Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Chicago Condo Contracts

Everyone knows that they want a condo... and mostly what kind of place they want. They don't always know what kind of money gets what and how to get into the condo once they find it. That's my career description (that part about knowing... not the part about not knowing).

Once we have the where, what and how much pinned down, I whip out a contract (look out!). Actually, theri are two kinds of contracts in general when buying a condo.

1. The Chicago Association of Realtors/MLS Condominium Real Estate Sale Contract

2 The builder’s contract

The first contract is used in most re-sale condos and town homes. It is a template contract developed so Realtor’s can “fill-in-the-blank” without practicing law. I won’t get into the history, but the State Bar Associations had much to do with the formulation of this standard. There is also a “multi-board contract” that suburbanite Realtors and agents will use when trespassing on my turf. Both are just fine.

The contracts include these customary and important terms in a Chicago real estate transaction. In a nutshell:

Address and parking space
Date of offer
Personal property
Financing terms and contingency
Earnest money
Attorney modification and physical inspection
Addendums and riders
Client information

Now, that was just a quick run down. Some deals may require extra, special forms and a whole list of addendums I’ll attach to the contract. The way this puzzle is put together is what keeps me in this career. This, and the working all the time part, if you like that sort of thing.

The “Chicago” contract also is written in a way that protects both sides in the transaction. Each clause is plain as day (after we explain, but not advise, each clause). Each clause lays out the responsibility of the purchasing party and the selling party. Sounds like a great party to me! Although a template… not all deals are the same. So make sure you have someone experienced filling this out. If it’s a new agent, they should bring in a heavyweight. No harm or embarrassment in this… you want a smooth process and the brokerage should help the new guy.

A builder's contract will typically be used in a new construction or new converion development.
The builder’s contract may contain all of the above or very little of the above. It is prepared in the developer’s favor in general. This is not sneaky… it’s just on their terms for their risking the housing development. Most builders’ contracts are well laid out and include many buyer protections and warranties. Some do not, and, can be a bit ridiculous in their obligations.

Just tonight a new agent asked me to take a look at a builder’s contract before he sat down with clients. The contract explicitly indicated that the unit was sold “as is” and did not have any warranties. This is an area the client needs to be made aware of by the agent and should take up the issue with a good real estate attorney during the approval period.

Long story short… I like to bring up all the steps of the buying process with my clients and potential clients right off the bat. Have you discussed mortgage financing with a trusted banker, mortgage broker or credit union? Are you familiar with the earnest money procedure? When do you need to be in a place? And, “As long as we are out at showings, let’s talk about the steps in a sales contract… because I think you’re going to flip over this next one”.

Remember… this isn’t meant to be pushy. You’re gonna need to know this stuff and I’d rather you hear it from me early on. All the above questions pertain to the sales contract. After all this teeth pulling, you’ll work closely with a good real estate attorney before everything is signed off. A good reading, writing and explanation of the various contracts will make the process surprise free.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The West Wilson Corridor: Chicago's North Side

I'm throwing in my hat! Yes, a new -buzz-catchphrase-says-it-all-hot-hot-hot neighborhood name to market my properties. I’ve never invented anything! But here it goes, my coining of a phrase if you will… The Wilson Corridor.

I will begin to market and sell listed properties along West Wilson Avenue as the “Wilson Corridor”. That’s the sound of fire catching, of the phrase hitting. Of marketing genius.

The Wilson Corridor consists of these boundaries…North Ashland Avenue (1600 west) to North Kedzie (3200 west) and West Montrose Avenue (4400 north) to West Lawrence (4800 north).

All kidding aside (and I’m not), this stretch offers a laidback, tree lined, pleasant existence. The entire stretch is close to many Brown Line stops (one Metra stop) and offers close proximity to restaurants, theatre, music venues, shopping and parks.

The price and housing stock varies greatly. You can get a one bedroom condo near the train for under $190K on a nice street in Albany Park. Or, you can buy a $2 million dollar estate that nestles the North Branch of the Chicago River on an extra wide Chicago lot in Ravenswood Manor… these two properties only about 3 blocks apart. Take in the action of the Lincoln Square strip, located directly in the middle of the Wilson Corridor. This stretch rivals any in Chicago for entertainment, shopping, dining and recreation choices.

New construction is starting to dominate the main arteries of Lawrence and Montrose. This while total gut-rehab condo conversions have slowly compounded over the last ten years in the interior grid of pleasant streets. Houses have had make-overs… some torn down to make way for a new born. But here too, the stock is diverse. Mainly, there is a colonial look to the style of homes, with a good helping of grey stones and a spattering of contemporary… but not too contemporary in these parts.

I will add a few entries describing the several moods in each pocket of the Wilson Corridor over the coming days. It would help if I solved my Blogger sign in problem on my home PC, but alas, I’ll have to post from the office until then.

I love to take new clients here looking for a little more space than Lakeview or Lincoln Park to this stretch. Many easily find a new home here, even though they had never before crossed Irving Park Road.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Chicago blog that wasn't

Market activity has been swift in the New Year already and there are several stories to tell of the early goings. However, since switching to the New Blogger, I have not been able to access my account from home. With the bulk of business in the field, I have not been in the office for a few days... thus the shortage of posts.

Today I'll spend some time catching up on the last two week's action. I've represented several clients in their first purchases, while also selling my home and purchasing a new one. But, it seems my first priority is too get someone (maybe our brokerage's computer gurus) over to my house and get me onto Blogger!

I scanned and I swept, but to no avail. Something must be wrong with my machine. Who will pass on Chicago market knowledge to the masses if I can't log on at 2:00AM to post about Lincoln Square new construction?

I know that you were worried. And I feel humbled. But, before you know it, this problem will be fixed and I'll have tales of the great Northwest Side of Chicago once again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Discover Chicago's Northwest Side

The above title sounds innocent and pedestrian enough, but you should know me better.
The Chicago Tribune ran a story concerning the religious epiphany many soon to be buyers/home owners are having; there is a Northwest Side to the city. However, the story misses the boat on where it is really happening and hops to some neighborhoods that will be a tough sell to a Lincoln Parker or Lakeview aficionados. These of the home buyers the author seems to be suggesting are moving to the "sticks".

The author of the story more realistically alludes to the corridor of West Irving Park Road west of North Western Avenue (say that three times fast!). The story mentions a few developments. Several at the not- very-far -out locations sprawling from the 2700 block West Irving Park Road to the 3300 block west (the later apparently is considered a dream by the young buyers in the story). My favorite quote from one of my fellow Realtors describes the 2700 block of Irving Park Road… making it such a paradise that "you don’t even know you’re in the city"… except that you live on Irving Park Road.

Now, I consider myself the Northwest Side expert in our brokerage… pushing the boundaries of our Lincoln Park office. I was born and now live on the Northwest Side and giggle a bit when 2700 West is considered “just in reach”. A couple more observations for the reader of this story…

The Irving corridor has developed past Western Avenue and I agree that this should be on the radar. But new construction heading out all the way to Pulaski will still cost you (in most cases) 309K and up exponentially for two bed, two baths with parking at about 1200 sq/ft. This stretch is terrible for train access, so plan on taking the bus. You have to live all the way up in Old Irving around 4200 West to catch a train, and there is little condo stock here. I did sell my clients a three bedroom two bath, 1800 sq/ft awesome rehab in a three flat (super rare) on Keeler. But the units that make it worth pushing out there are still $350K plus and must be near the train.

The single family houses, move-in quality around the train, start at $450,000K and will need some work. Nice place though, if you want a nice single family home for $500K and-up to settle down- but still live in the city near hotter neighborhoods. Not much to do as far as retail/restaurants, but the parks are terrific.

The story completely missed out on Lawrence Avenue heading west from North Western Avenue. This is farther north than Irving Park Road (so should fall in the boom of the great Northwest Side) and one of the more interesting transformations in the city. This stretch all the way out to Kimball (and a few blocks west) offers access to the Brown Line along with buses and easy out to 90/94 if you need it. It’s here that you are seeing the greatest amount of conversions and new construction, combined with a ready made retail/entertainment district that can extend from Lincoln Square.

Lawrence Avenue from Lincoln Square through Albany Park, and the surrounding blocks, has the most amount of development… stretching all the way to Jefferson Park.

My take… just try to get a Lakeview or Lincoln Parker looking to buy a condo to push out to Norwood Park! Sorry Norwood Park. Basically, the Tribune article makes a good point… condo developments happen West of Western and North of Irving Park Road. But not in great numbers once you pass Kedzie or Kimball Avenue going west or northwest of Foster and Western. A lot of these northwest areas are still sleepy when it comes to retail and entertainment clusters, but offer nice single family homes close to transportation downtown… sometimes close to transportation downtown I should say.

I like to be creative with my North Sider clients’ home search, but I’m not sure most are ready for Peterson Park, Sauganash, Edison Park, North Park, Jefferson Park, Norwood Park….even Rogers Park, Albany Park, Edgewater, Mayfair, North Mayfair...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Chicago Open Houses

4445 N Paulina #3B

Saturady January 13th from 1PM to 4PM

Virtual Tour HERE

Details HERE

I'll host the above open house this weekend. For a list of Open Houses that meet your needs, please email or call me.

I sent my clients a list of open houses last week in case they had time to stop in a few... they bought one of them this week. It's always nice to know where and when the good open houses are just in case!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Kimball Brown Line station will reopen Friday. Now, for those of you that have never crossed Western Avenue (let alone Ashland), the Kimball Brown Line stop is the end of the line. Many of the area's immgrant workers and new young professionals enter the "magic mystery tour" know as the Brown Line in relative comfort at this stop. Ever wonder how those people got their seats on a packed Tuesday morning? Kimball stop.

Interestingly enough, us Albany Parkers hardly missed the station due to the close proximity of the Kedzie stop that now stretches from North Kedzie Avenue to North Spaulding. However, after the opening of the Kedzie line, the first thing I said was, "Where the heck is all the enclosed shelter?". As the Tribune story makes mention of the Kimball improvements by way of added shelter... it was the least needed here. For starters, it was already covered and there is always a train waiting for you.

Well, welcome back Kimaball. However, with all the added improvements, most notably the ADA compliances to all the stops, it would have been great if they built a few shacks with heat lamps for the stiffs on the platform all along the line... waiting for that regularly scheduled train.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Chicagoans want new...NOW

Or like new. Where do you want your market research from...national news or the real estate junkie on the Chicago streets?

Several observations since January 1st:

1. Buyers are flooding the market. In November... well, I should have taken November '06 off. Maybe a nice island somewhere. It was crickets in November. In the second half of December '06, consumers started walking into my open houses and talking the talk. They were looking to get serious about their search and home purchase for the upcoming spring. Now remeber, I host open houses almost every weekend year 'round and take the same "ready to get the job done for you" attitude. But the difference was apparent... December marked a change.

2. Buyers are writing purchase offers. In just the second week of January, my clients are writing strong offers to purchase their homes. Again, I had a good last year picking off the deals for my clients in the "gloom and doom"... but the no one was jumping off the fence the last two months of the year. Now... I can hardly keep up with demand as my clients leap in.

3. Buyers are buying the better finished homes. There are certain spots that you pay for the space no matter what's in it. Lincoln Park? Re-sales may have windows from 1919 and an out-house in the back... still got $400K. There is less of an "add value" buyer out there. I see more buyers willing to push out to the improving neighborhoods for more space and better finishes.. passing on 7-12 year old rehabs. Improvements may be needed to simply SELL your home, rather than to get more money when you sell it.

4. Sellers still don't get it. You have to have your home in great shape, looking good, feeling good to move it for top dollar. To match the comps from 2005, your place has to be spit shined. Have a professional handy man and painter come through and give your place a tune-up before listing. Listen to me.... please. We will all be happier!

All night Loop party all right with me

The Chicago Loop is flexing some of it's new residential and cultural muscle May 11th for Chicago's first all night party. I attended one of these in Germany a few years ago... some great college and tourist town... can't remeber the name at the moment. Anyway, I've reprinted the story in it's entirety below. This is a great idea. I felt the coolest thing about the all nighter in Germany was attending the museums in the middle of the night (with a glass of wine at all times of course).

I have found myself spending more time in the Loop as it has become more pedestrian friendly. The progression has been lock step with the entire city. As a North Sider, their is no want for activity... so for years "downtown" meant Oak Street Beach. But real estate, friends visiting the city, and other professional activities have drawn me more and more to the Loop.

Sound like a hom-er here, but it amazes me how much free and cheap stuff there is to do in this city. Makes me think I work too much.

Josh Noel, Chicago Tribune 1/9/07

When he attended Montreal's sundown-to-sunrise bash two years ago celebrating that city's downtown art and culture, Ty Tabing's first thought was, "Wow."The second was, "Chicago needs one of these."

And on May 11, the first Looptopia will be held in the east Loop, modeled on all-night White Night events that have turned the downtown districts in Paris, Rome and Toronto, among others, into de facto art galleries.The list of offerings between about 8 p.m. May 11 and 6 a.m. May 12 will be long and varied—from loading dock dance performances to a silent dance party of people grooving to their own MP3 players (to comply with a noise ordinance), said Tabing, executive director of the Chicago Loop Alliance.

Also included will be a dodgeball game in a Plexiglas cage, a sleepover at the Harold Washington Library Center, architecture tours from some elevated trains and a sunrise performance from the Joffrey Ballet in Millennium Park. Throughout the night, even in places when no performances are scheduled, the east Loop will be garnished with lighting displays, video projections and banners. Looptopia will be capped by music, yoga and a free breakfast buffet at Millennium Park. Just don't call it a street fair.

"It's absolutely not a street fair," Tabing said. "It's an artistic and cultural celebration of downtown."Also among the offerings will be "Opera Idol," based on the television show "American Idol," and a cabaret show in an alley. The Art Institute of Chicago will have exhibits open into the early morning hours, and several retailers will offer extended shopping hours. State Street will host a procession of performers for much of the night. About two-thirds of the potential $1 million cost has been raised, Tabing said. A majority has been privately financed, though the state Bureau of Tourism has pledged about $100,000, he said. Most events will be free. Organizers hope to attract 100,000 people and for the event to become an annual springtime event that ushers in warmer weather. "People are jonesing to get outside in May," Tabing said. "Hopefully this will kick off the warm weather season."

Looptopia, he said, is a tribute to the Loop becoming less of a place to simply go to work and increasingly residential and rife with cultural attractions, like Millennium Park. The Chicago Loop Alliance, formed in 2005 after the merger of the Greater State Street Council and Central Michigan Avenue Association, had been looking to showcase downtown, and found the perfect avenue after hearing of White Night events in other cities. A "white night" occurs at high latitudes when the sun never sets in a 24-hour period. Tabing traveled to the closest, in Montreal, with friends in 2005 to investigate. He was impressed at what a showcase the downtown had become."I took one look and said, 'Boy this would be a hell of an undertaking, but it's an opportunity to show what the Loop has become,'" he said. "The Loop is really a destination, and it hasn't always been a destination."Last year, with two board members, he also visited the Paris version, called Nuit Blanche.

Unlike Montreal, where the event was held in single-digit temperatures, Paris allowed for a more leisurely outdoor pace that he hopes to replicate in Chicago. Looptopia has the city's full support but it costs the city nothing, said Jim Law, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events. "It will bring activity and economic development and show the Loop as the 24/7 community it is," he said. Programming will extend from Wacker Drive to the north to Congress Parkway to the south and from Dearborn Street to the west to Lake Michigan to the east. At a kickoff party Tuesday morning, Tabing said organizers have confirmed that the average high on May 11 is 68 degrees. What he didn't point out is that the average low is in the upper 40s. The Chicago Tribune is among the sponsors. More information is available at the Loop Alliance Web site.
Copyright © 2007,
Chicago Tribune

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Quality in Bowmanville

In our continuing effort to bring you first hand accounts of Chicago's neighborhoods, I will introduce you to the Bowmanville neighborhood located in the Lincoln Square area.

A long-time, but little known by name "sub-neighborhood" of Lincoln Square, Bowmanville has emerged on as a destination for high qualtitly living spaces and surprising proximity to amenities. Travel north down Damen Avenue just past West Foster to the heart of a Bowmanville. The historic boundaries include Rosehill Cemetary to the the North, West Foster Avenue to the South, West Ravenswood to the East and North Wetern Avenue to the West. This central location provides a short walk to Andersonville, Ravenswood and Lincoln Square shops and restaurants without the premium prices asked in these neighborhoods.

The Ravenswood Metra Station located nearby zooms you downtown or the burbs ... in minutes! The Damen Avenue "L" stop is close by for your everyday commuter needs around the entire north side and Chicago's Loop.

For the present Chicago dweller, the neighborhood as it is "now" matters. But has this to add on the history of Bowmanville:

"Bowmanville was established in 1850 by Jesse Bowman. Although his claim to the land was later found to be illegal, it did not prevent the area from becoming a bustling settlement. The area became a stopping point for farmers delivering there goods to markets in Chicago. Numerous saloons and taverns sprang up, among them an establishment owned by Hiram Roe, locate on Roe's Hill. The name of the area was later mispelled Row's Hill and Rose Hill, which became the name of the train depot in the community. The name eventually became Rosehill, as it stands now in the name of the burial ground- Rosehill Cemetary."

Of course today, high quality new construction homes offer size and luxury surrounded by tree lined streets- while built to suit the historic feel of the neighborhood. Three, six and eight flat buildings provide hip, totally rehabbed condos in two and three bedroom layouts. The coverted buildings retain famous Chicago architectual details. No highrise buildings here!

For the professional looking for nightlife at hot restaurants and bars such as Rioja, Spaca Napoli, The Hop Leaf and the classic Fireside Grill, to the the established or growing family looking to be among city life with a mature spin, Bowmanville warrants a look. I'll see you at Pauline's for brunch, or maybe on the outdoor patio at Joie de Vine...

Buying and Selling Chicago Real Estate Like the Pros

I represent clients in purchasing and selling their homes day in and day out. But, what happends when it's my turn?

It's the same. When a Realtor sells and purchases real estate, the process from the marketing, the search, the negotiation to the closing takes the same due dilligence and detail. I have to do what's right for my family as you do for yours in deciding to purchase a home. The more facts the better.

Another similarity is... my wife is my client. I have to understand her needs and what she will enjoy living in. So, I have to listen and try to find place that make sense for her... and then the both of us.

There is one major difference, however. The speed. I will hone in on the property I want and make the decison faster than most clients. This is for several reasons:

1. Preparation. I've met with my mortgage broker and nailed down all my options. Each deal, selling or buying, may change the type of mortgage package you'll want on the ensuing purchase.

2. Knowledge of the market. I have the advantage of viewing properties physically and virtually 24 hours a day (ask my wife... it is 24 hours a day!).

3. No fear. Having the confidence of understanding the current market, I will act on a property with one or two visits.

4. Creativity. I look for creative ways to structure an offer. I don't just see a property and price... I see a world of possibilities and factor this narative into the negotiation.

5. Listen to my own advice based on the facts and emotions involved. When selling, I prepare my home to show as I would ask my clients to. Staging, fixes, paint... It's a must to spend a little to make a lot! When buying, I prepare myself to lose the home. I have a budget, and that's it (unless it's a real deal!). I must, however, be willing to compromise on other issues such as closing date and earnest money.

Bottom line is... I have been through this on a personal level and with clients time and time again. With an open mind, and acting as a team with your Realtor, you'll buy and sell real estate like the PROS.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Packers blow up Bears... literally

Terrific picture of the Chicago skyline from the Chicago Tribune on New Years Eve.

Notice the Packers "blowing up" the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field to the right of the photo.

Must have been one of Favre's touchdown passes.