Saturday, May 31, 2008

Typical Night in Lincoln Square Chicago

From my new Mobile Blogging series...

A hands down top five Chicago neighborhood is Lincoln Square. Picture perfect, cultured, raucus, easily maneuvered, diverse and accessible.

Comfortable for yuppies and “Green beans” alike (Jillian and I like to think we fall somewhere in the middle), there is, to use a cliché, something for everyone. The restaurants are top notch... walk the retail and dining strip along North Lincoln Aveneue from basically Irving Park Road and Damen Avenue (in Northcenter) all the way northwest to Lawrence Ave at the end of the actual Square.

With the wife out on the town elsewhere, it was daddy daycare… and where else would you go but Lincoln Square’s Mayfest. This is all about the beer, but Ryne likes sausages and pickles and there was plenty of that.

We walked over early to get a little German meatloaf, potatoes and sauerkraut (and pickles).
I put horseradish and mustard on everything.

Afterwards on our walk home, we watched the Critical Mass bike ride go by. The last Friday of every month features a massive “parade” of bikes… Leaders halt traffic in intersections to allow all the cyclists to pass. I love it. Some don’t… but unless you’re an emergency vehicle, plan on waiting a few extra minutes.

We passed many other pleasant folks on the green streets of Lincoln Square.... back to the green streets of Ravenswood.

And to all a good night.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This Ain't the Mickey Mouse Club: Mickey's Snack Bar in Lincoln Park

Memorial Day weekend was spent visiting friend's houses and walking the city. Monday, we did shopping in East Lakeview for travel books, took a spin on the lakefront and came up Fullerton Ave to Clark Street for an early lunch.

We decided on Mickey's Snack Bar at 2450 N Clark at beautiful Arlington Steet in Lincoln Park. The real estate here just east of Clark headed towards the lake is really gorgeous.

Mickey's is not your usual place for babies, but Ryne can party with the best of them and they have a great outdoor terrace on Clark Street.

Happily, they had ONE high-chair... so we didn't feel too goofy. But it was a holiday at 11AM, so pretty safe timing.

Ryne okayed the menu and ate all our fries.

Monday, May 26, 2008

More About Foreclosures and Auctions in Chicago

What lies behind the beautiful facade?

I wrote a quick post the other day after attending another seminar on foreclosures and short-sales in Chicago.

Ric at the ChicagoCondosOnline blog coincidently wrote a post about the increasing number of foreclosed condo auctions found in local papers.

He tapped a few of us to comment and my associate Debbie Maue at Rubloff gave it straight. Read her comments... they are loud and clear.

However, many condos units themselves auctioned in larger Chicago buildings in relatively good locations are low risk. You just need to study the actual building and condo association to make sure it's solid. For instance, I had a client pass on an awesome deal at 1500 W Monroe in West Loop earlier this year. It was a short-sale or foreclosed condo... huge square footage and great shape for the price they were asking. The client did not feel comfortable, perceiving their was more risk.
The truth was that it was a stable condo association and just bad luck or bad finances of the previous owner. The condo sold the same weekend it hit market.

Duplex Up in Lakeview: New Photos

New photos of 3328 N Kenmore in Lakeview. It's a top floor three bedroom plus loft, two bath with garage and three decks coming to a market near you for $549,000...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Lincoln Square Music

You can always find a good dose of folk music in and around Lincoln Square Chicago. Here's Ryne rockin' out to the accordian Saturday on Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chicago Open House: Three Bedroom in Old Irving Park

We are hosting an open house in Old Irving Park Chicago. Three bedroom, two bath with office, sunroom, garage, deck... the works.

4221 N Keeler #2 Chicago

Saturday and Sunday from 12PM to 4PM

Thursday, May 22, 2008

An Education in Short Sales and Foreclosures

I just took another course today in short sales and foreclosures taught by Marki Lemons in our Rubloff Residential Properties Mag Mile office. Short sales occur when the lender accepts less for the property than is owed on the loan. The short sale is negotiated with the lender so a sale occurs before a costly and lengthy foreclosure process. A foreclosure is a legal process which results in a forced sale of property. It is rare in my opinion that a property in Chicago which sells as a short sale or foreclosure is an actual "deal" for the average buyer. If you have some ability for sweat equity, great flexibility and have some risk tolerance, then you may get a decent price for your circumstance.

Of course, it also depends on your use for the property. It may be your primary place of residence, or it may be a buy, hold and rent. In any case purchasing one of these properties offers little guarantees for the weak of heart. The time-line for a closing can be 6 months to a year... sometimes longer once the purchase process starts.

The statistics are out there... these types of sales will grow. Just know it ain't the dream... it ain't for getting rich and it may not be the way you should make your first home purchase or property investment. Education of the process and realistic expectations can make this an option for the right buyers.

For instance, I don't expect to have to sell my current home to buy my next. It is also my desire to renovate my next property with my own finishes. I will have the time, flexibility, proper expectations and risk tolerance to pusure a property approved for short sale and one that is in foreclosure. These properties in a desirable neighborhood would be too expensive for a flip, but could be a good price for a buy, renovate and "live in" because they will have less demand to the general market thereby keeping the price a little lower than market.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Lakeview Penthouse Listing: Awesome Decks

Off market, super secret real estate. We'll have this one on after the holiday.

Not on the MLS!

Rare duplex-up penthouse in Lakeview for $549,000
$140 Assessment

-Three bedroom plus family room, or use as two bedroom, family room and loft

-Two awesome back decks and front walk-out terrace

-Master suite with bath

-Large second bedroom

-Huge loft

-Large third bedroom or den/family room

-Wood burning fireplace

-Lofted cathedral ceilings


-Private entry staircase

-Security system

-One car garage

-Unobstructed east and west exposures

-Great storage in-unit and large exterior storage room

-Built in 1997

-Original finishes in mint condition

-Three-unit building in excellent condition Located on very desirable one-way Kenmore Avenue at Roscoe Street.

Very private area of the street. Walk to CTA Redline at Belmont, Wrigley Field, Clark Street, Sheffield Avenue and Southport Corridor action. Very neutral finishes and in great shape. This is an excellent deal for the location, square footage and layout. Make this place your own hip penthouse. Email or call me for a showing

Grammar Police in Wicker Park Chicago

These guys in this Tribune story are cool. Hope they don't take a peruse of these here pages for spelling and grammar. Any regular reader of the Chicago Real Estate Local should know I've sent several English professors running away screaming.

Let these guys be an inspiration to me to proof read.

Image from Green Chair Press blog

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lincoln Park Condo Sold in 23 Days

I sold this condo in 23 days. It's at 2700 N Halsted where several other one bedrooms were on the market. Each time I meet with a client on a listing appointment, I map out what needs to be done within reason to attract showings and compel someone to write and offer.

For instance, in some case where the unit is empty and we want top dollar, I'll recommend staging the condo. This can cost $1,500 to $5,000 for an empty condo depending on the size and scope of the design.

Which condo would you look at?

Or this one?

In this case... the before and after are reversed. The lower photo is with my client's furniture in the unit. All I had to do with this place was re-paint the bath and fix some drywall to list it. The first photo is from my walk through with the buyer before heading to their closing. The unit was already under contract and my clients moved out.

Imagine if they were trying to sell it empty?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chicago Open House: Lakeview Penthouse and Irving Park Oasis

I'm working overtime this weekend at a couple open houses.

920 West Barry #5 in Lakeview. A three bedroom, two bath top floor condo with private roof rights and built out deck.

View the Virtual Tour

4221 N Keeler #2 in Old Irving Park. A three bedroom, two bath condo with bonus office room and garage parking.

View the Virtual Tour

Call or email me for a showing.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The King of Green in Ravenswood Chicago

The leafy tree-lined streets of Ravenswood, Chicago lends itself nicely to the new enviromental chic trend of green building. I've also been doing my part as a kinder, friendlier GREENER Chicago Realtor by working from home more and riding my bicycle to showing appointments when possible. As a busy Realtor with a crazy schedule, it's a challenge to stay out of the car. When not workin, my wife and I walk everywhere with our son... even the one-and-a-half mile round trip grocery shopping.

Now we have a King of Green in Ravenswood.

Check out some quick shots of the zero net energy home in my little province. There has been some past media attention directed at the Yannell House.

North facing side along Ainslie St.

Interior courtyard with a western exposure on Ravenswood.

Side and back on Ravenswood.

South facing facade over the courtyard.

I'm glad it's here and will look forward to the completed project.... and maybe a tour.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bathroom Fixes When Selling Your Condo

The before and after for a recent one bedroom, one bathroom condo listing in a highrise on Chicago's Lakefront. The vanity was nice and the tile in good shape. However, the original tub and fixtures were dated.

I make the point that bathrooms must look fresh and crisp when showing the home. They must be deep cleaned, re-caulked and regrouted if necessary.

In this case, we replaced the mirror and medicine cabinet, tore out the glass door, reglazed the tub, cleaned up and fixed bad tile spots and painted a modern color. I staged the bath after the renovation work.

It looks brand new... even live and up close.

Your Chicago Listing Must Look Good

It's true that some locations will always sell. But even the best location for condo and single family home listings these days needs to show well for a reasonably fast sale or for top dollar. Unless you'd like to give your place away.

Here's a little before and after on a recent listing of mine on the Chicago lakefront. I asked for a budget and went to work:

The living room when I first went over.

The living room after using the same camera:

The living room after with professional photography:

I provided decor after the renovation.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Montrose Harbor on the Doorstep of Uptown, Chicago

I had an early morning showing at my Uptown listing at 860 W Lakeside Place and took the opportunity to cycle a bit. With five showings along lakefront neighborhoods I set out on my bike rather than drive.
Montrose Harbour is located at Montrose Ave. and the lake a few minutes from my West Lakeside Place listing.

There is vast park land to the north of the harbour and a dog beach.

I wonder who wrote this sign? Does the dog pay the fine?

Spring in Chicago Real Estate

Ever feel like this?

Spring is rough on a busy Chicago Realtor. Listings, buy-side transactions, deals gone bad, deals gone good, negotiations, weekends, weekdays, weeknights, follow-up, research, photos, Internet marketing, inspections, walk-throughs, staging, financing, appraisals, offers, rejections, acceptance, open houses, and closings... ahhhh, closings.

Makes it almost worth getting up early every day and working late every night.


Hey Chicago, Live on Lake Michigan for $200,000

I have a new condo lisitng in a highrise on Marine drive. It 's another good reason to bring attention to this type of lifestyle in Chicago for a modest budget.

When I have clients who want to live in Lakeview or on the lakefront for $200,000, I usually suggest several highrise buildings. I particularly like 3550 N Lake Shore Drive, 3660 N Lake Shore Drive and 4250 N Marine Drive. You can pick up a 900 sq/ft one bedroom condo in these full amenity buildings for $160,000 to $199,000 easily.

I suggest clients buy one of the cheapest in original condition they can find. Hire my contractor with a budget of 20K and you can get a new kitchen, bath, closets paint and air conditioners. A nicely updated, great looking unit can go for $175K on average (I'd rather pay $10-15K less and put in my own stuff). However, this is not for everyone. A finished home creates less worries and hassels.

So, have a budget of $200,000? The lakefront in a full amenity building on lake Michigan is hard to beat. With the lower entry price, you'll be able to afford the assessments of $350-$400 (which includes your heat, cable, fitness room, doorman, pool etc...). Garage parking generally rents for $150 bucks a month.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mortgage Lending for Chicago Condos Maddening

Today, a major bank denied a mortgage for my client to buy into an established newer construction condo building for two reasons:
1. Over 20 percent of the building's owners were delinquent in assessment payments (12 unit building with an involved association and $7,000 in reserves). So, the late payments couldn't be too bad. Plus, the minutes showed the association had collected on late payments. You like a reserve fund at least $1,000 per unit in a smaller building like this, but the association is only about 3 years old.

2. Percentage of ownership of the commercial units in the building is over 20 percent.

The loan officer of the major bank decided to sit on this info for 10 days after appraisal came back and on the last day of my client's mortgage contingency. They should have at least informed her about the commercial space percentage of ownership from the beginning! Plus, they have been slow getting us the documentation so we may forward this to the seller's attorney. We have to meet the mortgage contingency, ask for an extension or kill the deal. The denial documentation will help us make the case.

This is just one more reason why I like clients (and buyers of my listings) to use a local mortgage broker who knows there stuff and comes referred. The local broker is on the phone with the agent and attorney getting the information real time about the property they are securing a loan for.

Here's a plug for my guy Phil Tully at Guaranteed Rate
People call him all the time, don't like the truth and then go find a bank who makes loan promises they can't keep. Or, forgets details like the ones above until it's too late. No loan, no closing. Geez. You need a lender who will seek out the trouble spots well before your 30 days down the road.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday Open House Scenes: Old Irving Park

Sitting on the deck at 4221 N Keeler #2 on a Sunday in Old Irving Park. The neighbors are all out working on their yards... gorgeous views from every window and the deck. This is probably the nicest day of year... great weather and the leaves and flowers have finally bloomed in force.

Chicago Condo Market Update

Ric over at sends me monthly updates on the condo market. It's a reminder to read his blog too. He reports that condo unit sales in Chicago are down 24% overall but median prices are up 11%. I have experienced most of my clients profiting on sales this season. However, it's been about 50/50 on those that bought a place and are selling less than two years later.

Here's a complete market overiew

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Ride a Bike and Pass on Chicago Gas Prices

I'm a Realtor and sell many millions in real estate for my clients. Although I'm not that image conscious, I do have a responsibility to my clients.
Much of that responsibility and professionalism has to do with making appointments... and that means driving my sweet ride.

However, with Chicago gas prices over $4.00 a gallon and the constant struggle to do more without my car (an oxymoron for a Realtor), I've decided to ride my bike to more of my daily appointments.

I feel it is appropriate that I may ride my bike to showing appointments, photography and floor-plan sessions, dropping off documents etc... all things that do not require driving a client around.

Is this objectionable? I'd like to hear from my clients and readers on this one. This last week I rode from my home in Ravenswood to my new listing in Uptown for a photography shoot. It was a great feeling and probably took a total of about 10 more minutes round trip.

I was an avid cycler in my single days and have been looking for a way back to it... and back to a more healthy lifestyle in general. It seems cycling fits my style of business. I'm casual with clients but hard working and professional when it comes to marketing properties and finding buyers a great home. And the bike gets me to appointments on time (I'm always on time), with less traffic hassles and no parking issues!

If you were my client and we were meeting for one showing appointment....would you mind if I pulled up on a bike?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sunday Open House: Lakeview and Old Irving Park

I have three, count em', three open houses this Sunday hosted by your's truly or one of my awesome partners:

519 W Melrose in East Lakeview Sunday from 12pm to 4pm

920 W Barry in Lakeview Sunday from 1pm to 3pm

4221 N Keeler in Old Irving Park Sunday from 1pm to 4pm

Call or email the contacts from the right side bar or on the listing information if you have questions.

I Love Lou Pinella and the Chicago Cubs

First of many Cub's posts this season. I might as well start out right.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Break from Real Estate in Lincoln Park

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood so my associate Chris and I had lunch at the Aloha Eats on North Clark Street in Lincoln Park. I'm glad he mentioned this place. I love chicken and and a good white rice... and they got that.

We walked down West Deming Place in Lincoln Park on the way back to the office. Deming Place has several mansion type single family homes on huge lots... like this one.

They put fences up to keep people like me out.

The average single family home here on a 30 wide, extra long lot sells for over $2,000,000.