Sunday, May 30, 2010

Southport Corridor Jewel progress... but how are Southport Avenue sales?

A new, "greener" Jewel goes up at the corner of Southport and Waveland.

Many residents of the Southport Corridor have been waiting for some time for the new construction Jewel Food store to be completed. This store will replace a smaller existing Jewel that was raised for this project. The neighborhood is one of the more desired and pricey in the city due to many restaurants, boutiques, schools and shopping. Although single family homes can reach up to $3,00,000, there are affordable condos as well.

With recent home sales at 4110 N Southport for $262,000 (just two blocks north of the Corridor) and 3616 N Janssen for $552,500 right in the heart of the neighborhood and in the Blaine Elementary attendance boundaries, I thought we'd take a look at home sales on North Southport Avenue itself near the new Jewel store. North Southport Avenue is a mecca for shopping and nightlife. It's a terrific stretch of the city to live.

The median price of a closed or under contract attached home (condo) on Southport from 3200 North to 3900 North Southport was a whopping $624,000! Several of these condo homes are new construction and enormous. The lower end condos that sold in the last 6 months we're two bedrooms, two bathrooms homes with garage parking and decks for $425K and $435K.

Only one single family home closed on this stretch of Southport over the last 6 months. It was a frame four bedrooms, three baths home on a standard city lot for $780,000. Not a bad price for this neighborhood. There are not many single family homes remaining on the commercial strip of Southport.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Open House: For Sale or Rent! 522 W Oakdale in East Lakeview Chicago

Open House Saturday 5/29/10 from 1PM to 4PM:

522 W Oakdale #2W, Chicago.

For Sale: $365,000

For Rent $2,000
Two beds, two baths, parking, deck, storage... like new!

Buy a home this Memorial Day holiday weekend... or rent your new pad in a top location in the City.

New Construction: Lincoln Park double lot single family home raises from the dead

This double lot new construction home caught the eye of my business partner Bob DePalma as he walked in his Lincoln Park neighborhood. He noticed the workers cutting the stone on site for what should be an distinct facade. The original specifications in 2008 on our MLS for this home on the 2300 block of North Janssen called for an 8800 square foot home listed at $4,300,000. We don't have a price on this version, but it is being built by a new developer with a different design from the drenderings in 2008.

We have been writing and talking a lot about new construction, new conversion and renovation projects we have see all over the North Side. There is definitely a buzz for those with cash and those who have owned there homes for quite a long time. Developers and home owners that sat out the the run up and slide of the last five years are now making moves in the housing market.

What's exciting to us is finding truly enjoyable housing at better prices. It's also exciting to know some of our clients can develop and renovate again.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ravenswood Station, Sears development passes community vote 100-4

All those in favor say "Aye"! Ravenswood residents in the voting area show their cards.

The Magellan lead Ravenswood Station retail development project planned for the intersection of West Lawrence Avenue and North Ravenswood passed a community vote tonight by a count of 100-4. My wife attended the meeting for our household and voted for us... and took the photos! View the project plan from the May 3rd, 2010 meeting earlier this month.

According to Jillian, the meeting seemed much more cordial compared to the past meetings. The development team addressed several features that were brought up in the last meeting such as; more bicycle parking, full green roof, set back issues from Lawrence, stop lights, and number of parking spots, etc... Overall, the community was reported as being satisfied with the project and it was reflected in the vote.

The project now goes to committee in the City Council (pronounced "da city caahn-sill" by Chicagoans)
47th Ward Alderman Gene Schulter was quoted by my wife as saying he would have the 26 votes in the general City Council to get this passed. The time estimate for completion of the project is about 18 months. So, grocery shopping will get a bit easier around here in summer of 2012.

Read the Center Square Journal post here

See related posts and comments here

Ravenswood town homes offer value to buyers

The Ravenswood Park town home community shown here continues to be one of the best values in the Lincoln Square community area.

I've long enjoyed area of Ravenswood near Winnemac Park and the Ravenswood Metra station. There are several town home communities that will give your family room to grow in this great Chicago neighborhood.

I've watched the Lincoln Square and Ravenswood neighborhood market like a hawk over the past four years. The best home value at $400,000 or less in my opinion are the Ravenswood Park town homes. Just this past month, several have been re-sold again as people are taking advantage of low mortgage interest rates. The development built in 1999 is attractive, well run, and in a great location.

If you are interested in an alternative to condo living under $400K, please call me for this option and others.

You are HERE!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sheffield Garden Walk and Festival in Lincoln Park: July 17-18, 2010

Visit and support one the most popular local Chicago events in Lincoln Park!

Mark your calendar for the 42nd Annual Sheffield Garden Walk & Festival on July 17-18 when more than 100 Sheffield neighborhood gardens will open for your enjoyment. The wide array of urban gardens in my neighborhood has earned Sheffield residents the title “Garden District of Chicago”.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chicago Association of Realtors: Chicago median home prices rise

We here on this blog expected a large increase in unit sales to occur the first half of the year over 2009 (not hard to do). We also felt (and feel), pricing in top tier neighborhoods would stay pretty flat over the next 3 to 5 years.

This uptick in median price is good for sure, but I would not expect sustained gains to compound. We still think a lot of distressed homes will become a little easier to buy and this will keep pricing statistics flat. I do think think this is a sign that the most desired Chicago neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Lincoln Square are stabilizing.

According to the Chicago Association of Realtors and the Chicago Sun-Times today:

"The median price of homes sold in Chicago rose 3.2 percent in April from a year earlier, the first annual increase in nearly two years, the Illinois Association of Realtors said today.

Prices also rose statewide amid soaring sales.

The median price of existing single-family homes and condominiums sold in Chicago was $225,000 last month. Sales spiked 41.1 percent to 1,985 as buyers took advantage of federal tax credits. April was the eighth consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains."

Click here to read the story

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Three first-time buyer trends we've observed in 2010

We want this kitchen and we want it cheap!

1. Many first-time buyers have been using FHA loans for properties under $300,000. We see 3.5% to 5% down getting done all the time.

2. Most first-time buyers want a "finished unit" and do not want to do renovation or improvements. I think they need to be more open to this to get real value. Prices have to be real low (bottom 10% of pricing) for a first-time buyer to purchase and make material replacements in a kitchen, bath, on flooring or to make extensive mehanical repairs such as replacing HVAC.

3. Most first time-buyers (and most buyers in general) will not "low ball" or just offer what they feel is market price on an over-priced home. First time buyers are waiting for a comparable price in the lower 50% of the market before making offers. The reason is many sellers priced too high from the beginning don't have the ability to sell at market price (they owe more than the home is worth) or will not come down to true market pricing for a long time. So offering on higher priced properties and trying to negotiate is unattractive and usually the results are not good... no deal!

New construction and flips back in Chicago

An infill new construction project is poised to break ground in the Ravenswood Gardens neighborhood in Lincoln Square. This is a pricey area where new construction single family homes on a standard lot can fetch $1M-$1.5M. (Infill is the process of developing vacant or under-used parcels within existing urban areas that are already largely developed).

We've seen a lot of infill new construction, over-taken conversion projects and flip action (I hate the word flip, but people understand it) over the last few months. For the first time in almost two years, we've observed a couple successful flips in tertiary neighborhoods west of downtown where distressed houses can sell for under $100K but can be re-sold for over $300K (Irving Park, Albany Park). Are developers and investors back in?

Personally, I just met with a contractor/developer of two recent successful flips at one of my for sale listings. A lot of these guys have cash... and many are contractors who sat out the bubble and are now realizing their opportunity. While these individual contractor/developers are back in, we see bigger money flowing too in the form of infill new construction in prime city locations on the north side ratcheting up.

Better yet, I think the opportunity to buy and renovate your own personal residence is the way to go, be it a house, town home or condo. We are seeing two-flat buyer clients getting back in to convert the properties into their own single family homes. It's safe to say two-flat prices have probably come down 20% in Lincoln Square, Lakeview and Lincoln Park since 2006 peak prices. Short sales and foreclosures can be bought at higher discounts but generally have several offers and the competition is steep while outcome uncertain.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Buy North Side Chicago homes for under $200,000

My partner and I have several homes for sale in Chicago for under $200,000. The choices vary from single family homes in Irving Park to one bedroom condos in Ravenswood. FHA loans may be a great option at this price-point as well. Consult with a mortgage banker or broker and then we will provide options that fit your budget!

3303 W Hutchinson: $199,900
Single family gut renovation opportunity in Irving Park! $199,900 for a 30x125 lot on a quiet one way street. Walk to Kedzie a few blocks for groceries or check out the restaurant scene on Kedzie and Irving Park Roads. This is a conventional sale, not a foreclosure or short sale. This will make a great four bedroom house for a cost well under top of market prices when done. Or, renovate and sell!

3304 W Cullom #2: $195,000

Located in the Irving Park neigborhood, this large two bedroom condo has tons of space for entertaining. Nice finishes and great deck.

812 W Lakeside #209: $175,000


This large two bedroom home is steps to the lake in Uptown. Quiet, one way Lakeside Place is tree-lined and pretty. Easy to downtown, Lakeview, Lincoln Park on lakefront buses.

4619 N Paulina #1B: $171,000

Well appointed, like new one bedroom, one bath in the heart of Ravenswood! Walk to Metra, CTA Brown Line, restaurants, shops, Lincoln Square and Andersonville! Great building and quiet tree-lined street at Paulina and Wilson.

Click below for more information!

East Lakeview open House: Rent or Buy 522 W Oakdale #2W

Open House Saturday 5/21/10 at 522 W Oakdale #2W, Chicago from
1PM to 4PM

For Sale: $369,900
Rent: $2,000

Two beds, two baths, parking, storage, washer/dryer, like new!
Please click the photo below for details on the condo!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ravenswood Station, Sears lot development meeting scheduled for May 27th, 2010 at McPherson Elementary

The next meeting and expected community vote on the Ravenswood Station, Sears parking lot development is scheduled for May 27th at 7PM at McPherson Elementary 4728 North Wolcott Avenue.

Some neighbors have been receiving a notice in the mail. However, many residents including myself have not received notices even though they are in the advisory voting area for the development. There is no mention of the meeting on the 47th Ward Alderman's web site as of this writing and we have not received an email update from the Alderman's office for the meeting (I assume this may happen by at least Friday but it should happen NOW).

Here are the voting boundaries as stated in the Monday May 3rd meeting:

Please bring an ID or something to show proof of residency in case a vote is taken to determine the outcome.
To vote you must live within the following boundaries: Paulina (east) Winchester (west) Leland (south) Winnemac (north).Your attendance and input at this meeting is extremely important.

A neighbor in the voting area called the Alderman's office to ask if in fact a vote would take place and at what time and she received no clear answer. Read related stories by clicking here.

Barbara Corcoran: Bring mortgage pre-approval to your Realtor!

Sitting around the pool early this week week at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas, my uncle (who has his real estate broker's license in Massachusetts and has owned several multi-unit buildings and homes) surprised me with a comment. He saw talking head and former mega real estate broker Barabara Corcoran on the today show discussing first-time buyer mistakes and thought it was interesting. She suggested the biggest mistake first time buyers make (and some repeat buyers) is looking at homes without knowing what their monthly budget for housing costs is. They should figure out that number and stick to it.

So, Uncle Chuck asked me about the mistakes we see. Barbara is right. My partner Bob and I see many clients making assumptions of what they can afford (or more often, what a bank will lend them) while looking at homes. In many instances, they can not borrow an amount in the price-point they are looking in for any number of reasons: Sometimes it's debt ratio, sometimes it's income and sometimes it's credit history. We advise our clients consult with a trusted mortgage adviser if they will need a loan (be it a mortgage banker or mortgage broker) prior to viewing homes. Click the link to consult with one of our long time business associates.

The main reason for this is we want our clients comfortable and happy with their home purchase. We need to know the numbers so we are showing them viable options. It will also help us find deals below their means when those opportunities present themselves.

Now, I like Barbara good enough all right...but don't take your local real estate advise from a talking head on The Today Show who predicted that 2007 was the bottom of the market and that the worst was behind us. However, be like Uncle Chuck. When you hear something about real estate on TV bring the question to your Realtors; us.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Another new eatery in Lincoln Park: Floriole Cafe and Bakery

We stopped by the new Floriole Cafe and Bakery at 1220 Webster last weekend while looking at Lincoln Park duplexes and town homes. This is a pretty stretch of Lincoln Park... not too busy but steps from the action.

The new facade looks great and we love those wide open windows... Chicagoans take every opportunity to enjoy good weather. The bakery fits nicely with the higher-end family friendly homes in western Lincoln Park.

Gold Coast neighborhood is no stranger to luxury retailers

Hermes of Paris moves to the old Barney’s location at Rush and Oak

We recently marketed and sold 60 E Scott and represented a purchase on a home in 1344 N Dearborn in the Gold Coast neighborhood. Possibly the number one attraction of the neighborhood after Lake Michigan is the high-end boutique retail. Our clients here value the location, the architecture, their neighbors and their shopping!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lincoln Park new construction at Armitage and Burling

We were out with clients last weekend and took this shot of a new construction building going up in a prime Lincoln Park location.


Although downtown new construction has been dead (and rightfully so), the we've seen plenty of North Side new construction projects taking shape and moving forward in 2010. Lincoln Park continues to grow and prosper, be it new construction single family homes, condos or mixed use retail. This spot at Burling and Armitage is close to the Armitage Brown Line stop, boutique shops, downtown and easy to the lake.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Three bedroom Lincoln Park town homes under $500,000

We've had a recent sale of a Lincoln Park three bedroom town home and another group of client's out looking this weekend for the same. I thought we'd take a look at entry level three bedroom Lincoln Park town home sales under $500,000 for the last 6 months. A town home can either be fee simple (no assessments) or be a part of a homeowners associations and classified as a condo. A ton home style home does not have neighbors above or below (but connected on the sides by another home).

In the Lincoln Park community area as defined by Chicago and our local MLS, only three town homes with at least three bedrooms closed for under $500,000 in the last six months. There are some other properties described as "town homes, but they are really duplex units with a neighbor above or below them.

Currently, five town homes with at least three bedrooms are under contract for under $500,000. The best deal being 1927 N Mohawk Unit B, a fee-simple town home for $427,711. I viewed this home and it's a great deal. It's bank owned and I could see it had a roof leak issue affecting a few areas. But the location, finishes and the fact that it is in Abraham Lincoln Elementary district easily made the cost of a tear-off roof worth it.

If you're in the market now, there are currently seven active town homes for sale. But, don't expect to be in the "real" Lincoln Park. None of the three bedroom town homes for sale under $500,000 are anywhere close to even Halsted... You are looking at the 1300 block west and further out!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Roundy's Round up! Ravenswood Station, Sears development big business news in Chicago

Too big to fail?

The proposed Ravenswood Station development, along with the Metra station improvement project, were big news around Chicago this week. Starting with my scoop of the community meeting and posts on Monday May 3rd after the latest community meeting of course!
Here's a web round-up of some of the major stories, some with interesting reader comments:

Read past posts at The Chicago Real Estate Local with reader comments

Read the post and reader comments at Uptown Update

Crain's reports

Watch a past video touring Ravenswood and the proposed development site.

FOR RENT: Open House: 522 W Oakdale #2W in East Lakeview- $2200 a month

Available immediately.

Virtual Tour

Rental Open House Saturday, May 8th, 12PM to 3PM at 522 W Oakdale (also for sale $369,900).
*Two bed, two bath, one parking space, storage, in unit washer/dryer, walk-in closet, deck.
*$2200/month, $1,500 security deposit.
*Pet's negotiable with owner. Application required.
Click below to see unit details. Shows like a brand new home!

Viewing at open house only Saturday May 8th, 12PM to 3PM. This rents fast!

First Night Ravenswood, business corridor in Tribune

Party in the Beyond Design courtyard Friday night May 7th!

Here are some details:
Join us for the first annual First Night Ravenswood, taking place on the east side of the corridor between Wilson and Montrose, and celebrating the diverse businesses, schools and studios to be found there.

First Night Ravenswood takes place between 6:00 and 10:00 PM and will have the following schedule:

6:00 - 8:00 Lill Street Art Center open house.
6:00 - 8:00 Open Artist Studios along the corridor
6:00 - 8:00 Businesses have extended hours
6:00 - 6:45 Classical music performance at the ACM School of Music
7:00 - 8:00 Theater performance by Corpo
6:00 - 8:00 Facepainting at Beyond Design, 4515 N. Ravenswood
8:00 - 10:00 Party at Beyond Design in their outdoor courtyard
8:00 Bluegrass performance at Beyond Design
9:00 Rock band Vamplifier plays at Beyond Design

All events are free except for the party which is free for children and $5 for adults. For more information and addresses of the special events please visit the Chamber's website at

Please come out and support the community, the chamber of commerce and the marvelously eclectic Ravenswood Corridor!

Previous Post Here

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

East Lakeview single family home sales rare

This gorgeous corner lot single family home sits at West Wellington and North Pine Grove adjacent to eclectic row houses. But you can't have it.

The Lakeview East neighborhood in Chicago (or possibly better known as East Lakeview)
is "bordered roughly by Diversey Avenue on the south to Grace Street on the north, Halsted Street on the west to Lake Michigan to the east" according to the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce. "Lakeview East is a culturally diverse Chicago neighborhood with a great many treasures to explore." Indeed. It is also high density and high energy... but somehow squeezes pretty and peaceful tree-lined streets full of strolling residents between the lake and it's commercial corridors.

Single family homes in this neighborhood are also a treasure to hunt themselves. The single family homes (including row houses) are mostly 19th and early 20th century creations with little new construction houses to be found. Neighborhoods just west Halsted are more than "dotted" by tear down new construction over the past 15 years. It's another reason this East Lakeview neighborhood remains so unique.
Single family home sales and purchasing opportunities are fairly rare in East Lakeview.

Only five single family homes have closed in the past 12 months. The lowest priced was 624 W Briar Place for $835,000 and the highest priced was 638 W Oakdale at $1,275,000. There are only two homes under contract at 461 West Melrose asking $1,500,000 and 519 W Wellington asking $1,400,000 respectively.

Only five single family homes are currently listed for sale on our MREDLLC (our member MLS). The highest being a custom build opportunity at 543 W Cornelia asking $4,500,000 base. The least expensive is 735 W Brompton at $,199,000. Out of the 12 homes active closed or under contract, four are new construction houses from the ground up. The rest are original structures maintaining much of their classic exterior and interior features. None of the homes would be considered "modern" architecture (to my dismay).

Monday, May 03, 2010

Ravenswood, Sears development one step closer after community meeting

What a difference a year makes. The Ravenswood Station mixed use development at West Lawrence Avenue and North Ravenswood is one step closer after tonight's community meeting. Much has changed from the original retail and residential plan. Most notably, the residential component (and most controversial eleven story tower) was entirely scrapped. The mood of the meeting was less contentious than last year. However, and unfortunately, many came to the meeting to oppose whatever was presented to them. These particular neighborhood folks would have scoffed at "The Mother Teresa Absolutely Quiet School for the Blind" had it been proposed.

However, I would agree the development presentation did lack details that were obviously going to be brought up by residents. Mostly, this related to traffic flow and scale of the project. Then, the presenters AGAIN brought up a Roundy's grocery store guy to "show and tell" slide after slide of pictures of store departments. Both sad and hilarious the crowd even asked for him to knock it off and get on with the question/answer period concerning the overall development.

Long story short: Magellan is the new developer and most known in Chicago for it's $4 billion Lakeshore East in the New East Side of downtown. The Ravenswood Station development will consist of two buildings taking up half of Sears parking lot. The three story retail building fronting Lawrence Avenue will feature a two story "Mariano's" full service grocery store owned and operated by Roundy's of Wisconsin. The entire third floor will be occupied by a major health club company. There is also room for one more 7000 sq ft retail store on the first level.

The rear building will be a four story parking deck and also house the Sears Auto Center. The parking structure will accommodate 400 cars for the retail and 180 additional designated spots for the Metra parking. Right now, there are only 50 designated parking spots for Metra. Huge increase! The development is seeking LEED Certification (which even one continually rude resident complained this was not enough!)

The verdict: I like the development and I'm glad it can move ahead without the residential component. If everything moves ahead, we are still looking at two years before the stores would open. There were many of the usual concerns raised about parking, traffic, delivery truck access, bike racks, etc. I was satisfied by the answers and size of the project. Look, this is a nice looking full service grocery store and fitness club building being built on an existing unsightly commercial and industrial zoned parcel of land on Lawrence Ave. The buildings are well within scale of surrounding residential and commercial buildings of the location. As one neighbor friend put it, "They are actually building something on Lawrence that won't scare people".

The next meeting and community vote on the development is scheduled for May 27th of this month. The date is on the Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend which received the groans and complaints from the audience. People were also upset that they will vote on this development without knowing the extent of the new Metra Station to be built north of Lawrence (which is a federal initiative and much needed). Many of the questions and concerns were pretty self serving in my opinion. It is hard for many neighbors that support the retail development to understand continuing complaints about increased traffic from those living along a Metra line, a major commercial artery and industrial corridor. This location is actually underused right now.

I'll be there and will ask the neighbors with their arms crossed, frowns and shouts to hold the sarcasm and be civil. This is huge progress and a major amenity for the neighborhood. Imagine walking to a full service grocer and fitness club anchoring a neighborhood that features a brand new Metra station (accommodating disabled riders and increased service capacity). Many of us can.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

FHA Approval and your Condo Association

Is your condo building FHA approved? Should it be?

Federal Housing Authority backed loans (FHA loans) are a popular product among home buyers. The loans allow lower down payments and lower credit scores than conforming loans and still offer the benefit of today's low mortgage interest rates. But FHA loans can only be used in FHA approved condo buildings. There are basic criteria a building must meet to be approved.
Click HERE to view the checklist for condo association FHA approval

This year already my partner Bob and I have helped several buildings become FHA approved so our buyers and sellers could put a deal together. In other cases, we have seen buyers pass on some of our listings because the building was not FHA approved and they did not want to wait for the approval. The buyer initiated approval process can add an extra month to the length of time from acceptance to closing. There are two basic ways your condo building can become FHA approved:

  1. Your condo Board and owners initiate FHA approval through a reputable lender.
  2. A buyer, upon making an offer, may have their lender initiate FHA approval.

Please feel free to call or email us if you are considering FHA approval for your building.We will provide reputable lenders that can answer questions and are willing to initiate the approval process. FHA has limits on how many FHA backed loans may be currently active in a building, so this caps any "over leverage" a condo association may face. We look at it as a very marketable positive to first time buyers especially when selling a condo.

Sunday Open House: 522 W Oakdale in East Lakeview Open 5/2/10

Don't miss this!

522 Oakdale #2W Asking 369,900!

Open House Sunday 5/2/10 from 12P to 3P

Very attractive, nicely appointed three year old conversion unit

2 beds

2 baths


Huge Storage

Like NEW!