Thursday, November 29, 2007

Foreclosure and Bank Owned (REO) Properties in Chicago: Buying the Hype?

Any real estate genius can tell you that the foreclosure market and "bank owned" property markets have been hot Hot HOT! Or not.

I have limited time today and little time to write the details of buying an actual foreclosure in the actual world, but it ain't what you think it is. Recently, a big time money manager type friend of mine told me over drinks that clients are pushing the "F" word on him. "What about foreclosures?".

His response is if it were easy to buy a discounted property in foreclosure, fix it up and sell (or hold) for big bucks, he'd be doing it already for himself (and his wife is a big time Realtor type after all).

Teresa Boardman at St. Paul Real Estate Blog describes another annoyance in this fiasco of vouchers picking up the pieces. REO properties are hell to buy.She suggests all the mortgage folks getting out of the game in St. Paul switch over to the REO side and sell off some inventory. That's why she is brilliant and we are not.

The banks make terrible sellers and are infamous for taking too long, as in never, to negotiate and accept a deal (remember the movie Three Amigos where Martin Short convinces his compadres that the IN-famous El Guapo actually meant he was "more than famous"?).

My clients and I came across an REO last weekend that we call the Mold Palace. See, the home was left vacant and was allowed to flood. It's a total shame because it's in a top flight neighborhood of North Center (almost Lincoln Square).

Anywho, it could be a go for these experienced buyers if we could get some communication going. The bank wants folks to pay good dollar with ZERO information. A joke. I know, I know... if you can't stand the heat, don't buy the mold farm.

My point here is, they are still priced at a pretty high market rate. Is it worth preparing an offer and sending off to the abyss without knowing who or what we are dealing with? Is the bank price negotiable? Many times it is not. So, a week later you get a "no" response... that's it.

The bank should hold an auction with a much lower minimum bid and let this thing sell in the open market place.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chicago and Illinois Mass Transit Put on Hold

The Chicago Tribune ran this story immediately after a Illinois House vote on mass transit. No bueno.

I have not been posting about the ongoing transit issue in "mass", but have followed the story like most Chicagoans. Sites like the CTA Tattler linked in the sidebar are better aggregates for stories like these. However, most people I know are not talking about this. There are comments about the length of commute on the CTA Red and Brown Line, but few bring up the transit crisis. My guess is we see the new Brown Line stations being built on the North Side and think that progress is being made.

I'd just like to see modernized, quieter tracks and some electric buses after 100 years of the same old, same old.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chicago Community Guides from Pioneer Press

You may find these guides helpful. Nice compact source of neighborhood information.

Map by Brittanica

Rehab? Try Edgewater Glen in Chicago

Photo by

I have been looking at many single family homes on the North Side for under $700K and feel you can get a solid home on a nice sized lot in the Edgewater Glen area (located along side of Andersonville and Lakewood-Balmoral) for under $600K. There are a couple homes in the $550K range that will need about $50K in professional renovation (or really good self help handy work) to be very pleasant. The area of Edgewater located roughly 5600 N to 6400 N and 900 W to 1400 W really supports updates and structual improvements when looking to re-sell the home.

Your local Red Line stop would be W Bryn Mawr at N Broadway.
Edgewater includes the following neighborhoods: Andersonville, Edgewater Beach, Edgewater Glen, Edgewater Triangle, Highlands of Edgewater, Lakewood Balmoral, Magnolia Glen and Rosehill.
ZIP codes: 60660, 60640

This isn't flip your house material. Just a great place to buy a single family home to live on the North Side and add value.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Andersonville three-flat

We came across an interesting situation this weekend. A woman is selling her three-flat in Andersonville for $750K. Two units are rented out at about $1300 each. The third is vacant and could be upgraded as an owner's unit. Great location in the Lakewood-Balmoral neighborhood.

However, the woman told us she needed to close on the place by the end of the year, or else she will lose the tax benefit she is looking to take advantage of. If no sale happens, she said she'll rent the unit out and keep the building until retirement (5 years down the road).

So, what is her situation? What benefit will she get? Currently she, she lives in another two flat of her's in the neighborhood as well.

Nice three-flat if you're interested.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Roscoe Village and North Center for under $700K...60657 and 60618

I am working with a couple single family home buyers that live in Lakeview. They would like a single family home for under $700K. I feel the best combination of neighborhood, price and best quality homes can be found in Roscoe Village.

The fall and winter months can be a good time to pick up a deal. Without sounding too much like a salesperson, the facts are just there. At this time of year you can find a few situations. First, you have homes that were well overpriced or in "non-showing" condition that went on in the spring. They missed that market and now need to sell at a reasonable price. A strong buyer with good finances and quick closing date can demand a good price on a single family home.

Second, you have builders and re-habbers looking to get there product off the books before year's end. This can be a good time to get upgrades or closing money to purchase the home.

And third, you have the new listing gems. These are sellers that decide they need to sell for any number of reasons; They received a new job that starts early next year... they have a new child on the way... they can't handle their payments. Whatever the reason, they simply list a nice home for a good price with less competition on the market. You have to be ready for these. If you have looked at many single family homes with me, and the new guy just looks awesome for the price... it probably is awesome for the price.

I see this happening in Roscoe Village in the 60657 and 60618 zip codes. There are several single family homes carried over from the spring in the boundaries of Belmont to Addison, Ashland to Western. This area has move -in -ready single family homes with two car garages, yards, good interiors and some updates for under $700,000. There are a few row home opportunities as well.

And don't count out new listings. There are a few homes that just hit market in the last three days.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Any Chicago single family homes on sale this Black Friday?

The scenes of "Black Friday" actually put fear in my heart. Check out the Chicago Tribune photo album of the carnage HERE. The barrage of door buster ads on T.V. gives me anxiety (and also interrupted my giddiness yesterday watching my 10-1 Green Bay Packers wax the Detroit Lions).

I'm afraid to leave my house on Black Friday.

The only shopping I'm worried about is for a well located single family home under $800K or a awesome two-flat under $900K. Now, you want to see me run wild towards a "door buster" just list a four bedroom (three bedroom and den/office okay), three bathroom home with a nine foot basement, two car garage near a CTA "L" for under $800K. I'll probably have foam coming from my mouth when I bust the door down.

You would think you could get a great house for this price... but Chicago is an amazing place to live. Everyone is looking for the above attributes.

Thus, the adventure continues through Lakeview, Southport Corridor, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square and Lakewood Balmoral for that great space. My clients are flexible, have great vision and are not afraid of doing some improvements.

Anyone have a door buster out there for me?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stock market down, oil prices up... Buy near the CTA Brown Line

Today's stock market report has given many the jitters I suspect. Some of the "blame" of the sell off could go to oil prices hitting $99 a barrel. Yep.

Luckily we have a elevated train system and those pesky buses to get around (CTA). Well, at least for the time being.

For some reason, I see the happy condo owner near public transportation in say... Wrigleyville or Lincoln Square... hopping on the Brown Line near their house tonight on the eve of Thanksgiving. Off to their local pub to grab a pint of Guiness. Not a worry about oil prices.

It's a nice life.

By the way, if you think Chicago real estate near an "L" station isn't hot, you have not been in the market for awhile.

Comments feature on the fritz

I'm having trouble getting comments from the posts to show up on my sidebar. The comments will remain on the actual posts. I just have to figure out how to get them to the sidebar again.

Nothing against you or your comments. It's me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chicago and Illinois home market statistics in

The Chicago Tribune reports on third quarter statistics this year... again, sales down but prices steady and even up.

I just had this conversation today with a client who asked me where I see the market going (and we Realtors get this question every day). My answer is the over- building in less desirable areas is done. Those who bought on speculation in up-and- coming neighborhoods are being hurt the most right now. There are less people buying in these developments, so sales are down there... bringing the average numbers down for sales.

But sales prices remain strong in good locations. We see this time and time again. Unfortunately, there are folks with the attitude that home owners and developers are all losing their butt.... everywhere. Not the case. So, we see average prices up.

There are a TON of Chicago homeowners out there that bought 1999 to 2005 in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, Gold Coast's best locations etc... they are in great shape, so don't expect to get the place for a song.

It also needs to be understood that if you like the new construction more than the re-sale there is usually a premium.

Cub's President traded to Chicago Blackhawks

Well, sort of. John McDonough sees the writing on the wall and jumps to the Blackhawks. Hmmmmm... the sale of the Cubs should happen sometime next year so this is definately not the last move at the Wrigleyville compound.

Most of us Chicago natives and sports fans grew up loving the Blackhawks. They lost me two years after the 1992 Stanley Cup Fnals where the Hawks were swept by one of the greatest single teams ever (The Pittsburg Penguins). The year after they were swept in the first round by St. Louis... then they let the farm go. All my favorite players gone one-by-one.

The Blackhawks have a pretty exciting young team, new owner (the son of late Bill Wirtz) and now fresh blood in the front office. It's good to be talking about them again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lincoln Park 60614 for under $400K

It can be done. If you're young and fun and want to live at Cleveland and Armitage (and who doesn't?), then it's a 1970's town home for you.

It's better than you think. There are generally two or three possibilities like this at any given time in the Chicago market. Two bedrooms, a family room, one-and-half baths... maybe two bathrooms. Parking (!) and patio in Lincoln Park.

The homes have some updates. But this location will always support your improvements for a strong re-sale.

Why do I care? Because too many clients these days want a new construction or rehabbed unit in a not-so-good location. Look, don't make this mistake. Get the resale in a killer location and update when you can. You'll thank me when you walk out onto Armitage and Halsted for dinner.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

See me at my Bucktown Open House

Just a reminder that I'll be at my Bucktown Open House Sunday from 11AM to 2PM. I may even stop reading the Sunday paper if you stop by. Really.

2333 W ST Paul #305

Scroll down a couple posts for the virtual tour link.

Friday, November 16, 2007

HGTV House Hunters on a Friday night

Awesome Friday night here for The Chicago Real Estate Local (T-CREL for you rookies). With an eight-month-old baby and a wife out at an extended happy hour (She's FREE!), HGTV and an Old Style is as good as it gets for a Chicago Realtor. It's my window to the world.

House Hunters is a pretty good show in that it clues you in for "what you get for the money" in different areas across the country. However, the client/real estate agent relationship is always so flat and ridiculous. The show also suggests it "takes you behind the scenes" as folks decide to buy a place or not. That's a stretch. You basically see them walk in a place and the agent points and says... "carpet on the floors".

They should make that part a little more realistic... trying to find a longer and more typical client/agent relationship while actually showing the decisions that have to be made. I know my relationships can be business like, friendly, or even really intense. But they are always more warm and involved than on House Hunters.

Secondly, I wish they would give a little more context concerning the area and market surrounding the homes. It would be a great boost to the areas I think.

I'm writing this because; 1. I'm lame, and 2. I just saw this episode about a couple who buys a modest second home in Italy. It was actually pretty interesting and inspiring.

I don't know if any of you saw the Chicago episode... now that was lame.

Visit me at my Open House this weekend in Bucktown

I'll be at 2333 W St Paul in Bucktown Saturday and Sunday from 11AM to 2PM. View Virtual Tour HERE.
Hit me up by email for open house schedule that make sense for you.

Much ado about Avondale Chicago

Not much time here... but wanted to point out a post at Yo Chicago and conversation about development in Avondale. This is a Chicago neighborhood where I see a lot of upside in buying and fixing up a home.

Check out the comments too.

I'll re-visit this subject in more detail when I have time. So don't hold your breath.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Retail sold in Chicago's North Center

This is a few days late, but an interesting reflection on an area not as well know to many first time buyers in Chicago... North Center.

The commercial space at 4020 N Damen, a popular and well built condo building, was sold for $4.2M. I think a large commercial sale is a good reflection on the strength of the retail in this area.

The shopping and restaurant choices along this stretch of Lincoln has continued to grow over the last five years since the condo building was completed. It's truly a strip were you can walk to, and get, just about anything you want.

You have your staples such as the Irving Brown Line (CTA), Jewel grocery store, Trader Joes, coffee shops, eye doctor, dry cleaners, video store, higher-end restaurants, casual bars and music venues, furniture stores, music store etc... all within a few blocks.

Prices for condos here are much more accessible than most Lakeview areas... and you're just a little northwest. The average updated two bedroom, two bathroom condo with parking is around $400K And that can get you an elevator building with garage parking. Sweet.

In the four block radius of the Lincoln/Damen/Irving intersection there are about eighteen two and three bedroom condos for sale and five units currently under contract. There are a good variety of styles, so the stock here can suit most needs.

There are eight single family homes for sale in this same radius ranging from $550K for a tear down to almost a million for a large frame re-sale. Homes can go for well over a million in this area. The important number to watch is really what it takes to get into a "move in" conditon home in the area... you're pretty much looking at $650K.

Desirable retail and a variety of housing stock in North Center.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bucktown home prices

I've seen a few nice re-sale single family homes in Bucktown from the 600K to $750K range. This is a news.

The houses provide easy commutes downtown, awesome retail and restaurants, and Churchill Field among other parks for sports and dog runs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Five Stages of Buying in Chicago

Although not as dire as the Five Stages of Dying (or Grief), Buying in Chicago for many of my cients does take a trained professional to work through these physical and emotional stages:

The Doctor is IN

Denial: "I can't believe my lease will be up", "A two bed, two bath in Lincoln Park can't cost that much... can it?", "What do have for a single family in Bucktown for $500K...there has to be something?", "Can we come in $75K under?", "Multiple offer?".

Anger: "I'm not paying that!", "What are they crazy?", "Tell them we're walking over the GFCI outlets!", They paid what in a multiple offer!?", "If they want to sell it, this is what they get!". "Can't my Realtor find anything with a private roof-top for under $350K!?"

Bargaining: "Maybe they can leave the plasma and surround...", If they need us to close later, than we'll need a $3,000K credit to get out of the lease", "Well, the one on the first floor just sold, so maybe this is a good price", "Do you think the seller's will talk again after we walked over the GFCI outlets?", "Let them know we are interested if the contract falls through..."

Depression: "We should have bought that place.", "There's suppossed to be all this inventory, so why can't we find anything?", "There's nothing coming on the market".

Acceptance: "It looks like we'll have to bump up our price-point to get what we want", If I drop the second bath, I can get the location I really love", "So what you're telling me is the building sold-out for list price?", "I love the penthouse units, but they just won't work with a kid on the way... let's get that duplex-down in Bucktown we liked".

With moral support and the correct treatment, you'll be a home owner too.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Norman Mailer on Chicago

A wonderful snippet from Norman Mailer on Chicago via Lynn Becker's ArchitectureChicago Plus

Great find and punctuation upon a city.

I've added ArchitectureChicago Plus to my Chicago Local list.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"Chicago's most famous neighborhood"

Just saw a craigslist ad for a multi-unit building... the ad headline suggests it's in Chicago's most famous neighborhood.

OK... Guess the neighborhood.

Now click on the link above.

Sunday Chicago Open House stories...

I have a rare Sunday "off" and I'm spending it watching my Packers (8-1) blow up the Vikings. But, I couldn't resist taking a peek at an open house in Ravenswood just down my block.

The place is a new conversion duplex down in a two flat building. I own a duplex-down, so I want to check out the competition along with previewing as many places as possible for clients. So in my Sunday best jeans and fleece, I made my way down the block.

When walking in, I always identity myself as a broker and I 'd like to check the place out. Now, after stating I'm a broker (and the agent there has met me before) you figure the agent would not have to point to the living room and tell me it was "the living room". I reckon you don't have to be in real estate to know it's the living room.

Annoyances aside, I proceed to take a look. Again, three bedroom, three bathroom, living room, family room, garage parking, nice kitchen with good sized deck adjacent.

Not a bad place, however there were some minuses here and questionable paint and layout choices. It has some nice formal room designations, but may not be open enough for some people.

However, with a $499K price-tag, it is a good alternative for a family looking to stay in Ravenswood. A move-in condition house, way outdated, will start at $600K in the neighborhood.

To get updated open house listings for any type of place you are looking for, please email or call me anytime. If we can't go out on showings, taking a look at some open houses is the next best thing.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bike the drive... I-355 style. Or, "I can't drive I-355!"

As long as I'm on the subject of cycling...

The long awaited for some, and bemoaned by others, south extension of I-355 is set to open. The only reason I know, or care, about this is my in-laws live in Lemont, IL. It's a growing burg on a rolling hillside once know for it's bad water quality in the past (according to a health study my wife did in college).

Lemont now is a really great place to live. There is a good variety of single family home stock, a new giant condo and town home development downtown, a continued growth is quality retail and restaurants (someone beat me to opening a boutique wine shop in the downtown) and a Metra stop.
Speaking of living there, my mother-and-law has been making the case for Jillian and I to buy a house there for years. I told them we'll move next door when we can turn their house into an old folks home for them and my parents... with hired help.

And now Lemont has the south extension of I-355. See the only way in and and out of Lemont really (to the highways) was Lemont Rd., which bottlenecked at the bridge. Now my father-and-law can cruise the open highway just outside there sub-division they built in just over 7 years ago.

So, hurry on over to the great southwest and bike I-355 on Sunday.

You may hear a chorus of
"I can't drive I-355!"

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Chicago Bike Maps: Ride your bike there next time

I was considering how out of shape and fat I'm getting and I realized I don't have the Chicago Bike Map posted. Maybe it will help me find my way to my bike.

The hardcores ride year round...
I have ceratin clients that prefer we cycle to showings on the weekends. It's awesome.

Here you go

It's now in the side bar as well.

Divison Street Wicker Park; "Most elegant in town"

Photo by

If you can't make fun of Realtors, who can you make fun of? I recently sent a listing on Division Street in Wicker Park to a client, in which the remarks... well... remarked:

"Luxury condo on most elegant street in town".

Really? Look, Divison is cool but if I wrote that, I'd make fun of me too.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

High rise in Evanston: What are they smokin'?

This one's for my Evanston peeps...

Just a couple stories here concerning the next go around for a possible 40 plus story structure in downtown Evanston. Big.

The people don't seem to like it, but the city does and business folks do. My clients in Evanston are on the fence, but can't totally get their heads around a tower that size at that location in general.

Heres's some Background:

Chicago Business
Evanston Roundtable

Evanston Now

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Local goes to Rubloff

I recently accepted a position with Rubloff Residential Properties in Lincoln Park. The next few days may be rocky as I settle in at the new office and get all my new information out there. However, I'm pretty excited about the marketing and resources the long time Chicago company offers. I'm also excited about the garage parking in the heart of Lincoln Park... seriously, it's great.

If you have questions for me or want to look at some properties, just call or email from the information at this site. I'll have some Rubloff real estate links and property search options up in a day or so.

My clients have been taking up most of my time (thank goodness), so the "blog build" takes a back seat. See you in Lincoln Park.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Chicago Tribune Real Estate Section

I love grabbing the Chicago Real Estate Section from the Tribune on my way out the door. Lately, I've slowed down enough to even sit and read it with a cup of coffee in the morning (I admit to giving another good blogger a hard time for actually reading a "print" newspaper rather than going online!).

But the truth is, he’s right. There’s not much better things than reading the real estate sections on Sunday in your favorite place at home. Mine being my kitchen hightop table...

I believe they truly feature stories that can set you on the right path when considering buying or selling a home. You can always skip the section and ask me, but maybe you like the Sunday paper too. More important still are the articles that deal with condo associations and mortgage finance.

For instance, one of the more interesting stories today concerned how folks are dealing with getting mortgages... and those who are providing options.

It seems that IRA holders are getting into the loan shark game to "fill the gap" on portions of mortgages. Just don't borrow from the guy named Joe Bag of Doughnuts....

Sunday Open Houses in Chicago

If you haven’t noticed already, there are A-LOT of open house in Chicago… particularly on Sundays. Tomorrow, in fact, I’ll take my clients to various showing appointments, including open houses throughout the day. They have limited time and the open houses give us the opportunity and flexibility to view as many places as possible. (BTW, if you have a kick-butt three bedroom town home with garage parking for sale, shoot me an email).

Sellers… as a marketing tool, the open house is great because it allows Realtors to easily schedule weekend showings of your property.

There are safety concerns to open houses and arguments to their effectiveness in selling homes. But, both these issues can be addressed. As in anything you do safety precautions can be taken in open house situations. And as for selling the home, the open house is a way to get showings… period. The have to be conducted with good advance advertising and professionalism at the “point of sale”.

Chicago… how do you feel about open houses? Have you ever walked by one during the house hunt and eventually bought the home? In my experience, consumers look for open houses to visit with the intent of making a purchase if it’s the “one”. On our first place, my wife and I walked into an open house for a new development in the neighborhood we targeted… and eventually bought the first unit in the building.

For a targeted list of Open Houses every weekend, just email me or call. Stop squinting at the newspaper! I'll be nice and set you up. I promise it's much easier on you.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Chicago furniture stores... not all the same

One of my favorite stops in Lincoln Square is Northern Home Furnishings. It's a real mix of furniture, but the best pieces are a sort of reserved modern style... German, Danish, Scandinavian.

Jill and I have purchased a terrific bed and dresser there for our guest room. It was our master set in our last condo, but now looks better in our guest room. My flat screen T.V. stand is from there. Recently, I popped in and found several new lamps that just came in... I'd been looking for some affordable cool lamps for our duplex for awhile. I picked out four different styles that really look great in the house.
Prices can be very competitive.

In fact we just picked up a new tall kitchen table with stools for $199! It looks higher-end, great color and the quality is terrific for an eat-in kitchen table. They ordered several of them as a promotional piece and they flew out the door. Seriously, I'm not cheap when it comes to furniture. The table actually looks and feels good.

It's a privately owned store (say hi to Michael and Helmut), so when picking up a good volume of furniture, make sure you bargain a bit. Also, they deliver and set up for free.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Streeterville and New Eastside for under $200K

Last weekend I met a client from Wisconsin downtown to view condos under $200K. Yes it can be done. And frankly, I'm jealous... young guy, gets his first big job out of grad school and moving to the City of Big Shoulders.

He'll land in a studio... but so what? You're in Downtown Chicago!

His criteria was to be two miles within Millennium Park. No prob.
To be honest, I initially thought we'd only find some badly placed units. You know, no light, next to air conditioning condensers, low floors, dumpy buildings. Maybe have to share a bathroom with the studio next door (just kidding).

However, I found a few places that were really nice... I could see my self living in them (when Jill kicks me out for bringing home a dog... but that's another story).

A couple favorites:

31st floor spacious studio unit in great shape with clear unobstructed views south at 400 E Randolph for $189K. This building is constructing a new work-out facility and has a unique location. Being so far east on Randolph gives it a little serenity. However, it's right across the street from Millennium Park and it's band shell... so you better love the music.

A modern and updated studio at 230 E Ontario for 189K in Streeterville. 21st floor and on a terrific location for happy hour action. Trader Joe's is close by as well! This unit also was bright. Less view, but a much more happening spot.

If I was single (and I'm soooo not single) and worked downtown, I would love the opportunity to buy a studio in one of these buildings. Renting one of these places can run $1,100 to $1,300. With a decent down payment, these resale units will make much more sense than renting. You have the option to hold on to the unit as well as you move up the property ladder.

Just watch out for the bridges.