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Back to 2000! Chicago home prices fall to levels last seen 11 years ago

filed under: Bungalows, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Foreclosures, Irving Park, Market conditions, Short sales posted on November 22nd, 2011

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A BUNGALOW BARGAIN: This 3-bedroom house, a foreclosure in old Irving Park, sold in October for $160,000 -- which is roughly the median price in Chicago. Hundreds of North Side bungalows in good condition can now be had for similar amounts, as prices return to levels not seen in a decade.

Eleven years ago, the U.S. presidency was up in the air, with everyone waiting to see whether George Bush or Al Gore had won the 2000 election as Florida struggled to recount its votes. The Y2K bug had proven to be relatively harmless, and 9/11 was still in the planning stages. No one had ever heard of the Ipod, Friendster, or Wikipedia, let alone the Iphone, Facebook, or WikiLeaks.

And the median home price was about $174,000 in Chicago. Today, according to data just released by the Illinois Assn. of Realtors, we’re back to those days. In fact, Chicago’s median price slid even lower last month — to $162,000 — than it stood in the year 2000.

While the median price fluctuates a bit from month to month, this is the lowest I’ve seen it in ages. Chicago’s home prices have fallen 11.5% just in the past year. This is a pretty grim sign for anyone hoping to sell their property.

However, the number of homes changing hands is up — another indication that the Chicago market may be stabilizing, albeit at a lower price point. Nearly half of the sales these days involve foreclosures or short sales, and most of them are at prices below $200,000. Sales of single-family houses and condominiums totaled 1,312 in October, up 7.9% from 1,216 homes sold in October 2010.

“The increase in units sold in the city of Chicago continues to show the absorption of distressed properties in the market,” said Bob Floss, president of the Chicago Assn. of Realtors. “Prospective buyers in the market are making investments that make sense long-term.”

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Bungalow of the Month: An Irving Park rehab

filed under: Bungalows, Irving Park posted on September 15th, 2011

BUNGALOW BRIGHTENING: This newly rehabbed home at

BUNGALOW BRIGHTENING: This newly rehabbed Irving Park house was purchased as a foreclosure in April and quickly restored: a classic flip! But it has yet to sell, despite several price cuts since it hit the market in July. Now priced at $313,900, Kevin Hebert at Kale Realty has the listing.

Chicago real estate doesn’t generally bounce along like a perky episode of Flip That House, but now and then you still see a sparkly rehabbed house hit the market a few months after it was plucked from the netherworld of foreclosure. Such is the case with 3339 N Kolmar Ave. in Irving Park, a 5-bedroom checkerboard bungalow that has been completely renovated in the space of three months.

Back in April, this 1926 house was just another forlorn foreclosure, owned by a bank and being sold “as is.” But its interior was still in pretty good shape, although the kitchen needed updating. It sold for $152,000 after three months on the market.

The new owner got straight to work, but made sure to keep many of the charming features that make a bungalow a bungalow: the distinctive curb appeal with its low roof line, the exterior limestone accents, the gorgeous stone fireplace flanked by bookcases in the living room, the hardwood floors and wood trim. In this case, it looks like the original windows had already been replaced, as had the kitchen and baths (probably sometime in the 1980s, from the look of the photos.)

The new kitchen now boasts granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and what appear to be cherry cabinets. It looks shiny and new, but it also looks like every other generic kitchen built by a developer in thousands of condos (and houses) throughout the city. Sometimes I wish the owners of these historic homes would put a little more thought into how they restore them. There’s an entire book on how to renovate bungalow kitchens, the aptly-named “Bungalow Kitchens” by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen. They also wrote “Bungalow Bathrooms,” and both books feature beautiful photos of updated rooms that preserve historic character without sacrificing modern functionality.

NOTHING MUCH TO LOOK AT:

NOTHING MUCH TO LOOK AT: Before the renovation, the kitchen was outdated and unappealing. There wasn't much to save here, so the new owner installed a standard developer's kitchen, complete with granite countertops and track lighting.

But I digress! The bungalow at 3339 N Kolmar now features bathrooms redone with marble and granite, a renovated basement, and a huge deck in the freshly landscaped backyard. The bedrooms are scattered throughout the home, with two carpeted rooms upstairs, one with hardwood floors on the main level, and two others below grade (with wood laminate floors) in the basement.

The house is now priced at $313,900, down from $334,900 when it hit the market in July. These rehabbed single-family houses tend to sell quickly in Irving Park, but this one may need to drop its price just below $300,000 to attract the buyers in that range.

Let me know if you’d like to see this bungalow, or any other home! I’ll even let you borrow my bungalow books.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Mortgage interest rates at record lows

filed under: Bungalows, Buyers, Chicago home prices, Irving Park, Market conditions posted on August 22nd, 2011

IRVING PARK: This pretty frame bungalow, currently priced atHOME SWEET HOME IN IRVING PARK? This pretty frame bungalow, now priced at $285,000, has been on the market for nearly a year. At today’s interest rates, it would cost about $1,383 per month to live here (including property taxes and insurance) for a buyer who put 20% down. Five years ago, a similarly priced home would have cost $1,716 per month due to mortgage rates hovering around 6.5%.

Despite all the volatility in the stock and bond markets, mortgage rates are now at their lowest point in more than 50 years. The average 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 4.15% last week, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey. Rates have been below 5% for awhile now; previously, the record low (set last November) was 4.17%.

The extra-low interest rates make home buying more affordable than ever, particularly in Chicago, where home prices have dropped more than 30% in recent years. If you’re wondering where to find these rates locally, Guaranteed Rate is one Chicago lender now offering a 4.15% rate on a 30-year fixed loan, while a 15-year fixed mortgage can be had even cheaper: 3.525%. The rate for 5-year adjustable rate mortgage is just 3.125%.

Money to buy a home — if you can qualify for the loan! — is now incredibly cheap. It’s hard to find even a car loan or a student loan with such rock-bottom rates, let alone a mortgage. Mortgage rates closely track yields on U.S. Treasury bonds, which have also dipped. The 10-year note hit a record low on Thursday, falling below 2 percent to 1.99 percent.

If you’ve been considering buying a home (whether to live in yourself, as a second home, a home for your child or as an investment property to fix up and sell — all of which I’ve had buyers recently searching for)  now may be the time to act. It is rare to find both interest rates and prices simultaneously so low.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Bungalow of the Month: Flipping a house in Albany Park

filed under: Albany Park, Bungalows, Foreclosures, Market conditions posted on March 3rd, 2011

SPRUCED UP:

SPRUCED UP AND READY TO GO: This 3-bedroom, 3-bath bungalow has been totally renovated and is now for sale for $259,000. It appears to have been bought three months earlier by an investor who is trying to flip it.

Trying to make fast money by investing in Chicago real estate these days is like squeezing blood from a stone. But that isn’t stopping a few bold rehabbers from snapping up foreclosed houses, renovating them top to bottom, and popping them back on the market a few months later at double or triple the price.

I’m seeing this trend in otherwise sleepy neighborhoods like Irving Park and Albany Park, which boasts a lovely swath of vintage bungalows in its Mayfair area.  Consider this renovated bungalow, located at 4839 N Springfield in Albany Park, which has 3 bedrooms (plus another one in the basement) and 3 baths. I chose this house as March’s Bungalow of the Month to call attention to the enduring phenomenon of house flipping.

The owner bought the house — a foreclosure — in July for $104,000, according to public records. It was a simple frame bungalow with white siding and black trim, being sold “as is” after spending three years on and off the market at steadily reduced prices.

FORECLOSED AND FORLORN:

FORECLOSED AND FORLORN: The same bungalow in July 2010, when it sold for $104,000. It had been on and off the market since 2007, starting at $379,000.

Three months later, it was back on the market, totally renovated and set at nearly triple the price: $299,000. The exterior was now a soft gray with brown and white accents, the kitchen boasted dark (but plain) new cabinetry and stainless steel appliances, the floors had all been refinished and the walls repainted, the basement was finished with carpet, and the backyard now featured a new deck.

And the upgrades weren’t merely cosmetic. The house now had a new roof, HVAC system, siding and windows, electric wiring, and other improvements. There was also a new 2-car garage.

But the goal of any house flipper is to find a buyer, and in this case they have yet to do so. This bungalow has been on the market for five months now and the price has been cut twice, most recently to $259,000 last week. We will have to wait and see what the final sale price is to decide whether this was a wise investment.

Chicago is chock full of bungalows and other homes that are now languishing in foreclosure, or are trapped in a slow downward spiral as short sales. I see them in virtually every neighborhood these days, but they are especially prevalent on the South and West sides of the city. Even on the North side, you can find them in Rogers Park, Albany Park, Irving Park, Avondale, Portage Park, Jefferson Park… and the depressing list goes on.

I love bungalows, and I hate to see these historic homes abandoned and decaying. Now, this particular bungalow looks like it was stripped of whatever built-in bookshelves or hutches it once had, and it lacks a fireplace or any leaded glass windows. The new interior now has something of a generic, condo-ish feel and the finishes look like they came straight off the shelf at Home Depot. However, whoever bought and renovated this house did save it from a fate all too common these days in Chicago’s bungalow belt: utter neglect.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Chicago bungalow of the month: January 2011

filed under: Albany Park, Bungalows, Buyers posted on January 12th, 2011

MAKE YOUR MARK IN ALBANY PARK:

MAKE YOUR MARK IN ALBANY PARK: Yellow trim notwithstanding, this 5-bedroom brick bungalow is otherwise in classic condition with original woodwork, built-in bookcases and a fireplace. It just hit the market at $349,900. Colin Hebson of Dream Town Realty has the listing.

The new year is here, and Chicago’s classic brick bungalows — a beloved favorite of mine — are once again popping up for sale, at prices similar to those last seen five to ten years ago.

Here is a new listing that just hit the market this week: a 5-bedroom, 2-bath home on a 30-foot-wide lot near the river in Albany Park. Located at 4940 N Whipple, this 1921 bungalow features original woodwork and some updates such as newer electrical service, 3-year-old tuck-pointing of the brickwork, an updated garage, and a tankless water heater.

The large 17 x 16 foot living room is vintage bungalow style, with a (decorative) fireplace flanked by bookcases and topped with a lovely leaded glass window. The rear panels of the bookshelves appear to be made of beadboard, giving them a classic look. There is also a formal dining room and hardwood floors throughout the house.

The bungalow, described in the listing as “deceivingly large,” features three good-sized bedrooms on the main level, and two large rooms on the second floor. The basement is partially finished. But some areas need work, including the kitchen, which has outdated cabinetry and white appliances.

Priced at $349,900, the house sits on the eastern edge of Albany Park, right beside Lincoln Square. If you would like to see this bungalow, or any other home, please give me a call at 773-816-1788.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Chicago bungalow of the month

filed under: Bungalows, Buyers, West Ridge posted on October 18th, 2010

A CLASSIC BUNGALOW: Located at xxx in West Ridge

A CLASSIC BUNGALOW: Located at 2705 W Lunt in West Ridge, this 3-bedroom bungalow was built on an extra-wide lot in 1925. It needs a bit of work to restore its lovely woodwork, hardwood floors, and built-in bookcases flanking the fireplace. Judith Newton of Coldwell Banker has the listing.

Check out this beautiful octagon bungalow that recently hit the market in West Ridge, just a block west of Indian Boundary Park. It needs a little TLC, including cosmetic upgrades and a new roof, but the oversized lot and spacious rooms may make this bungalow worth the effort.

Located at 2705 W Lunt, the home was built on a 40×125 foot lot, which is a good 15 feet wider than the standard size in Chicago. That leaves plenty of room for a large living room (20×18) surrounded by windows, a spacious formal dining room (17X14) and three large bedrooms, all on the main level. Although much of the original woodwork has been painted over and the floors are carpeted with a greenish-yellow shag, the structure of this classic 1925 bungalow is intact. All it would take is a bit of money and elbow grease to restore the woodwork and hardwood floors (not to mention the kitchen, which currently features an unfortunate acoustic tile ceiling, outdated cabinetry, and what looks like a sheetrock backsplash).

Yes, it’s a bit of a project, but not a total gut. A homeowner with patience and some extra cash could certainly restore this sleeping beauty, returning it to its historic charm and creating a beautiful home to enjoy. It’s been on the market for just three weeks, priced at $295,000. And the seller is even willing to include a classic 1965 Chrysler convertible with the sale of the home (no word on the condition of the car, which, judging from the house, may also need some love.)

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Home sales up 28% in June as prices slip

filed under: Andersonville, Bungalows, Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, First-time buyers, Market conditions, Tax credits posted on July 22nd, 2010

BUNGALOW BEAUTY: This restored historic bungalow in Andersonville was one of the 2000 Chicago homes that sold in June.

BUNGALOW BEAUTY: This restored historic bungalow in Andersonville was one of the 2,526 Chicago homes that sold in June. With a fireplace, built-in bookshelves, a gourmet kitchen, a full finished basement and a landscaped backyard, this home attracted multiple offers. I sold it in 3 days!

You can really see the impact of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers. In June, the final month buyers could claim the credit, Chicago home sales shot up nearly 28% over the previous June, according to data released today by the Illinois Association of Realtors. That marks the 1oth consecutive month of year-over-year increases in Chicago.

But just because more properties are changing hands doesn’t mean home prices are recovering. In fact, the opposite is true in Chicago. The median home price, now $234,250, is down 3.2% compared to a year ago.

Genie Birch, president of the Chicago Association of Realtors, pointed out that the year-to-date number of homes sold in Chicago is up 41% for the first half of 2010 versus 2009. “We believe this is a positive indicator that Chicago’s housing market is stabilizing,” she said. “Motivated buyers and sellers are working toward realistically closing deals at current market values.”

I have my doubts about whether our market is truly stabilizing, or whether we are just witnessing a final surge of home sales fueled by a government stimulus program that no longer exists. Congress has since extended the date to close on a home purchase through September (provided you were already under contract by April 30) to help people seeking the tax credit who were unable to close by June 30, the original deadline.

So we may yet see a slight swell of closings in July, August and September that were actually spurred by the tax credit. But that doesn’t mean our local housing market is healthy enough to stand on its own.

Written by Sue Fox // 1 Comment »

Back to 2001 for Chicago home prices

filed under: Bungalows, Chicago home prices, Edgewater, Market conditions posted on June 10th, 2010

TIME WARP: This Edgewater bungalow, located at 1537 W Norwood, sold in October for $396,000. Back in 2001, three other houses sold on the same block at prices ranging from $358,000 to $375,000.

TIME WARP: This Edgewater bungalow, located at 1537 W Norwood Avenue, sold in October for $396,000. Back in 2001, three other houses sold on the same block of Norwood at prices ranging from $358,000 to $375,000.

Doesn’t it feel like wherever your money is invested, it hasn’t really grown over the last decade? Much like the stock market, the Chicago-area real estate market seems caught in rewind mode, with home prices now similar to what they were back in 2001.

It’s as if the boom, and the subsequent bust, never happened — that is, if you’ve owned property this whole time. If you were unfortunate enough to buy mid-decade at the top of the market, you may be out tens of thousands of dollars if you sell now. Recent data from the Case-Shiller Home Price Index shows that Chicago single-family home prices have plunged 29% from their peak in September 2006, while condo prices have dropped 26.3% from their high point in September 2007.

This means condo prices are now back to where they stood in the summer of 2001… before September 11th, when the Dow was hovering around 11,000 (it’s at 10,172 today) and Barack Obama was a little-known Illinois State Senator from the 13th District. Chicago’s single family home prices, meanwhile, are now back at spring 2002 levels.

As a Chicago homeowner, it’s hard not to get a little depressed. On the other hand, you’d probably be in the same boat if you’d skipped buying a house and invested your cash in the stock market instead.

But what about the next 10 years? Today’s buyers now have a chance to buy Chicago-area property at prices unseen for the last decade. Where will prices stand in 2020? Will we look back at 2010 as the bottom of the market, and spend the next 10 years griping that we should have bought then, when homes were affordable?

Written by Sue Fox // 4 Comments »

New listing in Andersonville: Historic bungalow for $469,900

filed under: Andersonville, Bungalows, Edgewater posted on April 21st, 2010

BUNGALOW HEAVEN: Nestled on a quiet street in Andersonville, this gorgeous bungalow has been beautifully restored by its owners. It's now for sale at $469,900.

BUNGALOW HEAVEN: Nestled on a quiet street in Andersonville, this gorgeous bungalow has been beautifully restored by its owners. It's now for sale at $469,900.

I’m really excited about my new listing at 5951 W Hermitage Avenue, a beautifully restored bungalow in Andersonville. It is a classic Chicago bungalow, made of brick with original woodwork and hardwood floors throughout, featuring a lovely fireplace flanked by built-in bookcases in the living room.

I fell in love with this house the moment I walked in the door. And everyone else seems to feel the same way, as it’s only been on the market for two days and I’ve already had four showings! The owners have kept it their house in perfect shape, as you can see here from the photos. In addition to renovating the kitchen and putting in a charming breakfast nook that looks out over the backyard, they completely finished the basement, adding a rec room, a media room, a second kitchen, a full bath and an office.

A CHEF's KITCHEN: With plentyof space, an island and a breakfast nook, this bungalow kitchen is a far cry from the cramped rear kitchens of many historic Chicago homes.

A CHEF's KITCHEN: With plenty of space, an island and a breakfast nook, this bungalow kitchen is a far cry from the cramped kitchens of many historic Chicago homes.

The house is very livable, with two bedrooms and a den on the main floor, a spacious kitchen, a separate dining room, and plenty of storage space. And the backyard is a delight, with a large deck overlooking a landscaped grove of trees and flowers.

Most Chicago bungalows were built several miles west of the lake, in a bungalow belt that stretches through neighborhoods like Jefferson Park and Portage Park. There aren’t too many bungalows in Andersonville or Edgewater, but Hermitage Avenue is a little treasure trove for bungalow lovers. It’s a quiet tree-lined street full of classic bungalows — just a stone’s throw from Clark Street and all of Andersonville’s great shops and restaurants.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Chicago Bungalow of the Week

filed under: Bungalows, Jefferson Park posted on January 21st, 2010

In keeping with my theme of Promoting Bungalow Awareness, this week I thought I’d point out a highly-upgraded Chicago bungalow that proves you don’t have to sacrifice space for style.

That’s the thing about bungalows: they’re small. Built in the early decades of the 20th century, many Chicago bungalows offer cozy, one-story layouts with three modest bedrooms and a bathroom. For many of today’s homeowners, this just isn’t enough elbow room (let alone bathroom space), and as a consequence Chicago is full of bungalows that have been chopped-up, added-on, blown-out, remodeled and often just plain remuddled in an effort to create more living space. Too bad so much of this renovation also includes ripping out built-in hutches and bookcases, original stained-glass windows, wood trim and beadboard, and generally stripping these lovely homes of their distinctive bungalow character.

A remodeled, but not remuddled, bungalow. Joy!

ROOM TO GROW: This Chicago bungalow, located in Jefferson Park, has been expanded to include 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a finished basement. But the remodel left intact its distinctive bungalow features -- including its curb appeal.

Now, check out this Chicago Bungalow of the Week: 4540 N Mason Ave. in Jefferson Park. It’s a bit pricey, as bungalows go: $509,900, just reduced from $525,000 after three months on the market. But it has been rehabbed with amenities like central air, a zoned heating system, a fireplace, and a finished basement with a rec room and a 5th bedroom and bath for guests.

What I like about this octagon bungalow (which is registered as a historic bungalow with the city of Chicago) is that it still looks and feels like a bungalow even after all the upgrades. The additions to the home were made at the rear, preserving the home’s charming curb appeal from the street. The living room still boasts its beautiful wall of eight windows and there are hardwood floors throughout.

But unlike so many of its neighbors, this bungalow has plenty of room for its occupants to spread out. In addition to a living room, dining room and kitchen, the main floor also features a 23×12 family room and a bedroom. There are three more bedrooms upstairs.

This is a real bonus, because many Chicago bungalows don’t have full second floors. Upstairs is usually an attic or a converted, cramped space where the roof slopes at such a steep angle that most adults are forced to stoop. But at 4540 N Mason, the rear addition takes care of that.

Where did they get all that space? The secret is revealed in the bungalow backyard.

BEHIND THE BUNGALOW: Instead of plunking a second-floor addition atop the entire house, the owners built out the bungalow's rear end, thereby preserving its beauty. Jack Guest of Century 21 McMullen has the listing.

In this market, I still think the price could come down a bit more. Ordinary, unimproved 3-bedroom bungalows are selling in the $225,000 to $300,000 range in Jefferson Park, so I certainly think this deluxe model could fetch upwards of $450,000. But since it may be out of the reach of first-time buyers, the price may have to drop below the half-million mark first.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

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