Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Family matters... Moving with baby

We call it the need. When the need sets in, you gotta go. Kid on the way. Second kid on the way. New job, new status, new wants, new... NEEDS. My buddy Geno explains his wants over needs and the timing in his life moving here... we all have a story.

Recently, my need set in. My wife (Jillian) and I own (until March 1st) a condo in Albany Park. Bought two years ago, we felt this would be a three year hold at least. Many, many
considerations went into our purchase. My wife was getting her master's at North Park University (down the block), it's on the Brown Line, on site parking, huge storage (bought a basement space with the unit), top floor corner unit with killer deck etc... We figured this was the best unit in the new conversion and it fit our needs. So we took a shot at the neighborhood. Even if we have our first kiddo here we thought, we'll ride this pony three years, if not five. Plus, the conversions were doing well and we expected reasonable appreciation. No brainer.

With this plan in our heads, I began to improve the unit with upgraded media, custom window shades, Elfa shelving and furniture that really brought out the teriffic features of our home. I got it just so... Jillian thought I was "over-improving" and we would not get the money at re-sale time (this is foreshadowing if you had not noticed). Apparently she has been watching too much HGTV, TLC, Discovery and whatever MTV, ESPN and the Oxygen channel pass off for home shows.

"Look, I gotta live here, so I gotta have it how I wanna live in it", I says.

However, we are now expecting our first bambino March 21st. When we found out we were expecting, suddenly that three to five year plan didn't look so hot. Looking at our situation, my needs and wants set in. That third bedroom would be nice for the mom-in-law to stay over in. A carpeted family room downstairs would be nice too. Hmmmm. Jillian? She was fine with staying in our current... but I make the real estate decisions in this family (only when it's okay with her).

So, suddenly, the timing was looking good to move this baby (the condo, not the actual baby). Here's what I mean:

Even though conventional wisdom might suggest NOT moving close to having a baby, I felt it would be great to get that extra space prior to our new guy showing up.

Secondly, our place looked show ready. It was/is crisp and fresh. I thought about trying to be a new dad with a new mom and having our place show ready every day. Forget it.

Third, opportunity knocked. I found a couple places that made sense for us... that we really liked. One, a single family house in Sauganash. The other, an unlisted duplex down in Ravenswood. Being in the business, I knew in my heart these particular opportunities were special and would not come along often.

And fourth, the ever important market timing. We just pulled out of a slow November and December 2006. The first of the year had not even hit yet and my clients were clamoring to see some new listings... they're need was starting to set in. I saw the pent up demand. It was time to list our place and buy the next. We took advantage of an early uptick in the market due to the great winter weather. Plus, we bought the new place before it hit market.

Wec sold our place in a week after two showings. Remember all that "over-improving"? We received dollar for dollar for each improvement and the new owners don't have to do a thing. It was just "ready".

There are many subjects that can be touched on above:

1. Improving your home for sale

2. Timing and pricing your listing

3. Listing your place before or after having the kid

4. Wanting a new place or location... for the sake of want (it's okay) or needs

5. Great homes for your first family edition

I lived all these considerations in the last few months. The reward is closing this March 1st on a three bed, two bath with family room, duplex-down condo in a great location.

We hope Jillian isn't early, but, there is always mom's house for her to recover! I'm taking care of the move just to look useful.

Baby names appreciated in the comments.

Pictured above: Just part of the baby shower haul!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The CTA and Chicago Cubs have conspired against me

The Chicago Transit Authority has announced it will “flood” (Tribune’s words) the North Side with buses to accommodate the reduction in commuter train capacity. The CTA will have to dramatically scale back capacity by a third as a part of the ongoing rail renovation, expansion and accessibility plan.

Great. I’ve discussed by sensory disgust with buses in the past… so the prospect of more of them on the roads during rush hour times is a kick in the you know what.

Can you imagine two, three, four buses stopping to pick up passengers on the same corner… one after another? Yes, that was a shiver down your spine.

Read this story and others discussing the decrease in train capacity at the Chicago Tribune. If you have not already done so, please register at their site to receive the content. Good real estate and commuter coverage.

Call or email me now to go look at homes near the Metra stops around Chicago… or for a good bicycle shop.

In totally unrelated news, Kerry Wood injured himself getting out of a hot tub in spring training. I can’t take this.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Buy a multi-unit

The Chicago Tribune Real Estate section ran a story about buying multi-unit buildings for investment. The gist is, rents are pretty good again so multi-units offer a good way to invest in real estate. Several local real estate heavyweights were tapped for advice (somehow I must have missed that call).

I was pleased to read this advice... if you are not handy and will not do the work, it will be hard to make the numbers work on the investment. Everyone with real estate dream forgets this little fact. Also, unless your planning to leverage more than 20% in Chicago, it will be tough to make the numbers work for two or three flats. The focus was on 5 plus units in the suburbs for today's investor and market.

The two flat is still a great choice for moving to an area you may like in Chicago. A renter can still help you qualify for the property and you have the option to convert or expand the property in the future. For instance, convert to a single family or duplex- up and duplex- down the units to increase rents and value of the property.

For income, the more units the better... and buy it in the suburbs.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Early in the home search?

When is it time to actually look at a home? Not this Internet stuff (although a great start)... but actually go into a home. I encourage many I come across to get out there... now.

No matter your situation, if you are curious about owning a certain type of property, it pays to look at the real deal. Walk into condos, single family homes and two flats in different neighborhoods such as Old Irving, Sauganash, Avondale and North Park. I also suggest having me create the schedule and attend the targeted appointments. You may not get a realistic picture by just popping into available open houses from time to time. It also helps build trust in our working relationship if we start early on, and not last minute.

This is probably most beneficial for single family homes and multi-units. If you have not owned these types of properties or do not know the areas available in your price-point, physically looking them early on will help you plan and warm up to the idea. Many of my clients did not realize they could get the house they really wanted if they bought well below their budget and fixed it up before moving in. They needed to get out and figure out what this would cost and where it was worth making this type of purchase.

If you own a condo and will need to move up to a bigger space, it will benefit you to take a look- a real look- at your options.

Photo from http://tigger.uic.edu/

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Lakeview to Uptown to Andersonville to Lincoln Square...and what I ate (or, The Realtor Diet)

Was out with a great client today... before leaving the house at 8:30AM, I had a bowl of Mini-Wheats.

Met at Julius Meinl in Southport Corridor and had a mocha. After showings with my client in Wrigleyville, Uptown, Andersonville, Ravenswood and Lincoln Square, dropped off open house signs back in Wrigleyville, booked into the McDonald’s on Clark and Addison for a six piece Chicken McNugget and a medium coffee (two creams, two sugars. Great coffee).

Left the open house and ate a Jewel brand raspberry cereal bar while picking up signs. Darted back to the office to drop off keys. Ran to the White Hen for a banana, two hard boiled eggs and an orange juice…proceeded to email clients open houses and listings for Sunday.

Left the office at 7:00PM


Chicago Open Houses

Meet Me at my Open House Sunday, February 11th

4445 N Paulina, Chicago in Beautiful Ravenswood

1:30PM to 4:00PM

I can't think of anything better to do...Can you?

View the Tour
(Buckle your seatbelt!)


Two bedrooms, two bathrooms in top floor Ravenswood condo located on beautiful, tree-lined street.

*Recent Rehab… everything was new… windows, electrical, roof, walls, etc…

*PARKING included, in-unit washer and dryer, and central air

*Living Room: Huge living room with 11+ ft soaring ceilings, ceiling fan and formal entry; hardwood floors

*Dining Room: Large open dining room leads to French doors out to balcony. Awesome for entertaining, hardwood floors

*Baths: Master suite bath with neutral tile and marble vanity; second bath with neutral tile and pedestal sink

*Kitchen: Tons of maple cabinets, granite counters, eat-in or island area, disposal, hardwood floors. Grill deck off the kitchen… perfect

*Outdoor space includes balcony off dining room, grill deck and roof rights

*Located 3 blocks from Brown Line and Starbucks, close to Metra, and many local restaurants (Spaca Napoli, Caro Mia, Sabor a Cuba, Thai, Chicago’s Pizza etc..)

*Assessments: $293 includes upgraded cable and professional management

*Taxes: $4500 (Does not include home owners’ exemption)

Live in tranquility on a great block close to everything. The condo is priced lower than comparables in Uptown while Ravenswood is a much nicer neighborhood to live in.

Contact Eric for a showing at 773-510-1597

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Is parking included?

Recently, an Internet client of mine asked a great question. To paraphrase, she was wondering why a listing indicated no parking, but then showed 1 or 2 in the parking space by-line on the listing. Why does it say no parking, but then list a space?

Many listing agents will do this to indicate there is some form of designated parking available... somewhere. Maybe there is a transferable rental spot or rental lot. Sometimes listing agents put in the space when there is Chicago zoned permit parking on the street adjacent to the property. This drives me crazy. Nice to indicate it in the remarks... but to indicate there is parking in the listing? Geez.

Which brings me to the next topic... how valuable is parking and should you only buy a place with parking included?

The answers: Very valuable and no.

Clearly it depends where you live. Lincoln Park and Goldcoast locations can demand $30K to $50K plus for a deeded parking spot. Lincoln Square and Lakeview can be $10K to $20K generally. In Ravenswood, a parking spot easily offers an extra $15K to $20K in value as the area grows in popularity and luxury condo conversions have increased in price.

However, if you get a nice deal near transportation and you take the CTA, you may find you can pass on the parking. Why skimp in size and amenities of the home when your car will be sitting in the street 75% of the time? Please, no calls when you can't find a spot on that one crazy snow storm we get each year. But hey, it's one snow storm and what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And guess what? You may not own a car!

Back to the question of parking. Let's just say there are many ways to look at your next home purchase. In hot markets like Chicago with desirable locations, something has to give. Parking may not be the sacred untouchable that you initially felt it is.

When putting the condo buying puzzle together, keep an open mind. If not parking... then maybe that second bath?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Going from A to B for first time buyers

With many clients jumping on deals this early spring (including myself), one notices certain similarities amongst clients... They don't know how to take that first "step".

What do we do once you’ve found a place? Before my wife and I bought our first home in Albany Park, just west of Ravenswood Manor, we didn’t have a clue what was involved in the first stages of purchase process. Information and education is king, however, and once our Realtor Julie Varones (now my associate… we’ll I’m her associate) simply laid it out for us, buying became a very real possibility. Then, when we found the condo with all the fix’ns, we jumped. Photo by Eric Rojas

So, clients, when we get out on the road, I like to ask right away…”Do you have a good grasp of the buying process?” If not, I want to alleviate that anxiety before the $350K duplex –down with three beds, two baths and a garage spot comes up in Lakeview or Lincoln Square. This probably won’t happen. But if it did… don’t you want to jump?!

In a nutshell, once you have your budget figured out with the help of a financial professional and mortgage broker/lender, you’ll start looking. When the right Bucktown condo comes up near the Blue Line you will be confident you will have a mortgage ready.

We basically grab a standard Chicago contract (read my last post) if it’s a re-sale and put the offer together. You will submit an initial Earnest money check of $1,000 to $3,000 to hold the condo if your offer is accepted. The money will be eventually applied to the closing costs and down payment if any.

By this time, you will have your lease situation figured out (buy-out, sub-lease, month-to-month) or have listed your property with me (and sold it if needed). But the point here is, together we’ve prepped you to make an offer so the when the right deal formulates, you can act. That act starts with making a written offer with the purchase terms you are requesting. That’s the step… that’s it.