Thursday, July 31, 2008

From the Museum Campus to Millennium Park

After checking out some fish at the Shedd, we were ready for some real downtown fun.

It was hot Sunday, so we walked north down Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park to cool off.

What a scene.

A Tourist in My Own City. Museum Campus

With guests in town last weekend from Japan it was time to hit Chicago's lakefront and the Museum Campus. Besides the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum themselves, the grounds are fun to walk and bike. The public art displays are a favorite attraction of mine.

Looking out over the Museum Campus back northwest to the Chicago skyline.

Legs on parade

Globes for going green.

We hopped on the CTA Brown Line at Montrose, exchanged to the Red Line at Belmont and got off at Roosevelt. It's an easy walk from the Roosevelt Red Line stop to the lakefront, or, you can take the free trolly.

Curious New Construction in West Andersonville

We saw this structure going up on West Berwyn just east of North Ravenswood Avenue. I think it will be front and back duplex units.... or it could be four siplex units. There is a structure in the rear lot too. It may be a small townhome development as well. I got a pretty good look, but I'm not sure what these will be.

This area between West Foster and Peterson and west of North Ashland Avenue has little new construction. There are some newer 3 and 6 flat buildings spotted here and there and single family homes along Ravenswood... but not alot compared to many other north side neighborhoods. This structure stands out more than most amongst its neighbors.

There are definately some single family homes around here that need to go. Many are odd frame and siding houses. But you'd expect a colonial or American Four Square to replace it among all the original homes and two-flats.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Chicago Real Estate Local Makes Inman News: Realtor on a Bike

Me and my clients racing to buy your condo!

My buddy Ric over at pointed out I was mentioned in Inman News, the premeir real estate news source.

It seems biking on the job as a Realtor is big news...

"Realtor bikes while he works"-A Realtor shares his tales of trading in a car for a bike at The Chicago Real Estate Local blog site. The Realtor, Eric Rojas, notes that he took his clients out on a biking trip to view for-sale properties. "When looking at properties that are relatively close together, riding makes a lot of sense," he writes.-

Thanks for the plug!

East Lakeview Chicago: Got Parking?

It's all yours East Lakeview...for a measly $44,000.

Common Elements Raise Property Values in Andersonville, Ravenswood

I'm a true believer that the common elements of your condo building will help raise property values, or, at least give our home the edge over others when selling. It's an obvious statement. However, building condo associations that go beyond the regular maintenance to beautify their common elements will see better showing traffic and returns.

This last weekend I attended a party in the courtyard at Winnemac Terrace on the border of the Ravenswood and Andersonville neighborhoods. They have one of the nicest courtyard patio areas I have seen in the neighborhood. One of the owners in this 18 unit condo building works in the landscaping field and has shared his expertise. However, the condo board has made a commitment to providing funds for the plants, planters and waterfalls.

This should not be done in lieu of regular maintenance, but rather above and beyond. Each condo association should exploit it's best resources-the owners' combined expertise- to bring out the best in their building.

One bedroom condos in the building pictured above start around $230,000 generally. Re-sale units have sold well in the building.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lincoln Park Bit By Starbucks Bug

Unceremoniously, this Starbucks at Lincoln Avenue and Altgeld in Lincoln Park closed over a month ago… before the big closing news broke nationally. Of course, in Chicago most of us yawned at the closings… we can stand anywhere on the North Side and throw a rock and hit a Starbucks. That is of course after the rock bounces off a Realtor's head first.

I’ve visited this location often for coffee over the past several years…with clients, after dropping my wife off at work or when just passing by. In fact, I’ve shown condos in the building in which it was housed. Nice one and two bedroom units in a great spot. The last updated one bedroom unit sold for $342,000 with garage parking in March. Try to get the Altgeld side... unless you like to look over the bar and Trixie action along Lincoln Avenue.

On this day, while waiting for a tow truck to pick up my “broke down” Mazda 6 for warranty work, I could have used this Starbucks. I brought a book just in case.

Architectural Artifacts: Another Ravenswood Chicago Find

Jill and I were riding bikes home from a Cubs game a couple weekends ago and ran into this guy.

He greeted us at Architectural Artifacts at 4325 N Ravenswood.

Check out the warehouse as you walk in. The facility, with it's many indoor and outdoor areas, may be rented out for events.

I've always talked about how I would like to live on North Ravenswood Ave. It's still mostly an eclectic mix of businesses from 4200 N to 4800 N. But, from Lawrence to Peterson (4800n to 6000) there are some pretty cool loft buildings and single family homes. Most of the west side of North Ravenswood Ave. North of Lawrence is a garden.

It's a great area to discover. Email me if you need a hand.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

More Ravenswood Manor Photos

Joe Zekas of fame sent me a link to some Ravenswood Manor photos located a couple blocks from my listing.

Here's a couple more shots of the area perks and homes:

Winter Wonderland

I blew a chance to get some great summer photos today... forgot my camera.

I viewed this Ravenswood Manor single family home on the 2600 block of West Wilson with clients earlier in the summer. It was listed at $939,000 and went under contract in 22 days. It's hard to explain why it's so unique and special... this strip of Ravenswood Manor has an inherent peaceful and classy feel.

The greatest asset is the amazing and unusual traingular backyard. But, even for such a cool house , in such a cool location with such cool decor (the owners have style)... it was not without floorplan issues. No master bath, a small kitchen and no flow to the outstanding backyard. There is simply a standard door out to the back. The home for the price has a little to be desired for the size, somewhat awkward lower level and bathroom situation. But, it should close for over $900,000... maybe over list price. So much for a housing slump in Chicago. This house will gain value with every improvement done as well.

Unique to Ravenswood Manor: Merle's On Francisco

One of my better camera phone photos as of late. The unofficial Ravenswood Manor week continues with a stop at Merle's Coffee House.
I was setting up my open house signs for 3000 W Lawrence #2H (there's the plug!) ealier this Sunday afternoon and planted one in front of this hidden gem. The place was hopping with locals. I attended a couple events over the last couple years in Merle’s patio in the back of the property. I’m not sure if this is open to the public at the moment or reserved for special events.

Merle’s is known for its home cooking and event catering. It’s literally right on the CTA Francisco Brown Line stop, so great for commuter eats and coffee.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Three Toyota Prius Per Capita in Ravenswood Chicago

Apparently, Prius have been reproducing on our parking pad. Here in Ravenswood, we really flex our "Green street cred".

We started with one in our condo association, then two. I walked out this morning and now three? There's only three other cars left. I guess it's only a matter of time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chicago Bugalow, Cub Fan, Bud Man in Ravenswood Manor

I was walking Ryne this morning near one of my listings and I spotted this Cub fan flying the "W" on the 4700 block of North Sacramento in Ravenswood Manor. This is a great looking, if not typical, brick Chicago Bungalow.

From the 4400 block of North Sacramento to the 4800 block north, there have been only three single family home sales recorded in the last two years... none of these in the last year. Closing prices ranged from $490,000 for a smaller bugalow to $635,000 for larger American Four Squares.

This house pictured above is probably in the mid $500,000 range or so; depending on if the interior matches the quality of the exterior.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Albany Park Via Ravenswood Manor

I rode my bike west down West Wilson Avenue over to a showing for my Albany Park listing. I can ride from the intersection of Lawrence and Damen to 3303 W Ainslie in about 10 minutes... beats driving. The Wilson Ave. Corridor, as I coined it last year, runs though one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Chicago; Ravenswood Manor. Above is a shot of the North Branch of the Chicago River river looking south.

Here's a house at Rockwell Crossing... and small little retail strip tucked into the neighborhood. It's home of the Rockwell CTA Brown Line stop, Rockwell's, Bloom Yoga, Beans and Bgaels etc...

This is rare. A new construction single family home being built at the 2800 block of West Wilson.

Passing into Albany Park, I hit the Starbucks at the corner of Wilson and Kedzie. This is steps from the Kedzie CTA Brown Line stop.

Ravenswood Storm Damages Trees And My Beloved Truck

Good morning indeed.

Friday night’s thunderstorms cut down a couple trees on West Argyle St., just one building over from our home. The family truckster was hit. Early Saturday morning, I pulled out of our parking space in my car and saw city trucks cutting and clearing branches from the street. I knew some cars must have gotten hit my falling branches.

It was not until after 9:00AM when my wife called and said our truck was damaged on that block. See, she had parked there late last evening. Some of the surrounding cars were totaled and ours sustained a few dents, a broken antenna and a broken mirror. Poor truck.

Last year, I was caught in Roscoe Village when the micro-burst, or whatever the hell that thing was, caused extensive damage on the North Side and North Shore a moments time. My neighborhood of Ravenswood was not affected by that storm, but many pockets on the North Side were hit hard by falling trees. These two incidents are hitting a little to close to home for me.

Now, my wife must drive our war weary SUV through the mean streets of Chicago. Battle scars.

The shame of it all is our block lost two mature trees.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Off Market Real Estate: Lincoln Square/Ravenswood Manor

I have a new listing coming on at 3000 W Lawrence in the Lincoln Square and Ravenswood Manor area. It's technically Albany Park, just west over the north branch of the Chicago River.

Two bedroom, two bath new construction condo with garage parking for $325,000. It's a block and a half from the CTA Francisco Brown Line and very close to Rockwell Crossing, Manor Park, and the Lincoln Square restaurant and retail district. I have lived just west (and now east) of this location. It's a great spot to pay less for new construction, yet be close to the hot spots in the Lincoln Square area.

It's a second floor corner unit. Assessment is $230 and the taxes should be under $4,000. The building was built about three years ago.

Here are a few details I emailed my Realtor buddies today:
First owner to live in the unit… only for 1 ½ years.
-Two Bedroom, Two Bathroom with Garage Parking Included.
-Giant master suite with large double vanity bath and huge walk-in closet.
-Huge laundry room with upgraded washer and dryer...tons of storage.

-Spacious eat-in kitchen, true dining area, and open floor plan.
-Corner unit, great light and decor. Shows beautifully.
-Steps from Francisco Brown Line CTA, Rockwell Crossing in Ravenswood Manor, and 12 minute walk to Lincoln Square shops and restaurants. Lawrence Bus on opposite corner fast to Lincoln Square and Ravenswood...Andersonville too!
-1300 plus square feet (according to developer measurements).
-Great closet space

Stage Your Empty Chicago Condo

Don't let this happen to you.

One of my partners in the office just vetted out a furniture rental company for one of her clients. She's staging the now empty condo for market. I've done my own staging and I've worked with professionals... there are options here.

If you don't stage your home in one way or another... it will not get top dollar and may be difficult to sell in general.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Condo Association Management: Landscaping

Our Ravenswood condo building association is small... 6 units. But we can not take managing the association lightly. I'm the President, but in reality the Treasurer and other good owners pull the strings... I'm just a figure head. Jill and I did throw a pretty good party for our turn-over meeting, which, probably clinched the presidency for me. Back to the subject...

We decided to landscape our front walk-way this season. Many factors came into play. Would we plant the walkway ourselves? What would we place there? Does anyone have a green thumb….and would that person take care of the finished product? How much would we spend? Seriously, a little decison like this can get out of hand in some associations. I've seen it.

So, we called a meeting in the winter to discuss upcoming spring improvements including the proposed landscape project. We decided that none of us had a particular expertise in landscaping required for the scope and scale of the project desired. We also decided we had a healthy budget for a two year old association and could contract out the work. We would pay half from reserves and half with a small special assessment. This was made possible by adequately funding the association with our monthly assessments. We set a budget that would allow a $3,000 a year surplus.

We hired a landscape architect (friend of a unit owner) to recommend a plan. Then, we received several recommendations for contractors to do the work. Pictured is the result.

Our Secretary on the Condo Board pretty much took responsibility of the project and we are all grateful of the much improved walk-way. But the short summary above is just one example that shows, even in a small condo building in Ravenswood, a lot of factors go into the management and care of maintaining and improving our homes and investments.
We have an “active” self managed condo association that communicates often and delegates responsibility well. I’ve seen first hand how tough it can be to sell units in problem buildings… we would rather bite the bullet and take care of our housekeeping as needed. And we have avoided the pitfalls of a small building where one individual gets stuck doing everything.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Client Party in Lincoln Park

Thanks for coming to the Mayan Palace last Friday night, June 27th. See you at the next party!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Map Search When Looking for Chicago Properties

The mistake some Realtors and clients make when searching properties is limiting a search to a specific Chicago neighborhood code on the MLS or to specific neighborhood boundaries.

For instance, I will have a listing coming on just west of the North Branch of the Chicago River at 3000 West Lawrence Avenue. The river is the border between the Lincoln Square neighborhood code of 8004 and the Albany Park neighborhood code of 8014. Someone may miss out on the condo because they limited their search to the Lincoln Square neighborhood code.

In reality, the Albany Park location of this particular new construction condo building is closer to the CTA Brown Line and the Lincoln Square restaurant and retail district than many locations in the actual Lincoln Square neighborhood code. Lincoln Square expands out pretty far northwest to include Bud Long Woods… a great neighborhood, but not convenient to the CTA Brown Line.

Instead, a Map Search, or searching by street coordinates, is a much better way to go.

New Chicago Condo Market Statistics

To get an overview of Chicago condo statistics, please see the new featured widget located in my right hand side bar (just scroll down). It's broght to us by

Why re-invent the wheel? You can check in at the web site for statistics and floor plans for condos. As a service to my clients, I can register you for free ($300.00 value). I'll then help make sense of the statistics in relation to your property.

Please contact me by email and I will set you up.