Sunday, August 30, 2009

Take a seat at the Damen Brown Line stop

Here's a couple quick shots from the Damen Brown Line station at 4643-47 N. Damen Ave.

The CTA Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project (you'd think all the consultants the City hires could come up with a snappier name) not only brought better station facilities, but they also brought public art displays.

Again, I think this a nod towards European sensibilities in regard to public art... the Mayor went to France and came back with Millennium Park. I'm not sure who made the decision for the public art installations, but it is consistent with an overall theme to "class up" the city. And, a pretty simple idea that delivers big.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We've hit the bottom Chicago, let the selling begin!

The real estate news has been gushingly positive. Chicago housing market transactions could be turning around in light of recent flattening of prices and even an uptick in value? points out the latest Case-Shiller home price index showing microscopic home price increases nationally and locally in yo(ur) Chicago.

Chicago overall home values:
Month-to-month: 1.1 percent (0.5 percent)
Quarter-on-quarter: 2.2 percent (1.2 percent)
Year-over-year: -16.7 percent

Cue the music!
"Happy days are here again

The skies above are clear again

Let us sing a song of cheer again

Happy days are here again "

Anecdotally speaking, in the dozen or so North Side neighborhoods I work in such as Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, Lincoln Park, Lakeview and Near North... that "deal" is still elusive. The market has shifted down and sort of flattened out. We sort of know market pricing again. My clients will get nice condos in good locations in good buildings slightly off 2006-2007 prices... but that's still real money. But the steals remain rare or come with some major trade-offs... such as less desirable locations further from the action, in buildings with deferred maintenance (or the unit needs a complete renovation) or come in associations with high investor sell-offs where the future association is in question.

Sorry, I'm just not willing to risk my future enjoyment and income to get a $50K discount now on a unit. I want a good, solid building and association. The way I see it, the pent up inventory of "good" units is starting to hit the market and selling at a much lower or manageable discount from the peak years causing a little up-tick in the market price overall.

So, unless you are willing to live in a no thrills unit to get your deal in a decent location, my buyer clients are finding the good stuff is still in demand and hard to get a bargain on. If it were that easy as sometimes perceived, I'd be out spending all my money I made rather than blogging right now.

Rejoice! Federal Tax Credit for all home-buyers possible

Why is he so happy? His parents may get to buy a bigger bathtub next year with a little help from Uncle Sam.

As suspected, real estate writer Kenneth R. Harney scoops there is a serious chance the federal $8,000 first time buyers credit will be extended.

But wait, there's more!

Odds are that the credit will be extended and broadened to cover all buyers next year, but the chances of the amount increasing aren’t as good, observers say.

Quote Source: Washington Post Writers Group, Kenneth R. Harney (08/22/2009)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Free condos in Lincoln Square?

Okay, not "free", but I found a handful of condos in Chicago's Lincoln Square designated neighborhood for under $100,000. One was under $50,000. I thought it might be a two car garage for sale.

With $10-$20K in improvements, some of these units would offer extremely affordable living in a quiet North Side neighborhood.

Friday, August 21, 2009

East Lakeview Open House Saturday 8/22: 522 W Oakdale from 12PM to 4PM

Open House Saturday 8/22: 12 Noon to 4PM. 15 showings in the first week... last chance!

522 W Oakdale #2W; Asking 399,900
Two Bedrooms, Two Bathrooms, Parking, Huge Storage and Deck.

Spend your share of the bailout this weekend! First time buyer's tax credit expires November 30th... get your offers in before September 30th to make sure you may close in time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Take a bath on your Ravenswood home

Okay, take a bath IN your Ravenswood home. Lately, I see a trend for entire "wet room" master baths; a full tiled walk-in shower with dual shower heads and no tub. However, this is ludicrous to my wife who would probably buy our next home based on the master bathtub.

Here's a peak at some traditional, if not luxurious, master bathtubs I saw along my Ravenswood Area Open House Bicycle Tour.

Gorgeous on Giddings

Peaceful on Paulina

Serenity on Sunnyside

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Biting the hand that feeds me: Federal first-time-buyer tax credit unfair?

Stretch for this's on me!

I read an interesting column at Inman News that could be applied to any tax incentive. Columnist Marcie Geffner gives a bite-size shake down of the sham first-time-buyer's tax credit dished by our Federal government. I agree with her points that current home-owners are basically paying for past risk and the credit distorts current home prices to an extent. The unfairness tag can be applied to any tax credit. We get ourselves so tangled up in qualifying for tax credits... but one way or another, we pay for some other incentives offered by Uncle Sam. Geez.

I've mentioned in past posts here that my clients (and buyers viewing my homes for sale) are very aware of the tax credit deadline. I benefit from these motivated buyers. But, I'd be okay with flattening the tax code in general and firing my accountant!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Ravenswood Manor renovation gone bad... then good

The Sun-Times home section featured a story detailing a custom home build in Ravenswood Manor. Many of us near the area knew a little (or allot) about a couple who purchased a home for gut renovation, only to see the home crumble to the ground during foundation work. Realtors and neighbors in the area had been familiar with the story for some time and wondered what would come about after the disaster.

I pass the new construction home often and it is a really nice job. The photo in the Sun-Times shows the house needs a little front landscaping (but that's not the point here). I would also argue the home looks a little more prairie style than described in the story (a design which I would have taken more advantage of). There is another more massive recently finished new construction house built prairie style near this home. Both fit in the neighborhood quite well. A neighborhood that has eschewed any sort of modern looking new construction.

I found about 10 homes sold in the last year in Ravenswood Manor are (including Ravenswood Gardens adjacent to the east) with a median price of $565K. However, $500K and under in this neighborhood will need some work... for sure.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Time is running out on $8,000 First Time Buyer Tax Credit

Don't let the tax credit ride off without you!

The $8,000 First Time Buyers' Federal Tax Credit is on all my clients' minds and has been a topic of discussion for those viewing my homes for sale. Like students crowding the library at mid-terms, buyers are cramming the streets trying to find a home before the November 30th 2009 deadline. That means having an accepted contract by September 30th to be safe.

There are plenty of stories in the paper and on the web describing a spike in home buying activity. August is usually hot and slow. But folks seem to be buying the notion prices are leveling (especially in top tier neighborhoods like Lakeview, Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Ravenswood etc...) and want to make a move now and take advantage of the tax credit, good prices and low mortgage interest rates.

I was showing one of my listings in Ravenswood today and the buyer's agent told me several units she had scheduled had gone under contract... I have bad news for her on my listing (a contract just came in at the time of writing).

Open house madness in East Lakeview: Saturday and Sunday

522 W Oakdale #2N in Chicago's East Lakeview: Asking $399,900
Open House Saturday 8/14/09 from 12 Noon to 3PM
Open House Sunday 8/15/09 from 11AM to 1PM

Two day extravaganza.
Two, two bath with parking and huge storage. This is a really good value and we are busy with showings. Please call or email me with any questions.

Click Here for more photos and details

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Do garden units offer value? $180,000 to live on the lake in Rogers Park

Garden condo units are ubiquitous in Chicago. It's a Chicago thing to live underground, or at least a midwest and probably east coast city thing.

It is not for everyone, but if you want lakefront living and a good amount of features in your home, a garden apartment might be the trick. I'm selling a two bedroom, two bathroom garden condo steps from the lake, east of Sheridan Road... with parking included. Please check out these photos. It may change your attitude!

Asking $180,000 at 1140 W established, solid condo building 100 yards from Loyola Beach Park and Lake Michigan

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New construction three bedroom, three bath in East Lakeview $399,000?

Top photo from has a post about this new construction development at 630 W Barry. Anyone in and around East Lakeview a bunch had seen the remaining facade of the tear down building waiting patiently for sides and a back.

Here's a photo I took at the beginning of the year (I think) with the new construction portion added.

The photo looks better than it actually is (so true for many of us). One redeeming factor... a three bed, three bath unit listed at $399,000 (parking $18K extra). It's a garden unit but if the construction is done well... not a bad deal for a great location.

Anybody else seen the construction?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Three ways I sell your Chicago home

I receive a lot of questions sent via email. So, I've decided to start doing some more posts about selling and buying homes.

1. Honest, and sometimes brutal, staging advice. If its broke (or ugly) fix it! If I have to personally throw out furniture, I will.

2. Internet Marketing. I'm an early adopter of real estate blogging and social networking my clients properties. Your property has more chances to show up somewhere on the web than most. ASK ME HOW

3. It's an underrated skill, but I seek out partnerships with other top agents, attorneys and lenders to provide the best collective advise when selling homes.

East Lakeview Condo, Now $399,900 Includes a Parking Space

Live in East Lakeview at 522 W Oakdale #2W:

Asking $399,900
No spin here. My client just reduced the price of this two bedrooms, two baths condo in Chicago's East Lakeview to $399,900. I've always liked this place. I was the buyer's agent three years ago but now it's time to go. The condo includes an outdoor parking space, master suite with walk-in closet, true dining area (rare at this price location and level of finish), and separate kitchen. The common area is large and can easily accommodate good sized dinner parties. Huge storage too.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ravenswood Area Open House Bicycle Tour Brings Traffic

Jeff Graves of Coldwell Banker at his listing at 2130 W Summerdale with happy home shoppers in the background. The tour generated record traffic at the open house!

Thanks everyone for a great event last Sunday. Home shoppers, nosey neighbors, bicycle enthusiasts and real estate junkies enjoyed a peak into over a dozen single family homes from Bomanville to Northcenter on the Ravenswood Area Open House Bike Tour. Life and business has taken over, but I promise to post several slices of life I saw while looking at some great homes.

Julie Hochstadter of Coldwell Banker and Brian Cumpton of RWF Wells Fargo Mortgage take a break at the registration table.

Train(ing) Day in Northcenter

Look out! This unit at the Larchmont Lofts in Chicago's Northcenter neighborhood is "a commuters dream". Ha! I had a feeling this one bedroom concrete loft would not work out for my out-of-town buyers. But, how could I resist showing them how the natives live?

This home is truly "steps from the train!". Located at 1801 W Larchmont, the condo is offered $249,000. Parking is included in a gated lot but skip the gas money and hop on the train from your living room window.

Actually, with the windows closed it wasn't as bad as it looks.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Stop and Look at CTA Paulina Brown Line Station

One of the cooler things to come out of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project
has been the design and public art features at many of the stations.

Take the Paulina Brown Line station , located on Lincoln Avenue and Roscoe Street, for example It's embedded art and hanging sculptures remind me of several of the major transit hubs I've passed through in Europe.

The station's windows allow for a bold exterior and bright interior. Europe has some old dingy stations too, but I think for the most part they are more pleasant due to it's emphasis on rail travel (helped by highly taxed fuel).