Saturday, January 31, 2009

1744 W Crystal: Wicker Park Luxury Home with a Nod Toward Tradition

1744 W Crystal is another proud addition to our single family home and condo listing portfolio this early spring real estate season. Noticeable of this Wicker Park single family home is it's design and scale. It truly fits in with the hip neighborhood's renovated workers' cottages that line the eclectic streets.

I think the house has a terrific facade and warm finishes. Upon entering, it sprawls out into a spacious three levels of living. The home has four bedrooms, three and one-half baths. Great decks and great room are a must for my family. The location is steps from the Division Street nightlife and dining will keep you connected to the city you love.
Here's the MLS description from Bob DePalma:

"Exceptional, newer construction, single family home in desirable location, off vibrant Division Street! Quality details in this 4 bed, 3.1 bath home including 2 fireplaces, crown moldings, 10 ft ceilings, maple hardwood floors and cabinetry, granite/limestone finishes, stainless steel appliances.Master suite with vaulted ceilings, walk-in closet, jetted tub, separate shower and vanities. 2 decks and 2+ car garage."

Please contact me (info on the right sidebar) for a showing and for the listing sheet including dimensions.

Asking $1,049,000

Friday, January 30, 2009

Watch the Mortgage Refinance Interview

Medill News Service interviewed me and my associate Brian Cumpton of RWF Wells Fargo Mortgage concerning recent low mortgage rates and refinancing.

Watch me make a sandwich!

Changes Again in Mortgage Financing for Condos

Brian Cumpton, RWF Wells Fargo Mortgage and guest blogger, keeps me up to the minute (almost annoyingly) on the lending information that matters most to my clients. He sent me this bit of good news the other day...

Condominium financing just became more expensive.

If you’re thinking of buying a condo or refinancing your current condo, the cost for mortgage financing has just gone up a bit.

Fannie Mae has just added a fee to condo transactions of .75% of a 30 year fixed mortgage, for borrowers who put down less than 25% for purchases and those that have less than 25% equity in the unit for refinances.

For an average loan amount of $300,000 the fee amounts to $2,250, or .375% additional to the interest rate. Borrowers can elect to pay the fee, which will be tax deductible, or roll the fee in to their interest rates, thus increasing the rate.

This all stems from the condo market showing the highest risk of default in this loan to value range. The fee has occurred in the past - more recently in the 90s-but as the market was appreciating in the 2000s there was less risk for default in the condo markets; hence there were no additional fees.

It’s a good time to purchase with home values down which can make up the difference in some respect. But keep in mind if you are putting less than 25% down for a new purchase it has just become more costly. This is also true for refinancing if the property does not have 25% equity in the home. The cost of the transaction is higher.

The past two weeks, interest rates have pushed up due to a few reasons. 30 year fixed mortgage rates are tied to bond prices - and have been mixed and volatile recently. The bond price trades on data within the economy and fear factors. Because of this, there is always volatility.

Please call me to receive a mortgage analysis of your situation. If you don't know your options, our conversation will empower your decision making.

Selling your Lake View Home in Chicago: Internet Search Results

1714 W Belmont pictured here features multi-level condos with terrific outdoor space.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I have not spent a lot of time on how I market properties on the Internet. I do post some of my listings and open house weekends here, but I don't really discuss sales techniques. Maybe I should do a little more of that for people looking for an agent. I've met a lot of clients directly from the blog and I'd like to continue that trend.

I've been getting great Internet search term results for my clients' listings by aggressively posting on this blog, purchasing enhanced accounts on and and posting aggressively on other free sites. Posting aggressively and often... every week.

I watch the search term results through tracking software. For example, if you Google "Lakeview open house", my site comes up in the top 5 (I think #1 right now). What this means is, I simply edit that post to feature your Lake View open house for the weekend. If buyers click the link, your photos and open house information will greet them.

There are hundreds of Chicago real estate search terms that my site comes up first page Google, or even better, first page first spot.

Another example... my site comes up first page for Chicago Single Family Home... there are over 14,000,000 returns!!!

Please contact me to discuss how my Internet Marketing helps sell your home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Few Views (and Words) from Fountain View, Lincoln Square

The prominent corner units provide excellent sight lines of the attractive surrounding neighborhood.

Fountain View in Lincoln Square has been one of the more high profile and talked about developments in Lincoln Square for some time. I had a chance to stop by the condos on Monday and take a tour with developer and Principal of Terra Firma Co. G. Benjamin Ranney. I'll have my general take on the project as a guest blogger at in the coming days. For now, here are a few photos of the views.

Morning sun on the unfinished top floor two bed, two bath on the southeast corner

I also asked Mr. Ranney to send me a few notes on what's most important to know about the development. Here's what he had to say:

"Lincoln Square is one of the best and most complete neighborhoods anywhere in Chicago. There’s a good reason why home values are holding up better in the heart of Lincoln Square than in other places: it has unparalleled access to transit (including the bus service and the Ravenswood Metra as well as the El’s Brown Line), excellent cultural and entertainment venues (the Old Town School, Sulzer Library and the Davis Theater are the obvious big ones, but there’s also a huge range of less prominent offerings like exhibits at the Chicago Printmaker’s Collaborative and the DankHaus, cooking classes at the Chopping Block, readings at the Book Cellar and the summer concerts in Giddings Plaza), gorgeous parks (Welles Park, Winnemac Park, the running trails along the River), great shopping at the boutiques along Lincoln Avenue, and every kind of retail service you’d ever need – drug stores, dry cleaners, hair salons, optometrists, etc. I’ve lived my whole life in Chicago and know the city pretty well, and I can’t think of another neighborhood where you have access to all of the above, especially in an environment that makes it attractive to get to all these things without your car."

"And then of course there are the things that distinguish the Fountain View even within the neighborhood: heated underground parking, energy efficient design and construction (we’re on track for LEED Silver certification), attractive light-filled 2 & 3BR layouts and a nice array of finish options that include Energy Star rated appliances, locally-made cabinetry, and natural stone counter-tops and tiles. I could go on and on about the environmental features of the building and the upgrades, but I really think it is the quality of construction that sets us apart."

Sounds like a guy who has a horse in this race! It certainly is an awesome location.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lincoln Park Single Family Homes: Fourth Quarter Median Prices Up, Unit Sales Steady

These guys are looking for a $900,000 house in Lincoln Park... they've been looking awhile.

I've been researching Lincoln Park homes and hosted an open house today near Janssen and Fullerton. A look at the median price for the fourth quarter shows the median sales price for single family homes was up 3% to $1,727,820 from $1,683,173.

Most interesting is, while many neighborhoods experienced sharp declines in unit sales, Lincoln Parker's bought and sold 33 homes in the fourth quarter of 2008, 35 in 2007 and 35 in 2006. The statistics are compiled by the Chicago Association of Realtors.

My concern right now is looking for a true three bedroom single family home under $900,000 in Lincoln Park that is move in ready for a family of four. It has to have a minimum of three bathrooms and a yard for the kids.

A quick look at the MLS shows only three options that might work with these specific requirements.
More Lincoln Park information, home tours and market statistics here!

Albany Park Three Bedroom Condo Hitting the Market this Week

Not on the market... yet

I'm listing a three bedroom, two bath condo in an established Albany Park condo building later this week. It has terrific, flexible space, gated parking and a large deck off back.

4653 N Lawndale #2S
Asking $269,000 with assessments at $188

The MLS listing will be up with photos and a virtual tour in a couple days.
However, we can show the unit now. It looks really inviting. This was a conversion just after 2000 with updates since then. The quality is terrific and you'll see the difference.

Please take a look a a couple snap shots here and the postlet ad below for details. Please email or call me with any questions.

Alta Vista Terrace Row Homes: Part II

My friend Joe Zekas at sent me this link for a slide show of the Alta Vista row homes in Chicago's northern end of Lake View... I posted about them earlier this week.

Click HERE for the slide show.

Thanks Joe!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sunday Open House: Lincoln Park 60614 Single Family Home

I could do Tai Chi in this yard.

I'll host an open house this weekend on a terrific Lincoln Park block.

2326 N Janssen in Lincoln Park, Chicago 60614 Sunday 1/25/09 from 1PM to 4PM.

Asking $899,000
3 bedroom plus loft, 2 and 1/2 bath, 2 car garage.

It's all about the mix of vintage detail, new luxuries and unique renovation. This home is for those who love to incorporate the outdoor space in a tranquil traditional setting. Details include high lofted ceiling in the living room, a lofted reading area and wonderful views of your private oasis from the great room. The major renovation were done over the past 5 years.

View Virtual Tour HERE

Act Fast for Historic Alta Vista Row House, Chicago

It's one of those joys in Chicago like a row house in Old Town Triangle or an estate along the river in Ravenswood Manor. There is inherent pride, value and distinction to the brick and dirt it sits on.
Sometimes you just know a certain location and home is for you. It will calm a soul.

Too much?

I think many of the owners on Alta Vista Terrace in Lakeview would agree that they have something special.

There are forty homes on the block, all sitting on roughly 24X40 lots... and they don't come up for sale often. Only three homes have sold over the last two years. From $555,000 for a handyman's special to $725,000 for a well maintained and appointed move-in ready row house. All three selling in 2007 and in under 20 days on the market.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lincoln Square Fourth Quarter Condo Sales Volume Down, Median Price Up

According to Chicago Association of Realtor's statistics, condo sales volume within the Lincoln Square designated neighborhood code were down 62% in the last quarter of the year compared to the same period in 2007. This area also includes the sizable Ravenswood neighborhood. 49 units were sold in the fourth quarter of 2008 down from the 128 of 2007. Unlike in some neighborhoods, there were no large developments that delivered units in Lincoln Square in 2007 that would skew the numbers.

Median price, however, was up 5% over that period. This was due, in my analysis, to the strong showing by higher-end new construction condos in the area. However, I also noted many re-sale units selling at appreciated numbers from their last transaction. The September and October financial crsis pretty much choked off sales in the entire city and, despite the increasing price per square foot in this burg, Lincoln Square was no exception.

This is good news for those looking to refinance or sell in Lincoln Square!

Views From 1645 W School in West Lakeview

I like the street-scape views from this building... lots of acivity in the surrounding neighborhood.

As far as large loft condo buildings go, 1645 W School is pretty a pretty solid value in West Lakeview. It's a well maintained building, established condo association and relatively low turn-over in units sold... especially the last year. Which, the latter could be said for many buildings last year! Here are a couple view from the eastern most roof deck (there are two roof decks).

At the moment, there is only two units for sale; a one bedroom with garage parking included for $287,500 and a two bedroom unit with two car garage parking for $378,000. It's an elevator building with heated garage, balconies and the aforementioned two rooftop decks. The location is really terrific. Just to name a few things within a block or two: the Paulina Brown Line stop, Whole Foods, Jewel Food Store, the Lincoln/Belmont YMCA, X-Sport Fitness, and about a dozen food and drink establishments.

Some of the view from the western roof deck above.

I think this is a great building for someone who wants a convenient, maintenance free lifestyle. The units under $400,000 are not huge, but they are comfortable and quiet.

Anyone else like this building and neighborhood?

Where are the 4.5% Mortgage Interest Rates Today?

Where are mortgage interest rates today? Did anyone get that 4.5% rate that was rumored? Some of us got pretty close. Today however, rates are trending a little higher in comparison. My banker at Wells Fargo commented they are at about 5.25% to 5.625% for qualifying borrowers.

It just shows how important it is to have your financial ducks in a row... including keeping an eye on mortgage rates and programs that may save you money. My wife and I filled out our application and waited... waited. Once the rate dropped to a level that made sense for us, we locked. We are on our way to savings. If you think you will want to re-finance or purchase a home, get with a mortgage banker and be ready to take advantage of low rates.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ten Highlights from Chicago's Regional Economic Forecast

Rubloff mega-agents Greg Desmond, me and Andrew Gersten. Huge Rubloff Residential showing... because we're the best.

I attended the 2009 Regional Economic Forecast and the renovated Palmer House Hilton last Thursday evening despite the sub-zeroness (and I don't mean the refrigerator brand). This is one of my favorite seminars each year. The networking is terrific and I always see some great Realtors and industry people I've done business with or have exchanged ideas.

The Palmer House Hilton is just gorgeous... Quite a transformation from the gritty Wabash with the L trains and street bustle to an elegant, loungey, yet majestic environs. Ever since reading "The Devil in the White City", I can't help but imagine the scene here was very similar at the turn of the century. The cocktails and hors d'oeuvres didn't hurt either.

I don't have two hours to write this, so here's several highlights I gleamed from the four very comprehensive speakers:

1. From the academic perspective, jobs are the key to this recovery. Stimulus would be well directed to job creation.

2. Recessions in the past have sometimes seen an increase in home buying such as in 2001-2004. Interest rates were a factor during these times.

3. There is, on average, a 5 month lag to large scale economic stimulus such as the current interest rate drops. We are not yet seeing the full effect of the 5% interest rates as people take time to get interested and then shop for a home after responding to the stimulus.

4. Downtown development has stopped. Only a few large scale developments are scheduled to deliver in 2010-2112.

5. Middle America has been stable as far as home prices. Charts showed the roller coaster ride of the east and west coast, Arizona, Florida, Nevada etc... but places like Lexington Kentucky, Chicago, Houston, Nashville, Denver all resemble a slow increase in median home prices on a steady climb and a much smaller pull back (if any in some districts of those cities).

6. No one expects a recovery in 2009 and foreclosures are one of the larger issues due to lack of buyers (lack of buyers also due to a more difficult and stigmatized buying process of foreclosures).

7. Recovery of housing sales and decreased inventory will be seen at the lower end properties first.

8. People flock to quality product and location in down markets. Some downtown buildings have shown increased sales even in the downturn... suggesting demand for quality.

9. Median Price of homes in Cook County (a large, diverse area) is down $40K from 2007 peak.

10. The 2016 Olympics would be a boon for the construction industry and anyone who could rent their home out for two weeks!

Top Producer Michelle Brown of Rubloff somehow doesn't run away from me!

The Mystery of PMI

PMI is a four letter word to most home buyers with less than 20% down. David Curry of the Lake Geneva Real Estate Blog asks why Private Mortgage Insurance has not helped prevent the massive bank losses due to defaults. Basically, what has PMI done for us lately??

This is the first time I have seen this subject brought up.

Penthouse Living at 3520 N Reta #4S in Lakeview

My partner Bob Depalma has a new listing at 3520 N Reta #4S in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. It's well appointed and offers interior acessess to a fully decked out rooftop. A bar meets you at the deck and water electric and gas line are run to the roof.

Asking $649,000 for this perfectly conditioned home built in 2005.

Call or email for a showing or if you need more information of this property or similar top floor units.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wicker Park for Modern Single Family Homes

Wicker Park and Bucktown in Chicago are known for modern new construction single family homes and renovations. Some of it bad... but some really, really good an fitting for the surroundings. While evaluating a future listing in the neighborhood, I stopped to take a shot of these two houses sitting back to back near the quiet corner of Hermitage and Crystal in Wicker Park.

Two types of modern here... a more industrial, even abstract attempt above. Below, more of my style... blending modern in with the neighborhood with choice of design and wood material. The staircase still makes an heavy industrial statement, less you forget this is no ancient farm house.

I dig the mod "barn house". Looks like it was a major renovation job... bravo.

Well done modern homes like these will sell in the $1,100,000 to $1,300,000 range.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Think Summer Chicago: Lakeview Rooftop Deck

My partner in the office just sent me some sweet shots of this roof top deck for his new Lakeview listing.
Located at 3520 N Reta, you will see the Wrigley Field lights from the deck. Outdoor space is a must for me in a home, and this rooftop features interior access from the unit. Stop at the wet bar before sitting under the umbrella.

Top floor, two bed, two bath home with garage parking... I'll have interior photos up shortly, but the place is seriously perfect. I don't gush often, but it's spotless and well appointed.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mobile Blogging from North Ravenswood Avenue

Here's a couple shots at night from Ravenswood Avenue. It's tough to park around here during snow storms and thereafter... if you're lucky you can find a spot my the Metra tracks.

Then it's a quiet walk home for a few blocks... just you and the giant evergreens.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chicago Brass/Chicago Bath for High Quality Hardware and Fixtures

I recently met the folks at Chicago Brass and Chicago Bath. They are a local Chicago distributor of high quality and high end kitchen hardware and bath fixtures (such as a personal favorite Lacava). They are service oriented and work on some of the most high profile homes (and clients) around Chicagoland.

I recommend calling them if you are thinking about a remodel or building a new construction home. Many rehabs, renovations and new construction projects are sunk by lousy fixture and hardware selections. Friends don't let friends choose hardware and fixtures at Home Depot.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Modern Chicago on a Beer Budget: 824 W Superior in River West

I saw this huge one bedroom timber loft in River West awhile back and was impressed by the modern touches. It's still around due to the dismal October through January. This season may bring the right buyers.

It's a large open space, but with some designation for dining and a 3/4 wall separating an office. The sleek kitchen with wood counter top mixes well with the brick and timber... awesome sliding doors on a pantry that replaces cabinets.

The bath is renovated and has a very inclusive feeling that sprawls a little like a spa.

The asking price in $249,000, and it's big and open. Cool modern details mixed with a rough brick and timber loft. Garage parking is available for purchase and it does have a balcony.

A couple issues were the carpet was worn (definitely would replace the flooring) and the place is a little dark... not a lot of natural light.

If I were single and worked downtown... I'd live here.

(posted w/ permission of the listing agent)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Condo Associations Should Do Homework for FHA Loans

FHA mortgage financing has become a popular first time buyer option (although, you don't have to be a first time home buyer to qualify). The loan allows buyers to put down 3.5% and receive favorable mortgage interest rates.

You can read more about FHA Loans here.

Not all condo associations will be approved for FHA financing. Do you know if a buyer may use the loan to purchase your condo? You should. If your condo building would not conform to the standards of an FHA, there may be things your association could do to change that.

For instance, Mark Pearlstein addresses a common snag that may hang up a sale in today's Chicago Tribune real estate section (it's still the real estate section to me despite all the cutesy names they come up with each month).

Gorgeous Entry at 1801 West Diversey in Lincoln Park

The listing agent insisted the landscaping was really beautiful in the summer. We felt this looked pretty good too.

Classic East Lakeview in the Snow

We looked at a large two bedroom, one bath home with parking in the 2817 N Cambridge building above for $354,900 today.

Part of me says enough already with the snow. The other half loves the views that come with a good dusting in the city. Old buildings, courtyards, and shopping condos. It would be nice stepping out to this scene on a daily basis.