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The return of the Chicago two-flat

filed under: Buyers, Edgewater, Lincoln Square, North Center, Sellers, Two-flats, Uptown posted on July 19th, 2011

A SENSIBLE INVESTMENT:

A SOLID INVESTMENT: This Chicago two-flat, located at 1300 W Norwood St. in Edgewater, sold in April for $370,500 -- a price that makes sense for a buyer hoping to rent out one or both units. It was originally priced at $600,000.

Chicago two-flats are back… as a good investment option, that is. For much of the last decade, their price had climbed so high as to no longer make sense for many owners. As I had warned in previous posts, it is ludicrous to pay $500,000 or $600,000 (or more) for a two-flat when each unit will only rent for $1,200 or $1,300 a month.

And once the recession hit, this obvious math finally caught up with many two-flat owners. Suddenly people were scrambling to unload these properties, and the price of multi-unit buildings plunged. Now that they are priced more realistically — meaning that if an owner were to rent out both units, it would come close to covering the mortgage and other expenses — Chicago two-flats are suddenly in demand once more.

In Edgewater, for instance, a classic red brick two-flat located at 1300 W Norwood Street recently sold for $370,500. The math here makes sense: Assuming the buyer put down 10% and got a 30-year loan at a 4.5% interest rate, the monthly payment (including property taxes and insurance) would be about $2,525. Each unit has 3 bedrooms and a bath, which in Edgewater would rent for around $1,400 per month, giving the owner $2,800 in income. That’s enough to cover the expenses… which indicates that this purchase is a sound investment. (And in my example, the buyer didn’t even put down 20 percent! The numbers would work even better if he/she had.)

What wouldn’t make any sense at all is paying $600,000 for the same property, which is where it was originally priced in January 2010. The seller had to reduce the price seven times over the next year, finally settling at $429,000. Still, this two-flat closed for nearly $60,000 less when it sold in April 2011.

In Chicago, people sometimes buy two-flats with the intention of converting them into a single-family house. But even then, the property must be obtained for a reasonable price to make financial sense. These days, dozens of affordable two-flats can be found in appealing neighborhoods. I just searched the MLS in four North side neighborhoods relatively close to the lake — Edgewater, Uptown, Lincoln Square and North Center — and found 29 two-flats for sale from $149,000 (a foreclosure in Lincoln Square) to $400,000.

Is it time to jump back into the two-flat market? If the numbers make sense, I say yes.

Written by Sue Fox //

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