Friday, October 31, 2008

Two Bedroom in Southport Corridor for Rent

For Rent or Sublet 3716 N Wayne #1


2 Bedroom – 1 Bathroom Apt for rent
3716 N Wayne #1
Available 12/6/08 – 4/30/08 w/ option to renew

New Kitchen, Newer Bathroom, New built in bar, New Windows, Hardwood Floors, Central AC/Heat, Ceiling Fans, Front and Back Porches, Great Fenced in Yard, Laundry in Bldg.
$1650 / mo.
Pets Considered – Garage Parking Avail $150 / month

Call Eric H. @ 773.528.2996

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Green" Not Enough to Sell Single Family Homes in Ravenswood

These new construction sustainable design single family homes at 4610 and 4612 N Wolcott in Ravenswood have been marketed on our MLS since January. It's been a tough road... starting at over $1.5M each and now at $1,475,000. The home's are marketed with a tilt toward Green building and as energy efficient... and a glimpse of the solar panels is one hint they've taken that seriously.

However, this block of Wolcott has been a tough sell for high end homes this year. One million plus re-sale single family homes have not fared much better. One new construction luxury home that sold in 2006 for $1,287,500 is now offered for sale two years later as a short sale at $999,999. Nice even number....
The developer's custom pimped out home right next door (I've been in it) was also up for sale for $1,359,000 at one point... that's been taken off the market.

In 2006 and 2007, similar new construction homes (without the emphasis on green technology) on similar lots did sell handily from $1.1M to $1.5M. However, by the time 4610-4612N Wolcott were hitting the market, things, well, you know... slowed down.

Even so, luxury new construction homes in this Ravenswood area, and especially a little west of Damen, have been catching big numbers even this year. One masonry new construction home on the 2100 Block of West Giddings sold in about 30 days for over $1.4M.

But this block shown here has some disadvantages with multi-unit buildings on each side of the pictured homes and this across the street...

The speculation on the four new constructions homes for both the buyers of houses in 2006 and the developers of the new construction this year may not have taken into account the affect the train can have on home values.

Elevators on the CTA Brown Line OK with Me

After a visit to the eye doctor Jillian, Ryne and I went out to lunch at Pane on Sheffield.

Jill then left for an appointment and the guys headed for the CTA Brown Line at Diversey in Lakeview/Lincoln Park.

It was my first time using the new elevators. And boy, it beats the pants off having to carry the stroller and the boy up stairs like in the old days.

We got off at Montrose in the Ravenswood neighborhood... the Damen CTA Brown Line station is not quite finished yet, but scheduled to open in November.

The CTA Brown Line renovation can be tracked HERE

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cook County Property Taxes Due Monday, November 3rd

Our property taxes are due Monday November 3rd and may be paid online at the Cook County Treasurer's site, at Chase Banks or by mail.

Might as well listen to a classic while getting shaken down.

I'll be appealing my assessed valuation as an individual condo unit. After some conversations with industry experts, I may have a better chance appealing as a single unit, rather than as part of the entire condo building (6 units in my case).

You may simply fill out an appeal form. Or, you may make a case with several pieces of information.
Below are the instructions for both filing a Joint Appeal for a building and filing as an Individual Unit. The information was copied from the Cook County Assessors Site.

Filing a Condominium Valuation Appeal

Joint Appeal: A joint appeal filed by the Association or Board on behalf of all condominium owners is the most effective way to appeal the valuation of any condominium building(s). There are three advantages to filing a joint appeal: (1) market forces that affect the value of an individual condominium unit will have a similar affect on the other units as well; (2) the percentage of ownership assigned to each unit is a major valuation factor; and (3) the Association or Board is most likely to have access to relevant sales information.

The following information must accompany each joint condominium valuation appeal:

(a) A copy of the original declaration of condominium ownership with all subsequent amendments;

(b) A list of all unit numbers, and the corresponding permanent index numbers, which are subject to the terms of the declaration. Include all property owned by the Association or Board, including recreational, parking, or other facilities, whether adjacent or not;

(c) A description of the size of each unit, the unit blend of the building(s) and the percentage of ownership of each unit;

(d) Interior and exterior photographs of the building(s);

(e) The closing statements for all units which have been sold within the last five years;

(f) Actual construction or renovation cost information if the building(s) has been constructed, converted or renovated within the last three years; and

(g) Three years of financial statements if the building(s) has been constructed, converted, or renovated within the last three years.

Individual Appeal: If you elect to file as an individual unit owner, the following information should accompany your appeal:

(a) The closing statement if the unit has been sold within the last five years;

(b) A copy of the local municipality’s occupancy permit if the unit is newly constructed or converted;

(c) The percentage of ownership of the individual unit, and if presented, the percentage of ownership of comparables.

As your Realtor, I can help you determine if assessed values are higher for comparable properties.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Investors: Gutted Three Flat for Sale in Ravenswood

I wrote about this project a few times. The building has been gutted, work has stopped awhile ago and the grounds are now an eyesore to long time neighbors. However, you the investor, can come along and save the day. I can get in touch with these guys if you have interest.

I don't know the extent of the framing, electrical, plumbing etc.. but they have dug out the basement and replaced many of the windows. It's a gorgeous building and I hope it can be finished in the near term. The street is wonderful. A cash buyer could do something special here.

Ravenswood Loft Condos for Cool Aesthetic

These lofts are located at North Ravenswood and West Winnemac in the Ravenswood neighborhood. I tried to get this shot when the sun hit the turning leaves... missed it. However, you still get the idea here... really cool looking building and vines. The lofts tend to have long time owners... not many re-sales in the past few years in this 16 unit building.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Your Job Recession Proof? Buying Chicago Real Estate this Fall

A buyer received a good deal on this listing of mine when my client's decided to move out of town.

Are you a nurse or teacher? Is your industry flexible, adaptable and in demand? are you recession proof? People are worried about the real estate market compounded by the financial markets. However, people are also losing sight that many folks are financially sound, are saving money and.... paying rent.

I live in Chicago and deal with people living, working and buying in Chicago. If you do not want to be a renter anymore and feel you have sound finances, this season, just like many in the past, is a good season to purchase for several reasons.

Real estate consumer advocates like Bob Bruss have written through the years that fall and winter can be a good time to buy. They cite the sellers' and buyers' tax benefits and the sellers' level of motivation. The saying goes if they are on the market during the holiday season, they are probably serious about selling. Additionally, I am seeing sellers with equity in their homes listing on the market with truly good prices. There are still plenty of sales happening under 30 days on the market now in Ravenswood, Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park, Gold Coast... These are places people want to live and they come on the market priced well.

Normally, there are fewer "good" homes to choose from in the winter months... but they can be out there. Once in awhile, a new great listing will come on or I'll know about something "off-market". Many people make job and career switches in the later part of the year. They need to sell their home and move on to the next life.

And finally, right now, Interest rates can be low on any given day. And lenders like Wells Fargo offer terrific loan programs and watch the rates for you. First time buyers are at an advantage due to special programs and no need to sell a property.

All I'm saying is, I bought my new primary home last year "in a terrible market" because it was a terrific fit for my family, affordable and in a neighborhood we wanted to be in. If you go into a purchase with this in mind, you'll do fine. And now, homes in these good neighborhoods can be more affordable than they were a couple years ago.

Chicago Sellers; Do You Know How to Screen a Buyer?

I do not like to discourage showings. And with my Internet advertising, mailings and open houses... let's just say I get a lot of showings for my listings. However, any person seriously engaged in selling their home in Chicago knows what a pain it is to have the condo, house or two-flat ready for a showing. Owners usually have to leave the property during the showing as well. I recommend you leave. Mr. and Mrs. owner...Please leave during the showing. Thanks.

My point here is, I usually ask a few questions of the agent or potential buyer when they request a showing before I confirm an appointment. "Are you familiar with the area"?. "Is this an investor or will the buyer move into the property?". "Are you working with a mortgage broker?". "Do they need a big backyard or is a deck okay?".

If the buyer or agent is offended by a couple questions then they may not be serious or may not know what they are doing. In fact, they should ask those questions before making an appointment to show the property to clients.

If you were my client and I was selling your place... would you like me to ask a few serious questions before confirming the showing? Or, would you like to clean up, pack up and get out of your two-flat for someone who asks... "Oh, this is not a three flat?", when it is in fact a two flat. Says so on the listing.

Views from the Gold Coast: 1250 N Dearborn

My clients and I viewed a couple condos at 1250 N Dearborn. Renovated two bedroom units have been selling well here from $350,000 to $400,000. The views from the rooftop deck help.

Condos at 1601 W School: 60657 Lofts

This is a great looking staircase at the 1601 W School Lofts in the West Lakeview neighborhood. Sometimes, it's the little things in a condo building that makes it a comfortable place to live.
I like to take the stairs rather than an elevator.

I hosted an open house in this building last weekend. The energy at this location is really terrific. People everywhere... eating, shopping, running...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Julius Meinl in North Center: Good Ol' Austrian Comfort Food

We finally made it to the Julius Meinl in North Center a couple weekends ago. I wrote about its construction awhile back... and it's been open now for several months.

Friends and I have frequented the Southport and Addison location since a college professor of mine introduced us to the coffee house. After an economics class trip to Europe Ellen, Chuck, Herr Professor Stuart and myself enjoy meeting back at Meinl from time to time. It's also a place I like to take my clients when looking for homes in Lakeview.

Meinl now anchors the corner of West Montrose and North Lincoln that has also hosts Bowman's and is across the street from Welles Park. The corner went through several restaurants over the past few years, but these two establishments have been very successful.

This is a terrific setting for European coffee service, pastries, light sandwiches and soup. They also have a breakfast menu and dinner dishes.

The furniture and decor is imported from Austria. I like the design of the cafes. One site you will see is couples sitting on the same side of the table, watching the action. Very European cafe lifestyle. But, it can't escape all American traps.. like speedy service as a MUST for a good restaurant. I know they can't risk a more European laissez-faire service as most patrons would complain.

North Center, and it's adjacent neighborhood Lincoln Square, continues to deliver on restaurants and leisure. Walking Lincoln Avenue, strolling in Welles Park and sitting for frittaten and Croque Monsieur; it's a tough life.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sunday Open House: High End Lakeview Loft at 1601 W School

I will host an open house at 1601 W School from 12 Noon to 3PM at 1601 W School this SUNDAY 10/19/08.

This is a totally renovated unit... everything new in the last year. Here's the description on the MLS:


Wow huh?!! Check out the size of the deck.

I lived in this area of West Lakeview for several years as it built up... I actually moved there when the Montgomery Ward was still open! The host of cool restaurants, bars, shopping and fitness amenities in this four block radius is very impressve.
Shop at Whole Foods or and take the Paulina CTA Brown Line two blocks away.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Serene North Park Chicago for Single Family Homes

Those looking for move-in quality single family homes under $500,000 should visit the North Park neighborhood. My wife and I owned a condo about a block south of the North Park University campus located at the intersection of West Foster and North Kedzie. I feel just north of the campus across Foster is a terrific setting for quiet single family home living with nearby amenities.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago gives an area description of North Park:

"Community Area 13, 9 miles NW of the Loop. North Park is a stable, quiet, tree-shaded, middleincome community where most homes are owner-occupied. It is located between Cicero Avenue on the west and the North Shore Channel on the east, the city limits and Devon Avenue on the north, and the North Branch of the Chicago River on the south. The presence of the two streams provides a charming and unusual ambience for the area. Chicago's only waterfall (about four feet high) appears where the North Branch of the Chicago River tumbles into the North Shore Channel. "

The amenities are unique with two universities within four blocks of each other, a couple commercial districts on Foster and on Bryn Mawr, huge parks and access to highways.

Last Sunday, I stopped by the Starbucks on Foster then took a walk around the North Park Campus. The campus is a must stop for sight seeing on the North Side of Chicago. Just gorgeous.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Construction to Permanent Loans in Chicago: Purchase and Renovate

I've invited RWF Mortgage, an affiliate of Wells Fargo, to write about lending programs as a guest blogger. I was interested in buying a house and financing the renovation. Here's one program he pointed out.

Let’s say you’re a buyer in today’s market and you want to purchase a home in your neighborhood but can’t afford the necessary Renovation/Cost needed to bring the home up-to-date. Today’s answer is a Construction to Permanent Loan. A Construction to Permanent Loan is used to acquire a property or a vacant lot, then pay "draws" of the construction loan to a General Contract/Builder to complete constuction or renovation. This is one loan that modifies to an End Permanent Loan after the Final Draw. The permanent loan can be a 30 Year Fixed, 5 Year Arm, etc… The borrower has the ability to lock the rate of the end permanent loan at the opening of the Construction Loan when the project is just starting. The lock can last up to 2 years. The borrower will get a free float down on their interest rate prior to modification, should interest rates go lower.

We recently completed a Single Family Home purchase with a Construction to Permanent Loan. The property purchase and a major addition project to the home were all covered in one loan. The home buyer was required to hire a qualified General Contractor to complete the work. This included extending the back of the home on the first level and adding a large deck. The total cost came to $75,000. The Acquisition Cost of the original home was $450,000. The lender reviewed the sales contract of the existing home, collected the Cost Breakdown ($75,000) and Plans & Specs from the General Contractor to help determine the Finished Value. Along with those 2 things, the Lender took an estimated prorated amount of interest due during the construction period ($15,000) along with the Closing Cost ($5,000), and added these two totals to the Sales Price and Construction cost.

All this added together is the Total Acquisition Cost for the project. The Interest Reserve is an account with the lender that is drawn on each month to make the interest payments on the balance of the construction loan. This interest reserve is an option account, but on this particular transaction, the borrower elected to go with it. The lender lent 80% of this acquisition cost which came out to $436,000. In this case, the appraisal came in a bit higher than the total acquisition cost, so we had no problems proceeding. Should the appraisal have come back lower than the total acquisition cost; we would have lent 80% of the lower amount of the appraisal, which would have required the buyer to put more monies in the transaction. If the appraisal amount were to come back higher than the acquisition cost, the lender will still lend the amount of the original acquisition cost.

During construction, the borrower did not have to make payments while they sold their existing home. The reason, as mentioned above, was an interest reserve account was created to make the monthly interest payments on the construction balance. Also, we did not have to use the buyers existing mortgage payment in qualifying them for the new home. This happens because the construction guidelines understand that the home buyer will sell their existing home or lease the property to a tenant prior to the final draw on the constriction loan.

The 3 main benefits of a Construction to Permanent Loan are the following:

A. Most of the Construction/Renovation Cost can be financed
B. No Payments on the Construction Loan during the construction period
C. Home Buyer’s existing Mortgage on their current home is not used in Qualifying for the new Mortgage (Construction to Permanent). Therefore they don’t need to worry about being able to cover both payments while the home is built/renovated and not does the Lender.

Purchasing a home and completing a renovation or rehab of the property can be easier today than most home buyers think. It’s one solution to improve a property to meet your needs rather than buying an existing home that someone else has customized. A home buyer is able to customize the project to suite their taste. Take advantage of the program in order to have a property that meets all your needs.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lito's Empanadas for Lunch on North Clark Street

The best thing about North Clark Street in Lincoln Park is lunch. I work around the corner at 2663 N Halsted... so a walk up West Wrightwood is no problem. North Clark Street has a great variety of sit down and take-away lunch options.

Lito's Empanadas at 2566 N Clark Street, Chicago has been around since December 2007. It's a small store front operation that does pretty much one thing... you can guess. But for $5 bucks, you can mix and match a couple empanadas and get a Diet Coke. Good lunch, especially if your eating at the desk.

I think they will have a long future. I'm all for joints that do one thing right. Maybe they'll develop a cult following like a certain soup seller on Seinfeld. Get in line and shut your trap.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bowmanville Chicago offers Opportunity for the Move Up Buyer

Single family homes are the way to go in this market. There is opportunity for the first time buyer and move-up buyer to afford a house they could not buy just two years ago. If a single family home is a stretch, townhomes and three bedroom condos are reasonable on the North Side.

I've spent a lot of time viewing single family homes and townhomes lately in the Bowmanville neighborhood. A long-time, but little known by name "sub-neighborhood" of Lincoln Square, Bowmanville has emerged on as a destination for high quality 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, North Ravenswood to the East (or stretch to North Ashland for the eastern border) and North Western 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 Brown Line stop is close by for your everyday commuter needs around the entire north side and Chicago's Loop.
For the Chicago dweller, the neighborhood as it is "now" is what 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 misspelled 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 converted buildings retain famous Chicago architectural details. No high-rise buildings here. For the professional looking for nightlife at hot restaurants and bars such as Big Joe's, 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...
New construction single family homes start in the $800,000 range with gut renovated homes starting in the low $500,000 range for a re-sale home.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sunday Open House 1PM to 3PM: Chicago's Albany Park at 3303 W Ainslie

Open House at 3303 W Ainslie #3 Sunday from 1PM to 3PM.

A busy weekend has me hosting another open house in the Albany Park neighborhood. This two bedroom condo is in a great location at 3303 W Ainslie directly between the North Park University campus and the Kimball Brown Line stop.

Check out some photos and the ad here:

  • Two bedroom top floor unit

  • Parking

  • Full Basement included!

  • Great deck and huge yard

  • Granit, cherry, marble finishes

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Northcenter Open House: Single Family Home Near Trader Joe's

With all of my new found spare time with the Cubs out of the play-offs, I've decided to host an open house at 1750 W Grace on Saturday 10/11/08 from 12P to 3P.

Asking $598,500 for a true four bedroom, two bath home with three levels of living. It has a great deck (a must for me) adjacent to an open main level family room. A good sized yard and 2 car garage complete the packet.

According to my research of local sales and MLS data, the average single family home in the four block radius is over $800,000. This home is in MOVE-IN-QUALITY condition. It simply could use some material updates. Honestly, with young kids, I'd leave the old stuff in the place for awhile until they were past the "destroy everything in site" faze. They're so cute.

After time, if you'd like to invest more than the material replacement alone, you could fully expand the second floor to increase square footage and still come in way under the average home price.

Interest rates are low and there remains a very small number of move-in, sound single family homes in good locations east of North Western Ave. This house is walking distance to the CTA Brown Line stops at Irving or Addison, trader Joe's is a block away and an established restaurant and shopping district is located on Lincoln Avenue a couple blocks away.

Northcenter is a terrific Chicago neighborhood with transportation, plenty of entertainment, shopping, grocery stores, and leafy streets. You can enjoy the Wrigleyville, Roscoe Village, Lincoln Square and Andersonville neighborhoods nearby as well.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Art Walk Ravenswood: Ann Ponce Studio

While visiting the many vendors and studios of ArtWalk Ravenswood last weekend, we quite enjoyed meeting artist Ann Ponce at her studio at 1819 W Wilson, Chicago 60640.

With roots firmly planted in Ravenswood, Jillian and I have turned to collecting more art for our home. The goal is to balance works from our travels with local art pieces mainly. Ann's studio caught our eye. I particularly liked a landscape painting of a farm located not too far from Chicago.

Ann's working studio compliments the many local businesses in Ravenswood... so many of which we don't even realize they are there! Please visit Ann Ponce for affordable gifts of original art. There could be no more thoughtfulness than having a portrait painted of a family member.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Can You Get a Single Family Home in Ravenswood, Bowmanville? Chicago Market Statistics

Can't bear to live in another condo? Sick of renting with that crazy neighbor living above you? The Ravenswood, Lincoln Square and Bowmanville neighborhoods offer MOVE IN QUALITY single family home opportunities this fall season in the price range of $500,000 to $600,000. But they are few and far between!

The MOVE-IN QUALITY re-sale or newly renovated single family home has been a hot commodity when located west of North Western Avenue and south of Peterson (about the 6000 block north). Generally, the farther south you get in this location and closer to the CTA and Metra trains, the more scarace the opportunties and higher the price.

It is an important distinction to make. MOVE IN QUALITY means you will have to make little, if any, necessary renovations to live in the home comfortably.

Although some consumers think they have unlimited opportunities for single family homes, this is not the case in desirable Chicago neighborhoods. Let's take a look at the Chicago Market Statistics for single family homes in the portions of Ravenswood, Lincoln Square and Bowmanville west of Western and south of Peterson:

Checking the the last year to the present, I only get 20 results for active, sold or under contract homes from $500,000 to $600,000 on our Multiple Listing Service. Of those 20, only 13 are condisered MOVE IN QUALITY in my opinion. Of the 13 single family homes sold and currently under contract, over half had a sales contract around 30 days! Some in a week.

Most of these homes sold for over $550,000, with the homes listed for $500,000 to $550,000 going really fast.

The moral of the story here: If you dream of having a single family home in the city, you must be ready to take advantage of lower interest rates when available while understanding the inventory and the location you'd like to buy in. Some people have moved very quickly when a truly well priced single family home has hit the market between $500,000 and $600,000 in a great neighborhood. This was not as possible three years ago.. but there are rare opportunities now.