Friday, March 30, 2007

Who wants to be a Ravenswood Millionaire?

As an owner of a duplex condo in Ravenswood, I like to know how much gets you what on the street... and why. Not only as an agent, but as a guy looking for the next place for my family. We bought our current place to improve both our neighborhood and our living space for our needs. Ravenswood happends to be our first choice of Chicago areas to live in and I can see moving up to a single family home in a few years here too.

My invesitgations as a nosey neighbor have led me to several "off market" single family homes for sale in the $1M to $1.5M range. Two are my block and being sold "by owner". One owner is a real estate broker and the other... well, I have not met him/her yet.

So I got to thinking..., how many million dollar homes are available to buy in Ravenswood at the moment? A quick look at the MLS shows that between North Ashland to North Damen and West Montrose to West Foster there are eight active listings on the market from $1M to $1.5M. These do not count the unrepresented sellers or cancelled listings that may come back on shortly.

In the past year, only three homes on the MLS have sold for over a million, and currently, there are four homes one million and up under contract. However, there are surely more in the bunch that sold in development, privately or just were not recorded on the MLS (for instance, niether my last personal home sale or purchase are recorded on the MLS). It's good to have knowledge of a few of the "unrecorded sales" to go into battle with when negotiating a single family home.

The $1M to $1.5M range will typically get you an oversized lot, 4.5 beds, 3.5 baths and a 2.5 car garage. The homes range from new construction on smaller lots to homes that need a little work on double lots. There are no homes currently priced over $1.5M for sale... but there is one under contract with an asking price of $1,568,000.00. In the past year, the highest priced home closed at $1,450,000.00.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Balcony: Condo Association or Owners?

"Who's line is it anyway?" is a terrific comedy improvisational television game show that features “players” making up lines and actions depending on one theme. Say you throw out “new home buyers in Chicago” and the players make up a hilarious scene of bumbling through the home buying process. Maybe Al Capone is your Realtor… you get it? Hilarious.

But when it comes to common areas, limited common areas and your condo unit’s repairs and maintenance you don’t want to hear; whose line is it anyway? As an owner, you want to know who has the responsibility, what are the resolutions, who are the players when it comes to issues concerning your condo building.

I recently listed and sold a re-sale condo in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. When gathering information from the owner about the building and her condo, she disclosed the management company indicated there was a balcony violation and they were taking care of the issue. The violation was stated in the meeting minutes as well.

However, it was not determined what the cost was and how the association and owners were to pay for it. In fact, no one knew clearly how this was “taken care of”. My client, the unit owner, was not directed by the association Board or building management that she was responsible to pay any special assessment, nor had this issue been voted on by the association Board at the last Board meeting.

Unfortunately, no one seemed to take the lead in this case and my client (plus me and our attorney) were sent scrambling to provide the correct information to the potential purchaser of the condo. This delay in information concerning the repairs, and who would be responsible, jeopardized the sale of the condo. We eventually received an estimate of repairs at the eleventh hour, and my client graciously provided a credit for the estimated amount at the closing table.

Why did this have to happen? Several reasons: First, the Board upon learning of the violation from the condo management company did not clearly order the management to take action and give them a deadline for resolution. Secondly, the management company, although a professional and legally bound agent to the association Board, was less than proactive in directing the Board in a resolution to the violation. They are the pros… they should get all over it in the interest of the condo association. Third, the individual unit owners with balconies accepted that the Board and management company took care of the issue. Problem was they assumed this for six months!

To avoid these issues of mismanagement, you have to be involved in your building and know who the players are.

1. The Board is the most important piece. As an owner, if you serve on the Board or not, you must insist on regular Board meetings and attend them when possible.

2. If you have a management company, they must be proactive with advice on running the building effectively. They are the pros and there are good managers out there. Call me for recommendations.

3. The Board must meet in a manner proper to the by-laws and make the tough decisions. Certain decisions are the domain of the elected Board and some will require a certain percentage majority of entire ownership vote.

In the case of my last listing, both the Board and the management should have been more proactive in their efforts to resolve the balcony violations. Secondly, depending on the total cost of the repairs it was up to the Board, and possibly the individual unit owners, to vote on how to pay for the balcony repairs. The balconies are a Limited Common Element. They are covered by the common insurance of the building. Repairs to the balconies do not necessarily solely fall on the individual unit owners that have private rights to the Limited Common Element balconies. The Board and unit owners could vote to subsidize the repairs with reserve funds, assess a special assessment to all unit owners or decide the individual unit owners that have rights to the balconies should pay the full amount.

The Board, management and unit owners can’t point fingers and ask, “whose line is it anyway?” They must resolve this problem in accordance to the by-laws of the condo association. If you don't know who is responsible for what, retain a condo association attorney to advise on such matters.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Three bedroom condos with all the features you want? Must see Ravenswood and Bowmanville

Recently, I have been working with several clients looking to move up into a three bedroom home. These particular clients have lived in the Lakeview and Lincoln Park neighborhoods for the past several years. Now, they would like a place in the city where they may start a family, or, at least a home they know they won't out grow in less than five years time.

Does this sound familiar? "We'd like a three bedroom, two bath condo with at least one parking space. It must have good outdoor space, be close to a train down town and dog friendly. We'd like a place for a formal dining table and
we don't want to do any work on the place. Our budget is up to $400,000."

Ravenswood and Bowmanville, within the designated Lincoln Square boundaries, are a must see if this is the type of place you want. I write about this area often due to high the quality of life, proximity to the Damen and the Montrose Brownline stops, the Ravenswood Metra station, parks, and proximity to the Lincoln Square and Andersonville enetertainment and retail districts. Plus, Ravenswood itself has seen many successful coffee shops, restauraunts and bars along Damen, Wilson and Sunnyside and Lawrence streets. Perfect Cup for coffee, Over Easy for brunch, Sabor a Cuba, Caro Mio and Spacca Napoli for dinner... these without even walking a few more minutes to Clark St, or Lincoln Avenue for many, many more choices.

But specifically, this area offers the best option for three bedroom condos for just under or over $400,000. Just this weekend I viewed two listings new on the market: one at the 4800 block of North Paulina and one at the 2000 block of West Farragut. These were large three bedroom condos with everything you could want. Located very close to the Metra train stop and under 3/4 of a mile from two Brown Line stops. Basically, I was impressed with the location and condition of the homes. Very usable floor plans, parking, exterior storage, and large common living spaces. Master suites and nice decks...both on quiet residential streets in small buildings. These condos were priced at $399,000 and will sell quickly close to that price (depending who is negotiating for you!).

There are also new construction three bedroom units available closer to the Lincoln Square hub for the very low $400s. These are larger buidings (24 to 32 units) but do include garage parking. There are three particular developments at the 4900 block of North Western, the 2200 block of West Lawrence, and the 5057 N block of Lincoln Ave. that may be purchased pre-construction and will deliver eith later this year or early 2008. Getting in now means buying the best placed units and negotiating the best upgrade packages... once a certain number are sold and the building proves hot, the deals go bye bye!

Just a few observations from this past couple weeks. If looking three bedroom homes in the best neighborhoods for $400K, Ravenswood, Bowmanville (and even Lincoln Square for a little more), are true considerations.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Live on the Chicago Transit Authority Red Line, Brown Line, Blue Line? This Buds for you.

Nothing is more lame then trying to spoof a Chicago stereotype to shill a product and not doing it right.

Who could forget the Old Style "Stand Up Comedian" spots during Cub games? They were almost enough to make me pass on an icy cold Old Style (almost).

But Bud Lite just started running "Mr. Apartment next to the L tracks guy" in their salute to Real Men of Genius series.

My favorite line in the jingle goes something like, "You asked your broker for a place near public transportation. How's three feet sound to you?"

I'm yet to see "Mr Apartment next to the L tracks guy" posted online, but HERE is a list of all the others to listen to.

Genius indeed.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Moving in Chicago: Call cable way ahead

Okay... it's been way too long from my last post. But I'm back. I promise.
We recently moved from an Albany Park two bedroom condo to a Ravenswood three bedroom duplex down condo with a family room. Jill and I are pretty good movers, having bounced around to many Chicago neighborhoods through the last six years. We like change (but let's hope this is the last move for awhile).

Whatever you do... call your cable company of choice way ahead of time. Most likely Comcast or RCN will service the building. Or so you think. I've been battling this cable thing for two weeks and it's killing me... I pride myself as having access to the MLS and other real estate resources at all times.

The problem has been our building comes up "unserviced" in their "system" (their system is probably a dusty binder on the top shelf of a 1950s steel bookcase). I wish I started the process a month in advance. Two weeks wasn't enough and I still have not been able to get online at home.

Luckily, my smart phone has gotten me through when I'm not in the office. And a good thing too as the spring market has been great. Here is an example of bought and sold properties in which I represented clients in the last month:

-A two bedroom, two bathroom duplex up in Northcenter with an awesome private terrace and garage parking for $400,000.

-A two bed, two bath penthouse in Ravenswood with parking and roof rights for $306,000.

-New, bright and sunny new conversion two bedroom, two bath one block from the Metra Line in Rogers Park for $244,900.

-An enormous and beautiful recent conversion two bedroom, one bath with parking in Ravenswood Manor for $270,000 (awesome deal!).

-A seven year old two bed, two bath condo with garage parking in Lakview on desirable North Kenmore for $380,000.

-Wide and unique new convesion on West Foster in Andersonville... two bedroom, one bath near the Metra and Damen Brown line for $230,000.

So, despite my moving blues, the spring condo market has proven that well priced properties on the North Side, ready to show, are moving fast. This is despite the slow November and December last year. If you think you are seeing a deal this season, it probaly is... and will be gone.