets' capabilities. A great deal has been written in the last year about feature creep.

But not so much about its cousin, my affliction, which I've coined Multiple Choice Syndrome. MCS doesn't just cause paralysis of the high-tech consumer. I can't even buy a pair of shoes since I discovered, an online shoe store that carries approximately 14 billion pairs of shoes. I know, I can shop at a real shoe store, and I do, but then I worry that I'm missing something. Even simple tasks like buying lettuce are tough for me now. My grocery store carries 21 kinds of lettuce. And then each of those falls into categories from prewashed and bagged to, hidden deep in the bowels of the store, head lettuce wrapped in plastic and filled with good old-fashioned pesticides. If only I could find it.

The moral here can be applied to a good doctor, CPA, furniture dealer... you name it. Make an educated decison, once, to trust a professional rather than kill yourself trying to be a do-it-your-selfer for everything.

Think about it... you might feel like the guy above when entering the Chicago housing market! There are sooo many information out-lets, developments, mortgage brokers, re-sale units, attorneys, contract issues... it helps to have someone make sense of it all.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Get out! West Loop to be evacuated!

Oh man. Read below and duck for cover.

Evacuation drill to close West Loop streets

Even as I write this... WGN talks shows are panning the rush hour shut downs tomorrow. No surprise here... but the evacuation drill will create a major delay if you work in these areas.

Between 3:30PM and 7:00PM tomorrow, downtown will be a nightmare. 12 bus routes will be turned up-side-down.

Thank goodness I don't have a closing (wait... I would happily have a closing during this mess.. what am I thinking?).

What do you think of all this? While the City Council is banning goose liver, the Mayor is making us the the most terrorist ready city in the universe.

Maybe we shouldn't warn people about these tests... that's called a pop quiz.

Single Family Homes on the Blue Line

I have recently been shopping homes with a client along the Blue Line stops from Belmont to Montrose. This is a great area for those who can't bear "moving up" to another condo, but can't afford Lakeview, Lincoln Square and Bucktown/Wicker Park prices.

Need to commute downtown and can spend $400K-$500K? Want a yard, 2 car garage, three floors of living?

There is a hefty stock of homes hitting the market along the train line. Several Avondale blocks near the Belmont Blue Line have really caught our attention for their tree lined streets, family atmosphere and easy access to highways, trains, and Belmont Avenue entertainment districts. Abbey Pub and Small Bar are nearby for local hangouts.

Mayfair and Old Irving will definately be a terrific investment. There is a small window of time left before this area is no longer a bargain. There is a ton of new home developments that have settled in comfortably with the 75 to 100 year old American Four Squares that dominate the area.

A little know area is just west of Kedzie and just north of Addison. Quiet blocks, big homes for $400K and under... they even have called this area "West Addison Mall".

The competition is hot in this market and the timing is right to buy a single family vs a condo.

Crain's had a quick take on Illinois construction before the holiday weekend... maybe it was foreshadowing for those of you who hit the roads.

Illinois construction spending jumps 27%
(Crain’s) - Construction spending in Illinois is up 27% since the beginning of the year, as greater spending on commercial and public works projects offset slumping housing sector construction, according to new data from McGraw-Hill Construction's research and analytics unit.

Link to Photo Source

From January through the end of July, the value of construction contracts started in the state reached $2.35 billion, compared with $1.85 billion during the same period in 2005.
Fueling the growth was a 159% increase in non-residential construction , which includes the replacement of Sherman Hospital in Elgin, an office building at 300 N. LaSalle St. and a bioresearch lab at the University of Chicago.
Another factor: an 82% increase in non-building projects, such as roads and bridges.
Residential construction spending, meanwhile, fell 35% from a year ago.

It seems to me Chicago held off 0n much of the road work untill... I don't know... last week. Lincoln Ave, Milwaukee, Lawerence, Wilson etc... all had resurfacing going on at the same time. It's a reflection of the past and ongoing development experienced on these streets.

In particular, it's been amazing to witness the redevelopment of Lawrence Avenue just east and west of the bridge. New construction condos and townhomes have sold well in this market. The road work has followed.

There are quality places to live all the way out to the Kimball line providing great choice and diversity of housing stock in the city.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Chicago Sponsored Property Tours on October 7th

Chicago will host an interesting day of home tours. This concept has been popular for new suburban sub-divisions for some time. However, Chicago has taken this opportunity to showcase neighborhoods and developments, that in some way or another, have benefitted from affordable housing subsidies. Locations will include the North, Mid-South, Near West, Southeast and Far South Side of the city.

Check out the links below. I will attend the tour with my clients who are interested. They will also have educational seminars covering Chicago specific financing options. You might be surprised by what you qualify for. Make sure you have a mortgage broker that will review the programs and locations of properties that may allow you special incentives.

City highlights 24 neighborhoods in cavalcade

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Meet me at an Open House 9/2 and 9/3

I'll be at 1109 W Belmont in the Lakeview neighborhood this weekend. It's the holiday, but what the heck?

Check out a great 3 bed, 2 bath penthouse unit with a roof top deck and garage parking... plus an extra space.

12P to 3P both days.

See you there!

Friday, September 01, 2006

When Realtors Attack

Sometimes you just have to catch a working man a break. Weekends are rough for us. After managing logistics and showings for our buyer clients in the morning, we race to our open houses for our sellers.

While fighting traffic to put out sales signs (without hazard pay, mind you), we take the brunt of insults, beeping horns and near misses. But, I'll run across four lanes of traffic for the perfect sign placement.

So, to the gentleman who pointed me out to Chicago's finest last weekend for pulling over with my flashers on Clybourn... to this guy who couldn't go around me... to the guy that really needed to get to Starbucks 10 seconds faster... give me a break.

One day you'll need me to sell your place and you'll wish I'd risk life and limb (and apparently, jail time) to place your signs out.

BTW, the police just shrugged their shoulders. They understand a guy just trying to do his job.