Friday, October 30, 2009

It's the Great Pumpkin, Lakeview.

Is this cool with the by-laws?

Another first time buyer tax credit update

RWF Mortgage loan officer Ken Dickerson sent a brief blurb regarding the state of the $8000 tax credit extension. Email Ken at

Vote on Extending Homebuyer Tax Credit Delayed Over TARP Issue
Bloomberg, By Brian Faler and Ryan J. Donmoyer

October 30, 2009

The U.S. Senate won’t vote until next week at the earliest on proposals to extend both an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers and unemployment benefits for the nation’s jobless.
Senate action was delayed by a Republican demand that a vote be allowed on an amendment to end the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program at the end of this year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, balked yesterday at the demand by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. Reid also took procedural steps to end debate and schedule Senate action on extending the homebuyer tax credit and the unemployment benefits.

Lawmakers announced plans earlier this week to attach the tax-credit proposal to a pending bill on the unemployment benefits. The $8,000 tax credit, enacted earlier this year as part of the $787 billion economic stimulus package, is set to expire at the end of November.

The lawmakers want to extend it until April 30. Their proposal would also expand it to allow higher-income Americans and some who already own homes to qualify for the break.

Homebuyers who have lived in their prior residences for at least five years may receive a $6,500 credit under the plan, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus. Also, couples earning as much as $225,000 and individuals as much as $125,000 would qualify for the extended break, Baucus said. That’s up from a $75,000 limit for individuals and $150,000 for couples.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

CNN, Wall Street Journal...Senate closer, agrees to extend home buyer credits

Let's buy two!

I was watching CNN from my home office (kitchen) and they have reported this afternoon on a Senate "tentative agreement" to extend and even expand the first time home buyer's credit through June/July of 2010.

Read the Wall Street Journal report here

The $8,000 will remain for "first time buyers" and we may even see $6,500 for "second time buyers" (I'm still out).

Congress will have to vote of course, but I can't see them denying something tangible to their constituents. The credit has been given "credit" for moving housing, which is important to John Q. Public.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Graceland West in Chicago: Median price over $1M not so mediocre

Last Sunday (Is it Thursday already?) I had the chance to look at some single family homes in Graceland West. $1,000,000 shekels doesn't go too far here... maybe median price. According to the Midwest Real Estate Data LLC I've looked at (our local multiple listing service), the closed median price of a single family home over the last twelve months was about $1,250,000. I found ten closed listings, with no pending contracts at the moment.

The lowest closing price was about $625,000 for a three bedroom, one and one-half bath (ouch) renovated four square on a 25x120 lot. The highest price closing was... well, if you have to ask you can't afford it, if you know what I mean.

A tony neighborhood you've never heard of? Muffy, get the kids... we must have that restored Victorian on the extra wide lot! Seriously though, most times I mention Graceland West I'll get that crooked head look. Wah?

The Graceland West neighborhood is bordered by North Clark to North Ashland east to west and West Montrose to West Irving Park from north to south. It is a relatively low density neighborhood and surprisingly little of it is in the coveted Blaine School attendance boundaries despite the price tag (just a sliver in the southeast corner of the neighborhood attends Blaine).

What do you think the attraction is here? Is it the location near Southport Corridor? Is it the niche of excellent architecture and few new construction blemishes?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Autumn colors on North Greenview Avenue in Graceland West, Chicago

After showing one of my listings in the Graceland West neighborhood of Chicago yesterday, I took the opportunity to get a few autumn photos of the single family homes you will find. There are many stately manors that line North Greenview from West Irving Park Road to West Montrose. Not to be outdone, several more modest stucco and frame bungalows snuggle up to their street mates. We can even find some new construction in progress.

The 4 blocks of Greenview here tend to have the larger lots, but the east west streets are lined with some terrific homes as well. On those blocks, you will also see a welcomed mix of attractive three to six-flat buildings in between North Southport and North Greenview. Most have been converted to condos and are individually owned by the occupants.

When looking for a personal home, I prefer a mid-century modern or prairie style design.

Autumn and kids in Lincoln Square, Chicago

It is hard to beat a warm autumn night at Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square.

Jillian and I spend a lot of time with the family in Lincoln Square. Tonight was one of those special warm fall evenings with our kids and neighbor friends.

Friday, October 23, 2009

No storage in your condo? No problem.

My wife and I almost made the mistake of passing on our current duplex condo because it did not have exterior storage on site. We loved everything else, but with kids on the way we were sure a storage room would be necessary.

Instead, we came to our senses- bought the place- and rented a 10x10 storage unit two blocks away for seasonal items, tools, kids clothes and toys etc... We also routinely purge any "stuff" collected. If we really can't part with it but we don't need it this minute (or week), it goes to storage.

Not too long ago, we made the mistake of sacrificing location to get a condo with "everything" on our needs list. We learned from our mistake that your condo need not solve all your issues. You can outsource things like storage and parking. You can get rid of stuff. But you can't outsource your location... which is the ultimate want and need in city living.

Sellers and Buyers, Lenders ask, Home Valuation Code of Conduct, what's it good for?

Since the process of obtaining an appraisal for a residential real estate transaction has changed earlier this year - it has caused some aggravation and unnecessary grief to home owners, Realtors, and some loan officers. Since the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) now has a track record, the market is beginning to question the new policy's effectiveness.

Because of these questions that are being asked by homeowners, Realtors, and bankers - Congressional members are beginning to discuss options and if the new Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) is set up correctly. The attached link raised the questions from Congressional legislators - is the cost of obtaining an appraisal today higher and are today's appraisals less accurate under the new HVCC policies?

The current policy of the HVCC states no person tied to the real estate transaction can order or speak to (influence) the appraiser within residential real estate transactions. Therefore - the Loan Officer, Loan Processor, Loan Underwriter, etc… can not select the appraiser, speak to the appraiser regarding values or comparable properties, nor challenge directly the appraiser on the value or any errors on the report. Instead all concerns and/or errors must go through an appraisal management company - which initially accepts the order for the appraisal, selects the appraiser, and accepts the appraisal report from the appraiser.

If the initial report turned in is inaccurate, presents a low value, or has any errors - the Loan Officer and parties involved with the transaction must go through the management company to contest the appraisal report for changes. This process has been viewed to cause the appraisal reports to come back inaccurate and at a higher cost. The HVCC also prohibits the use of one appraisal report to be used by multiple lenders - which in the end may still be a good thing.

In my opinion - it's perfectly fine to have this system of checks and balances in place. But it should not cause more appraisal inaccuracies nor drive up the cost of appraisals for the consumers and lenders involved.

More importantly, impediments in the appraisal process can hurt area small business if they can't refinance, sell or acquire real estate. Not to mention, it hurts business in general for all parties involved if appraisals impede transactions.

Attached is a great article and how some Congressional legislation may come into affect to change this recent adjustment to the residential lending industry. Which will have an affect on today's Small Business community as well.

From CNBC Could HVCC Be History??

For more questions on appraisals and lending please contact Brian Cumpton of RWF Mortgage. Just click the link.

Chicago, city area home sales up according to Crain's

I couldn't help myself... here's some good news. Of course, we predicted increased sales on these pages for the second half of 2009. If mortgage interest rates stay low (averaging under 6%), I think we'll see decent sales numbers early next year too.

Check out the sales statistics here at the Crain's story

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lincoln Park rental for $1300 has "Walk Score" of 97!

It's the location, stupid.

My partner has a two bedrooms, one bath top floor Lincoln Park rental available. She's a great landlord. It's a nice place, just check out the details at the photo link below.
One of the things that caught my eye was a Walk Score of 97. I'm no genius, but that's pretty close a perfect score of 100.

Click on the "Walk Score" on the rental listing below and pull up the data. It's a fun tool.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Maybe not Kenilworth for Chicago, but...

It's not all about the house price. Good Realtor's know, or get to know, the pain of their clients. They will know how agonizing decisions for your family can be when it comes to housing, work, schools etc... it helps a little to walk in their shoes to be able to provide consultation. shot a video with a homeowner selling a "surprisingly affordable lifestyle" in the package of a home in Kenilworth. The video prompted comments from ever day "Joes" like me eyeing a move from Chicago. Check out the video of the house below and read the comments on contemplating city alternatives like Kenilworth and Wilmette.

Is this house for you?

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Just say no" to first time buyer's tax credit extension

I don't think we'll see an extension of the first time buyer's tax credit. Although popular among active buyers, I don't think its a difference maker. I'd like to see all these select incentives go away and let things get back to normal for everyone.

Have your pick of Ravenswood townhomes

It's a busy time at Winnemac Manor on the 5100 block of North Damen in Ravenswood. Six of the twenty-one townhomes are currently for sale ranging in price from $499,000 to an eye opening $599,000. There are few differences that meet the naked eye of five of the homes; three bedrooms plus den, two and one-half baths, two car attached garage, same outdoor space and range from $499K to $529K.

If choosing between these homes, there are a couple details that stand out. The unit I like the best has gorgeous built-ins for storage and the best views facing south. It is priced well among the other five homes and worth a little bit of a premium due to the finish work. The biggest obsatcle in my opinion to most of these townhomes is the outdoor space. The terrace views are not that attractive and there is little or no space for a table etc... These places are all about the huge master baths, large closets, two car garage and ease of living. They are great for those looking for a home office.

The standout is the 4 bedrooms, three and one-half baths unit that also features a huge roof level terrace (asking $599K). This is a place I could call home. In fact, I LOVED the nearly identical unit next door that sold earlier in the year for considerably less. The home was impeccable and showed wonderfully. The new owner got themselves a great deal.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Live with the tattooed lady in Humbodlt Park

Hipsters unite at California and Chicago Avenues. These screens advertise modern condos above on the east border of Humboldt Park.
Three bedrooms, two baths and parking for around the $360s give or take. The 800 block of North California has several new construction buildings. Most have delivered their units over the past few years... but there is still developments moving ahead.

A view of the 800 block of North California:

Are over the top finishes enough to trump location?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ukrainian Village Views

Rooftop views from West Chicago Avenue in Ukranian Village.
Newer contruction close to downtown for less? UK Village. Downtown looks closer and much more stunning than this when on th actual roof top deck.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lincoln Square condo unit sales down 19%, median price down 13% in third quarter

Condo unit sales in Lincoln Square area were down 19 percent in third quarter 2009 from the 2008 numbers. We saw 91 units sold. Median price of $269,900 was down 13 percent from third quarter 2008.

As predicted on these pages, sale activity was up from the second quarter of 2009. 83 units were sold in second quarter 2009 and 91 units sold in third quarter 2009. Much of this due to stabilizing employment situations, low mortgage interest rates and the looming deadline for the first $8,000 first time buyer's credit.

Units sales prices lagged again year to year in Lincoln Square. The area covers condos in much of the Ravenswood and Bowmanville neighborhoods that have seen pretty stable pricing. However, locations in Lincoln Square heading northwest along Lincoln Avenue have suffered higher decreases in sales price due to under preforming newer construction re-sales and short sales.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Tribune: Mortgage rates decline

This drives me nuts... I should have just went ahead and offered on a house in Wilmette we looked at two weeks ago (pictured here). Mint condition, a huge master suite addition and a terrific yard. Turns out we are not "ready" for that just yet. And trying to sell our place with the kids right now is more than we can take!

The rates and lower home prices in good locations are making it hard for me to just settle down in my current home. I can't help myself.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Average rates for 30-year home loans stayed below 5 percent for the second consecutive week, kick-starting refinancing activity, Freddie Mac said.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.87 percent, down from 4.94 percent last week, the mortgage financing giant said. The last time rates for 30-year home loans were lower was the week ending May 21, when they averaged 4.82 percent.

This week's average rate remained slightly above the lowest level on record, 4.78 percent established in the spring. Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.94 percent.

Meanwhile, refinance applications climbed 18 percent from last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Death is not an option: vintage conversion condo or new construction condo in Lakeview?

All things being equal.. number of beds, baths, parking etc... What do prefer in general?

A vintage conversion condo?

Or a new construction condo?

Letters from the field: Good Realtors are busy now

"We're so busy", one exhausted Ravenswood broker said , "It's like the good ol' days".

It's been almost impossible to blog these days...and it's a shame as the market is very dynamic at the moment and the stories very interesting. Local Chicago Realtors are bumping into each other while running non-stop to satisfy the federal first time buyer tax credit demand. Next week is about the latest you want to write an offer to get in under the November 30th closing deadline. That's the story I'm hearing from many colleagues, and that's the case with yours truly. I've literally been out with clients everyday looking at properties for almost a two week solid run.

Smart sellers with the ability to lower prices just enough under the competition are greeted with multiple purchase offers more than I can remember. The simple rules for selling in this market are to your home for success and price in the bottom 30 percent or so. It will fly off the shelf in most markets, but especially for first time buyers.
The challenge has been getting first time buyers fully prepared to jump in time on a great lowered price. Who can blame them with the dismal statistics over the past several years?

Even with the increased demand, some sellers seem reluctant to at least paint their home a fresh neutral color... the best bang for the buck. Or, at least their Realtor did not club them over the head with blunt advice (and not take "no" for an answer). I don't really use a club, but it may seem like it.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Factors in Chicago home sales volume, median prices inching up

One of my go to mortgage bankers, Brian Cumpton of Wells Fargo RWF Mortgage , sent me this easy to understand graph (which is lucky for me). The graph from shows Chicago median price for homes sales and unit sales volume turning up in the first half of 2009.

I just checked last night for our Chicago Association of Realtors statistics for the third quarter sales in my key neighborhoods of Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, Lincoln Park and Lakeview but they are not posted yet. However, from an anecdotal perspective of hitting the pavement everyday, unit sales volume should be up.

The main influences in the uptick have been from my view:

1. Buyers' jobs have stabilized from the chaos of the banking crisis
2. Better, lower listing prices from the beginning
3. Low mortgage interest rates
4. The Federal Government first time buyers' $8000.00 tax credit

Sunday, October 04, 2009

One Street in East Lakeview: West Oakdale 60657

A look at the 500 block of West Oakdale in East Lakeview is a bit of a transformation. Touched by some ugly 1960s and 1970s apartment buildings and dotted by a few new construction three to six unit condo buildings, the block is mostly influenced by turn of the century architecture.

The classic red door is a nice touch on this ancient row house.

This poor girl has remained gutted and vacant (over two years I believe) near the corner of West Oakdale and North Broadway. This is a vibrant location and shameful it's sat unfinished and empty.

The street.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Does Lake Point Tower still got "it"?

I think so. With the 40th anniversary event coming up for this Chicago icon, it made it only more exciting to work with clients looking into Lake Point Tower for a purchase.

I mean, look at it!

I found a fun blog about its 40th Anniversary and the building in general HERE

Recently, several one bedroom units with about 1100 square feet and killer views have come on well under $400,000. When looking at recent one bedroom sales in full amenity, luxury buildings nearby, it's hard to compete with a home at this address from $350,000-$450,000. Why not go all the way to the point? I love the floor-plans of the one bedrooms and the building amenities such as the fitness club have been updated. All amenities, pool, fitness club, private park... are included in the assessments.

The building is vibrant with older and newer "who's who" residents creating an atmosphere that exudes fully the city life. Average Joes like me and you are welcome too.

Lakeview Open House Sunday 10/4/09 12P to 3P: Blaine school district duplex

Open House Sunday at 3616 N Janssen #1N from 12 Noon to 3PM.

Asking $589,900
This is a three to four bedroom, three full bathroom home in Blaine school district. Enjoy a terrific central Southport Corridor address. You can't beat it. I mean it... try and you will lose!

I have new photos coming soon. We've just repainted the whole place and it looks brand new. Shows great and seriously feels like you can move into a new home.

Other features include:

-Garage Parking
-Fenced Yard
-Storage Room
-Front Walk-Out Terrace
-Back Deck
-Double Bowl Vanity (Master Bath)
-20ft Living Room Ceilings
-Several Built-in/ Wired Speakers
-Great Closet Space
-Side by Side Washer and Dryer

-Stainless Steel Appliances

-Permit Street Parking after 6PM

Call/email me for a floor-plan or please visit on Sunday.