Friday, August 31, 2007

Special assessment not so special when selling your condo

I was contacted by a home owner for a price estimate of her condo. We have a nice portal on our web site where people can request an estimate and it's administered to an expert in their area.

The condo is a gut rehab conversion in Albany Park. Two bedrooms, one bath in a courtyard building. Small balcony, no parking and converted in 2004. The building is a block from the Kimball Brown Line stop, which is probably the biggest selling point in my opinion. The condo was purchased for $175K in April of 2004.

Oh yeah… and a special assessment of $12,000 per unit.

Apparently the building had structural defects in the roof. I didn’t get into details with the woman, but I figure something like this happened:

Most of the owners that bought the places were first time buyers. When the developer turned the condo association over to the owners, the Association probably failed to hire an inspector to evaluate the common areas. This would include the roof. It is common for new associations to make these crucial errors right out of the gate. Even if the idea was brought up, they may have simply failed to follow through.

So, the warranty period ran out and the owners had no recourse (or did not understand what recourse they had)when roof problems were discovered... and a special assessment was levied to fix the problem. Twenty- four units at $12,000 a pop? That’s a huge oversight.

The condo Association could have avoided the special assessment by hiring a structural inspection of the property for $1000 to $3000 depending on the size of the building and scope of the inspection. Seems cheap now. And what about the property report for the building? A property report is required and available to the buyers of a new conversion building. The defect must have been there prior to conversion as the building was not new construction. If the defect was not listed on the property report, then the developer must have caused it during construction.

Either way, a two bed one bath unit of this type is a hard sell in Albany Park right now. The special caused a raise in unit assessment from $165 to $247 for the next 5 years which doesn’t help.

I suggested listing the unit at $189K and hope for the best.

Monday, August 27, 2007

No vacancy for Chicago, Labor Day

Nice little Reuters report...

"Chicago was the big winner in the Labor Day 2007 survey, with the Millennium Park and North Michigan Avenue areas coming in #1 and #2 in popularity."

Today's vacationers are tomorrow's second home buyers in South Loop.

Chicago real estate attracts out-of-towners, re-locations

I've had a recent spike in out of state, and, out of country consumers contacting me about Chicago real estate. My presence on the Internet contributes to the many folks emailing me out of the blue.

Lately, through registrants to our company web site and my blog posts on this site and around the Internet, I’ve been contacted by home buyers from San Francisco, Michigan, Northern Wisconsin, New York City, and Australia to name a few.

In addition, recent transplants from Washington D.C. and Atlanta have begun working with me in the last couple weeks. This year, I’m personally seeing a lot more “out of towners” than last year purchasing properties in Chicago. These are people who have chosen a transfer or actively sought to change jobs to move here.

Chicago clearly remains an attractive option for careers and property shoppers. I don't see this changing anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Chicago Real Estate Local is back

The delay in posts was the result of a much delayed get away for the Chicago Real Estate Local family. We did a little east cost jaunt to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard. I obsess a bit about the differences of the New England coastal lifestyle and that of the urban Chicagoan smack in the middle of the country.

Although I have less than seaworthy legs, I see a future on the east coast somewhere down the line (decades, that is). The air, hills, sea water... very distinct, fresh and inspiring. The New England coast embodies American history, and this is something I am conscious of with each mile of shoreline.

So, on vacation I was to take an oath;

I will not email,

I will not blog,

I will not text,

In the New England fog.

I pretty much kept the oath. And on to the fall market in Chicago. Is your lease coming up? Wanna buy a condo?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Chicago Real Estate Local in the Tribune

Well sort of...

I was asked by the Chicago Tribune's Mary Umberger if the sub-prime lending situation has affected business as usual. My overall answer was I won't know until 6 months or so from now. That is, if none of my clients apply for, or apply and do not receive, a 100% financing loan in the next six months, then maybe those clients are gone. As well, the self employed or second home buyers etc... may be affected even when putting money down.

I work with clients that I meet from open houses, our Internet site, this blog, referrals, networking etc... If there are no sub-prime borrowers or if I see clients getting denied, then I'll know the "credit crunch" in mortgage lending has an andecdotal affect on my ability to assist buyers find homes. So far, that has not been the case.

Check out my comments in the Tribune story concerning sub-prime mortgage lending

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Garden Condos in Chicago? So far so good.

I'm working with a client (as we speak) who is contemplating a garden condo purchase.
A garden unit can be a few feet or more under ground...ceiling heights and light exposure can vary widely. But it can also allow someone a more affordable way to move into their neighborhood of choice. Remember... location, location, location.

But most people worry about the security and water seepage issues. Valid.

I've had several clients purchase garden units in conversion buildings over the past two years in Ravenswood, Ravenswood Manor, North Park, Rogers Park etc... So far so good. I'm also the owner of a duplex down in a converted condo building with a basement level floor (so far so good, even after the monsoon type rains we have had this supring and summer).

The truth is, basements can leak in Chicago. Happens to single family homes, apartments, new construction, conversions etc... But, if the right techniques are used during construction the home should stay dry.

In our building, adequate pumps and pipes were installed. But the real story behind keeping dry is our drain tile system. From what I know, this is the stuff if your going to have a living space below grade.

Anyone have any issues with garden condos? They have been a chicago staple as apartments.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bankers watch my site

I had a couple bankers tell me lately that they read my site, picking up some inside neighborhood information from time to time. Let's hope for the general good of finacial markets they are not making loans based on my posts.

Seriously though, I'd bet on me.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bucktown timber loft update

Here's a couple photos of the new bath tile in my Bucktown listing at 2333 W St Paul. Exciting stuff! Seriously though, my clients consulted with me and invested a little in the right places before listing. It makes all the difference. Place shows great and features a few upgrades that make it "move-in and enjoy quality".
Updates prior to lisitng were completed by Jonathan Hill of Artistic Construction at

Take a peek at the listing HERE:
I dare you to look.

Streeterville group doesn't like Children's Memorial Hospital; Hates sick kids

Okay, I admit that the title of the post is a little sensational, "Your Honor! Leading the witness!" I'm trying to spice up the site. I'm also in full swing campaign attack mode... too much CNN.

But Crain's has been following the opposition to the ground breaking of the new Children's Memorial Hospital in Streeterville by a local neighborhood group Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR). They feel the information and planning by Children's Memorial has been inadequate and want further clarifications concerning traffic, parking, noise etc...
Maybe, but the city has been okay with the project to my knowledge.

Read the story here:

Sorry, SOAR, but I think Children's has meant more to Chicago than you and will get the nod for full speed ahead (I thought I woke up in Chicago... not a democracy). If the new 42nd Ward Alderman has any wits, he'll take a pass on this fight or face further sensational blog posts about turning his back on sick kids. Hey SOAR, maybe you should move to the North Side by me... Its quiet, parking is okay and it's not freakin' downtown.

Full disclosure... my wife works for Children's Memorial at it's current Lincoln Park location. The move is not necessarily advantageous to her commute or to our lifestyle. We like working in Lincoln Park.

Bottom line, even if there is an explosion of congestion and noise... welcome to the new downtown...not your father's ghost town anymore.

Read this past story on the subject

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Does South Loop, Streeterville or your hot neighborhood lack retail?

Crain's ran this story about the slow development of retail in ratio to household and buying power booms in four "hot" neighborhoods. I found the post on Yo Chicago... go to the comments section to see what people feel about the story. You may also comment here.

Read the Crains story HERE

Here's what I had to say concerning the story:

I agree that South Loop remains a bit of a bedroom community on the lake for the residents. The ratio of foot traffic to the large buildings is odd. Parking is difficult for the outsider… but how is this different from the Goldcoast, Lincoln Park, Loop, most of Lakeview etc…? I think if you're a resident of any of these hoods, you either have a parking space or permits, don't own a car, or understand parking is difficult in the city.

However, I'm in South Loop socially and for business quite a bit. My wife and have commented all things being equal, (with no kids), we would like to live in South Loop considering our means and lifestyle. Its the best way to get us close to the lake, have a few local spots we like, and we can get to the family in the burbs easy (Lemont, Addison etc…). So for us, lifelong North Siders, it is a viable option with our present values, wants and needs.

Retail is adequate north of 15th. South of there, forget it.

Of course the story is making for solutions to the preceived lack of retail. The Crains story seems to infer that there is some magical valuation for adequate retail. How much retail and how close should it be? Not all neighborhoods must be cut from the same cloth. South Loop has a great feel for what it is: A mixed area of young professionals, retirees, spattering of familys, ecletics and students hugging the lake, Loop, Printers Row and liking it.

Streeterville is a little more extreme in this case. I think its for people who want to live on the lake or right on top of where they work. Otherwise, I don't see retail happening unless you do some indoor mall type of stuff like at Hancock building.. except tailored for everyday services etc. I saw this type of retail and services tucked into highrise and midrise buildings in Hamburg, Germany a Sister City of Chicago's. Its mall-like, but easily accessible for heart of the city dwellers.
Again, how can you expect quaint retail in a cramped office space/hospital district like Streeterville? You are close to River North here for nightlife… easy walk or cab.

100% financing for North Park condo... we'll see

Yesterday, a mortgage broker service partner of mine, Phil Tully at Guaranteed Rate ,spoke with a client I'm working with. She wants to do a 100% loan on a $200K purchase. The client is a Chicago Police Officer and may qualify for special city lending programs. So we'll see how tight things are these days.

The property is located in the North Park/Peterson Park area. Phil's job is to investigate mortgage programs that will work for my clients. This is exactly the type of situation where I need good lenders.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Local Ravenswood video tour in the works

Next week I'll be joined by Joe Zekas of Yo Chicago for a video tour of the northeast portion of Ravenswood. These "walking" videos are a great way to catch a little inside information about living in particular neighborhoods. I've enjoyed watching them my self and hope to make a few of my own in the future.

I'll take Joe around the new development and restaurants on Damen Ave., look at some new construction and existing well done development, and maybe spin over to the Ravenswood and Wilson/Sunnyside area to point out the restaurants and housing.

We should conduct the tour this Friday, but it may take awhile to get the video clip posted here due to schedules. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Lincoln Square Farmers' Market: Does it Pro-duce?

Look... I'm trying to go green too. In fact, I'm trying to figure out how to ride my bike more as a Realtor. When I'm home with Ryne, we never use a car. Walk to everything.

That's where the farmers' market comes in. It's city folk way of saying... "look, I care, I'm Green, I'm eatin' local".

But the Lincoln Square Farmer's Market just doesn't seem to cut it for quality. It's quaint, easy to walk to, a fun way to get out into the neighborhood... but I just get better fruit and vegetables from Jewel.

Sorry. Anyone else feel this way?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New listings look good in the fall

Sellers... shape up. Listing a place in August and September can be a good thing. Buyers want something new because they passed on, or lost out on, the good stuff from the spring.

I was at a closing today... my clients bought a place in Old Town. By July, when we offered and got this deal done, new good stuff was hard to come by. We got into two multiple offers on Lincoln Park condos, before finally getting it done on a two bed, two bath with garage barking and private garage roof top deck. We felt the folks who out bid us paid top of the market... but the homes were gone under 30 days as well. So, we turned to Old Town for a deal.

In fact, even today they mentioned that not much has come on the market (we always keep and eye out until the last moment).

Just make sure when you list this early fall season, the place looks great. I'm just saying... do the right things and your home will sell.