Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Daylight Saving screw-up makes USA Today

Any publicity is good publicity.... I guess.

Forgive me as I advertise my Bucktown loft

My guy says sell it. Bucktown duplex loft (timber loft for those of you paying attention), huge terraces, parking, recent updates and elevator building. Live in Bucktown for $339K at 2333 W St Paul.

Give me a call/email... this same model sold in less than a week at $339,000 and this unit is more updated and has a larger second bedroom. No kidding.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Daylight saving fails to "fall back"

I woke up an hour later than expected Sunday morning. This would not be a big deal if I did not have clients out looking for properties. Oh, I wasn't late for them, but I was not able to do my usual research and emails to clients before heading out. See, I use my Blackberry as my alarm clock, and the software was set to the "old" fall back date of the last Sunday in October.

Sure, maybe I should have a back-up. But, Ryne usually wakes me up very early... no denying that alarm. But, he decided to sleep late in the morning after a restless night with a fever.

So, I feel gipped... lost an hour. Who's gonna give me it back? The Government?

We suspect a few folks with 11AM open houses scheduled were a little suprised too... as we were blanked at a couple.

Check out the USA Today story I'm in
Seems I was not alone.

PHOTO BY http://www.flickr.com/photos/sbh/

Friday, October 26, 2007

Ryne Sandberg; It's a Chicago thing

Ryne signing a baseball I caught at a Cubs game for my Ryne earlier today in Roscoe Village.

On a beautiful spring day called May 1st, 1991 I was randomly selected to be a Chicago Cubs bat-boy. Actually it wasn't so random as the long time clubhouse manager Yosh Kawano hand picked me early before the game because I looked like I'd fit the uniform.

I did fit into it thankfully, as there was 17,000 plus fans there to watch me step onto Wrigley Field. At fifteen years old, a baseball player and big fan, it didn't get any better. There I am suiting up with Mark Grace, Andre Dawson, Greg Maddux, Rick Sutcliff, and of course, Ryne Sandberg. In fact I sat next to Sandberg's locker.

The day quickly got better as I played catch with then third baseman Gary Scott and stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the game's best, hat over heart, listening to the National Anthem. Then it was to work as I collected bats, sunflower seeds, gum and Gatorade for the players. Batter up! I took my seat in the dugout next to Sutcliff and Mike Bilecki as the starting Cubs took the field and future Hall of Fame picher Greg Maddux took the mound. While the Cubs were batting I sat on the field.

I have a million stories from that day. None cooler than meeting Grace, Sandberg and Dawson at home plate after Dawson's three run homer, giving high-fives and trotting into the dugout with three future Hall of Fame players (Grace and Dawson are not in yet, but will be). Maddux has been my favorite pitcher from the day he started with the Cubs.

Fifteen years or so later, my first son is born. Somehow my wife under the influence of considerable drugs from the labor, agrees to name our son Ryne. Although not entirely the reason for the name, I grew up watching Ryne Sandberg play baseball day in and day out. Watching those games was a joyous and important part of my childhood. Besides, we wanted an interesting name with a positive connotation. You could do worse than Sandberg and we hope our little Ryno enjoys the connection to a Chicago icon.

Scarecrows take over Lincoln Square

These scarecrows didn't even startle Ryne.

For classic Chicago fall ambiance, stroll around Lincoln Square and Ravenswood one of these afternoons or early evenings. If you are tired of the downtown grind, this may be for you.

Modernize your condo with new stair rails

I just negotiated a 10 year old duplex condo for my client at the southern edge of Lakeview.

It's time for some updates. One way to modernize your condo is to replace wood railings with iron, steel or glass. Of course you can combine different elements.

Maybe something like this? My contractor Jon Hill with Artistic Construction has a creative eye as well and will present many different options. These stair rails would probably be too traditional for him.

One thing I enjoy most about this career is helping my clients make home improvement decisions that both satisfy them and increase the value of their home. It's up to the owner however. Some people shy away from too personal of choices while others take chances to really create their own environment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Flipping homes in Chicago: A family affair

My brother-in-law called me out of the blue yesterday. He’s driving around the Humboldt Park neighborhood and asks me for market information concerning a home going to auction.

Now, this is not entirely unusual as he’s been in the mortgage business for awhile. But, homes going to auction? What the hell are you driving around Humboldt Park for?

Turns out he has become a real live house flipper with a couple partners. News to my wife and me. And in perfect brother-in-law fashion, he gives me a last minute “pop-in” phone call for some really important information. No problem Bro, I’ll just drop all my clients and the three deals I'm in the middle of…

And I did. See, it’s my wife’s sister’s husband, and they have two kids. All I was thinking is if I “prioritize” him, I’m taking food out of their kid’s (my nephew’s) mouths and Thanksgiving this year will be REAL awkward… well, so I do the research on the spot. Look, I’m a pretty good Realtor and it burned me a little that the dude’s in my city (he’s a dedicated suburbanite) snooping around real estate and he didn’t seek my advice way before hand.

BTW, the numbers show house transactions down %50 compared to the 2nd and 3rd quarters and home prices down by about 10% in that same comparison. However, move-in condition homes under $300K have sold in relatively short market times.

Okay, my ego aside, the brother-in-law and sister-in-law are pretty smart people and they have consistently showed each other support in these types of ventures. And brother John is a good numbers guy and has some contacts here and there. So, I believe they’re on the right track. But what about me? Turns out they don’t have a Realtor on the North Side and they could use some specific consultation. Thanks for the bone… dude.

Here’s what they need and here’s what I’m good at:

Right now they are focused on a certain price-point in emerging neighborhoods. They find the houses now, usually bank owned (REO) that go to auction. But they need advice on the market statistics concerning the single family homes, consultation on the finishes of the house, and a Realtor to market and sell it. Check, Check and Check.

If this thing takes off, maybe I’ll bird dog some houses too. But the foreclosure and auction game takes a lot of concentrated time and effort. My everyday bread and butter is being one of the top Buyer’s Agents in the city for residential real estate… and I’d be taken away from client research if chasing foreclosures.

However, because I do represent so many transactions all over the city and therefore know what buyers want, I’m in perfect position to consult on things like location, price, finishes and marketing.

This could be the start of a family empire and an HGTV show.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Englewood, Chicago for investment homes

I'll be in the Englewood neighborhood this afternoon researching investment homes with a client. She ownes three in the neighborhood. Basically, in areas with many foreclosed and dilapidated houses, there is need for investors to buy, renovate and care for the homes. The up-kept houses provide affordable low income housing, which is definitely in short supply.

This particular client currently rents homes in conventional lessee situations. But, with the accumulation of homes, she is interested in renting to those in the CHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Today, we are looking at single family homes in Englewood near Ogden Park. The target home is one that has already been renovated, has current tenants, and has an asking price of $100K or less. I suggested she contact the CHA in the meantime to become eligible to rent to those with CHA vouchers.

Check this report out on participating in the Section 8 program (now called The Housing Choice Voucher program).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Outdoor space is too important in Chicago

For $750K plus, I'd hope for better outdoor space. I don't believe these town homes in Ravenswood have roof top decks. If this is it... I'll pass.

New Development in Ravenswood Chicago

I’ve been following this strip of shuttered up businesses and apartments for awhile now. It was probably the last real eyesore on North Damen Avenue between Lawrence and Foster. I even had a good reader of this here blog doubt that it would be developed! Guess he had not visited the area in awhile. This was a long time coming considering the high end construction and homes already in the neighborhood for years.

As demolition is taking place, word on the street is these will be two bedroom, two bathroom condos with garage parking. Maybe about 14 units. Seven other multi-units developments on either side of this lot have been completed over the last three years. One just completed to the south is offering two bedroom plus den condos with garage parking starting at $450K.

I would imagine these units will start just over $400K if 1400 sq/ft and would top out at $450K if featuring roof top decks of some sort.

These are off-market but I may be able to arrange some information and a pre-construction deal with the developer.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Offering on a home...first

There is a strange phenomenon occurring this fall with many of my buyer clients… we are the first in to offer on a place the first week it hits the market. The problem is, sellers will not give up the goods, thinking that there will a flood of offers for their “greatest condo ever”.

The basic scenario goes like this:

My clients and I look at the best properties available over a month’s time. Suddenly, a new listing comes on that really fits the bill for this PARTICULAR buyer… we know this because we’ve seen everything else, really determined what is important, and also know how the market is shaking out by this time in the year.

The property is probably 30K to 50K above what I think it will really sell at. However, we know what we want and we’re willing to write the offer anyway (knowing all the while it stinks being the first in on over priced listings). So we offer on the place accordingly.

The seller comes down, we come up… we start talking about financing, closing date, earnest money and how we are going to make this work…

But we get stuck 10K to 15K apart. Here’s why:

The sellers have not found their dream home yet at this point. And they won’t accept an offer (unless it’s very close to their asking price) until they find the elusive dream home (in which they’ll turn around lowball that seller). So, even though I have a qualified buyer client ready and willing pay up with the seller’s making good money, the seller passes…

This is a mistake. There is no guarantee that more time on the market will mean more offers at higher dollar amounts. There is also a boat load of time and stress the sellers could have saved themselves by taking an early offer. They don’t realize the psychological effect that market time and price reductions have on potential buyers as well. There is more going on here than money…and it’s called TIMING.

A hard fact is that even if the seller lowers the asking price later to the same as our actual offer, the timing may be off and no offers come. This happens all the time. When the seller finds their next home and is then ready to deal, the buyers are suddenly not around. Boo hoo.

In these cases I work with my buyer client’s strengths and weaknesses to formulate a strategy. There are many directions to go. One might think, “If it’s over priced, wait until they lower it”. But by that time, someone else could sweep it up as the greater market gets wind of the lower price. The key is to dance the dance and make the case to get the deal done. And this takes skill.

Bucktown Open Houses this Weekend: Duplex condos

Here are a couple of my open houses this weekend in Bucktown:

I will be at 1939 N Damen both Saturday 10/13 and and Sunday 10/14 from 1PM to 4PM.
Check out the three bedroom, two and one half bath duplex down. Two car parking, massive sized rooms and highly upgraded.

Also, 2333 W St Paul #305 will be open from 1Pm to 4PM on Sunday 10/14It's a two bedroom one and one half bath. Parking is included in this
penthouse duplex timber loft.

Check out the photos and details by clicking on the pictures.

Also, check out the listing gallery HERE

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Google Street Maps frames Chicago

This is way cool.

Check out Chicago's downtown and hot commercial areas like Andersonville, Lincoln Square, Southport Corridor, Bucktown and the like.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Cubs lose, but Chicago still needs food

Okay, I was just at the most depressing baseball game of my life earlier this evening. However, catching up on emails tonight reminded me of a client/friend that works a special Chicago institution. One that is a winner every year... unlike my Cubs.

Check out the link to The Greater Chicago Food Depository

I was just added to her professional network, and thought I'd point out the link to their web site. If you are thinking of volunteering, here's a good place to start.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

High end Ravenswood Chicago

Pictured here is a new construction development at the corner of Damen and Lawrence in Ravenswood. Three bedroom, two bathroom condos with garage parking start at $475K on the first residential level. You are three blocks from the Lincoln Square commercial and restaurant strip and very close to Andersonville (which I walk to from here all the time).

$475K to me is a little agressive... but the secret is out on this area of "middle" Ravenswood and they'll get this price. Transportation, restaurants, shops, parks etc... New construction product is in demand here, which was formely non existent.

Pictured below is a three flat project that is near completion. It will feature a duplex-down, a simplex middle floor, and a duplex-up. This type of building along Damen avenue has been successful, with all previous construction selling out quickly. New construction duplex-down units of 2400 sq/ft sell for $550K, middle floors at $450K and the top floor units have caught over $600K previously.