Sue Fox, @Properties. Direct 773.816.1788
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Archive for the 'First-time buyers' Category
Most homes that are sold in Chicago sell for less than $200,000. While that figure may seem surprisingly low, $200,000 actually goes a long way these days. As we head into the 2012 home-buying season, I thought a brief survey of the market in some North side neighborhoods might help answer the question: What can you get for $200,000 or less?
Loop: The great glut of downtown condo buildings has made buying a home in the Loop quite affordable. The supply is abundant here — even at the low end of the market — with 114 condos for sale for under $200,000. In some buildings, like 800 S Wells, there are several units priced under $100,000! Closer to the $200K mark, you’ll find plenty of newer 1-bedrooms in full-amenity buildings, along with a fair amount of shorts sales and foreclosures to choose from. At 208 W Washington, for instance, there’s a 1-bedroom unit on the 21st floor that boasts a balcony, a large 18×12 bedroom, and a den — all for $184,900. It’s a short sale.
Lincoln Park: This is one of the most popular, and most expensive, areas of the entire city. But you can still afford to buy here on a $200K budget. There are currently more than 70 condos for sale for $200,000 or less — many of them studios or 1-bedrooms in the high-rise buildings clustered along Clark or Lincoln Park West. A corner 1-bedroom condo at 1850 N Clark #901 with unobstructed view of Lincoln Park, the lake and the city, for example, is now priced at $199,000 after nearly a year on the market. Parking is available for $150 per month.
Edgewater: If you live in Lakeview or further south, Edgewater may not be on your radar. It’s one of Chicago’s northernmost neighborhoods, nestled right beside the lake, with plenty of trees and parks and low-rise vintage buildings where neighbors stop to chat as they walk their dogs. There are also dozens of high rises along Sheridan that boast lake views as blue as any you’ll find downtown (but with a lot more space for the money.) Edgewater has been hit especially hard by the downturn, and there are now more than 300 condos for sale for less than $200,000. This is the place to go if you’re looking for a 2-bedroom and even a second bath. Examples include 5823 N Ravenswood #116, a 2-bedroom/2-bath loft with a large eat-in kitchen and a separate dining room. Garage parking is included in the $189,000 price.
Irving Park: If you venture a few miles west of the lake, housing prices drop to the point that you can buy a house for what a small condo would cost in Lakeview. That means that in Irving Park (and many of the “Park” neighborhoods like Albany Park, Portage Park, Jefferson Park etc.), you can find a tidy 3-bedroom bungalow, ranch house, or even a turn-of-the-century Victorian or Dutch colonial for less than $200,000. I’m not kidding. There are dozens of homes out there like 4114 N Central Park Ave., a rambling 4-bedroom Dutch colonial built in 1907, now for sale at $190,000. Many of these houses need at least some cosmetic updating, but they are affordable options for anyone who’s ever wanted a house of their own, complete with a backyard and garage.
Sauganash: Located in the far northwest corner of Chicago, Sauganash is a lovely, leafy community, almost suburban in its placid beauty. It’s relatively pricey, with many single-family houses going for $400,000 and up. There are still a few bargains to be had here for under $200K, however, including two 2-bedroom townhomes and several condos, most of them located in the same building at Cicero and Peterson (just off the Edens expressway and above the Whole Foods grocery store.)
In sum, there are hundreds of great deals out there right now at low prices — lower, in many cases, than it would cost you to rent a similar home. Happy house-hunting, and please call me at 773-816-1788 if you need any help!
Condo sales in downtown Chicago continued to sink this fall, dropping 9% over this time last year. Developers closed just 229 sales downtown in the third quarter, according to a new report from Appraisal Research Counselors, a Chicago consulting firm.
In a weak market, some buyers were inspired to make the move only after steep price reductions. A recent story by Crain’s Chicago Business said that Parkside of Old Town, a redevelopment built at the site of the old Cabrini Green towers on Division Street, had the highest number of closings in the third quarter — 26 units — after chopping prices 30% to 40% over the summer. One-bedroom condos priced at $259,000 were reduced to $155,040 with a free parking space, while two-bedroom units went from $379,900 to $229,500, including parking. Parkside also offered buyer incentives like a $10,000 grant from the city.
The latest Chicago housing data is out, covering the month of July, and it looks like both sales volume and prices have climbed slightly compared to last July. (But before you imagine a real estate rebound, remember that last summer Chicago home sales were in the gutter, once the federal tax credit for buyers expired. So things can only go up from there!)
Anyway, there were 1,655 home sales in the city of Chicago (single-family houses and condos) in July, an increase of 4.2% over the previous year. And the median home price in July 2011 was $210,000 — up 6.9% compared to the previous year.
“This is the first month, year-over-year, where we are without a federal tax credit and are encouraged by July’s sales, hopefully a positive outlook for the remainder of 2011,” said Mabel Guzman, president of the Chicago Association of Realtors. “There is an ongoing absorption of units throughout the city, specifically in the performance of the condo market over 2010, as well as compared to 2009.”
Some neighborhoods are obviously selling better than others. In Lakeview, for example, a popular area that is home to Wrigley Field and close to both the lake and downtown, there are now 260 condos for sale with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. Another 64 of these condos are under contract (pending sale), and 122 have closed in the past three months. That’s a pretty good ratio in this market, with closed sales at roughly half the number of active listings. Condos in Lakeview, in other words, are selling.
Now consider Edgewater, another lakeside neighborhood just a couple miles north. There are 137 condos for sale right now that feature 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. Another 28 are under contract. But just 45 have closed in the past three months — a much worse ratio than in Lakeview. The closed sales don’t even amount to a third of the number of active listings in Edgewater.
Unfortunately, I’ve been witnessing sluggish condo sales in other northern neighborhoods, like Lincoln Square, Andersonville and Uptown. With condo buyers scarce in 2011, many of them seem to be opting to live in areas that are closer to the Loop. For first-time home buyers (or anyone else with cash or good credit), this is an excellent time to snag a great deal in the most coveted, central parts of Chicago.
Condo prices have tumbled 10.4% nationwide in the last year, according to data just released by the National Assn. of Realtors. But the plunge was much worse in the Chicago area, where prices dove 24.1% in the first quarter compared to a year ago.
The region (Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, in terms of the realtor’s association) fared worse than almost every other metro area in the country. Only the Tampa and Sarasota regions in Florida and Barnstable Town, Mass., saw condo prices fall further.
No wonder it’s getting so difficult to sell a condo in Chicago. What was once an active market has become seized and sclerotic, with thousands of condos for sale that just sit and sit and sit. I’m now seeing this troublesome trend in desirable neighborhoods like Andersonville and Lincoln Square, as well as much of Edgewater, Uptown, and even parts of Lakeview. Chicago’s North side seems to be awash in condos, may of them recent rehabs or nicely restored vintage units, that languish on the market for months despite their appeal. For many condos, showings are scarce and open houses attract only a few people, even at the height of the spring market.
What is going on here? Are young people, who traditionally drove the market for first-time condo buyers, deciding that it’s simply better to rent? Or are so many of them unemployed or under-employed that they can’t qualify for a mortgage? There are definitely fewer first-time buyers in the market these days; according to the realtor’s association, first-time buyers purchased 32% of homes in the first quarter, down from 42% last year when a $8,000 tax credit was stimulating sales.
If first-time buyers sit on the sidelines, our market will become paralyzed. First-time buyers drive sales by buying at the lower end, which then frees up those sellers to go buy another home. But if people can’t sell their condos, most of them won’t be able to buy again. They will be stuck. And unfortunately, this year many Chicago sellers are discovering that is exactly where they are.
This week, one of my buyers made an offer on a foreclosed 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo in Rogers Park. In years past, I did a healthy business in Rogers Park; it was a popular destination for first-time home buyers who wanted to live in an affordable area close to the lake.
But Rogers Park, like so many other up-and-coming neighborhoods throughout Chicago, has been just about crushed by the real estate downturn, resulting in a massive tide of foreclosures and short sales. This has made Rogers Park something of a buyer’s banquet, with deals you can only dream of in other North side areas, like newly-rehabbed 2-bedroom condos with parking for well under $200,000.
There are now 99 condos with at least 2 bedrooms and 2 baths listed for sale for less than $200,000 in Rogers Park (and more than 20 of them have 3 bedrooms.) But the truly shocking part is that nearly all of them are distressed properties, either foreclosures or short sales seeking to avoid a foreclosure. I just combed through all 99 listings, and I only counted 28 that were NOT foreclosures or short sales.
In fact, it’s so rare to find an ordinary seller selling a ordinary home in Rogers Park these days that it’s become a selling point: “REGULAR SALE!!!!” shouts the description for 1900 W Touhy Ave #1C, a rehabbed condo priced at $135,000.
The flip side of so many great deals is that most of them, unfortunately, will be difficult to actually buy. At least half of them are short sales, which require lender approval that takes months and often never comes. Many of these will eventually slide into foreclosure and be seized by a bank. Even the foreclosed condos can be tough to buy, though, because if they are located in a troubled building with other distressed units, lenders will not want to loan in that building.
So if you are a buyer considering Rogers Park — especially if you’re a condo buyer — please tread carefully. The neighborhood’s housing market has become a veritable thicket of problem properties, and you need to make sure you are well represented as you sort through the real estate rubble looking for a gem.
Good news for Chicago home buyers: Lenders are finally starting again to offer loans with minimal down payments. Guaranteed Rate, for example, announced this week that it can now do conventional loans (not FHA!) with 3% down, provided the borrower has a credit score of 680 or higher.
This is especially good news for condo buyers, who have been forced to turn to FHA in recent years for a low-down-payment loan… but in Chicago, FHA and condos are often a lousy fit.
The trouble is, many first-time buyers can’t scrape up much cash to buy their first home. Ever since the real estate downturn led lenders to dramatically tighten the purse-strings in 2008, many buyers have been told to come up with at least 10% down. For hundreds of thousands of people, the only alternative was to use an FHA loan, which requires just 3.5% down.
This was all (usually) well and good if you were buying a house. But many first-time buyers in Chicago want a condo, and the vast majority of Chicago condos are NOT currently FHA-approved. Making matters worse, the FHA changed its rules last year to make it even more cumbersome to get condo buildings approved.
But now, buyers with good credit can avoid the whole FHA bottleneck and choose whatever condo they like — and still only put 3% down. This is great news for sellers, too, since it will smooth the path for buyers who may be interested in their homes.
It’s rare to find a vintage condo in perfect condition these days, exquisitely restored to accentuate its charm and yet updated for modern living. But I just listed one of these historic Arts and Crafts beauties in Edgewater, at a very reasonable price!
This 2-bedroom, 1-bath condo at 1355 W Rosemont Ave. has gorgeous original woodwork and crown molding throughout, along with oak floors and a working fireplace flanked by built-in bookshelves. It’s a corner unit, so it gets a lot of light from both northern and western exposures.
In addition to a warm living room anchored by the fireplace, there is a large formal dining room and a sunroom with new slate floors. I sold this condo to its current owners five years ago, and they have lovingly restored it, renovating the kitchen with new stainless steel appliances, a farmhouse sink and granite counters and painting every room in historic hues of paint meant to bring out the lovely wood trim.
You can check out more photos here. The condo is priced at $229,000 and it’s close to the Red Line, shopping and the lake. Please call me at 773-816-1788 if you’d like to see it.
Chicago home prices rose slightly — 1.2% — in May, according to Case-Shiller Home Price Index data released this week. Chicago condos fared even better, with prices jumping 2.7% in May as many first-time buyers rushed to close on their home purchases so they could claim their $8,000 tax credit.
Ah, memories. While it’s good (and relatively rare) news to see Chicago home prices halt their four-year downward spiral, this uptick probably can’t be sustained. Not with the expiration of the tax credit and the flood of foreclosed properties poised to hit the market over the coming year. Illinois has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, and Chicago ranks in the top fifth of foreclosure filings among more than 200 American cities.
Chicago prices are already down 1.5% over the last year. If you survey the real estate carnage of the last five years, you will see that single-family home prices have now plummeted almost 28% from their September 2006 peak while condo prices have sunk 20% since their high in September 2007. That basically wipes out most of the last decade in home appreciation, bringing us back to prices last seen in 2002.
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.
Thanks to the federal home buyer’s tax credits, Chicago buyers turned out in droves to snap up properties in May, according to data released this week by the Illinois Association of Realtors.
In the city of Chicago, May home sales (single-family and condominiums) skyrocketed 32.1% to 2,057 sales, compared to 1,557 homes sold in May 2009. The increase marks the the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. Sales are now almost back to where they were two years ago in May 2008, when 2119 homes were sold in Chicago.
Even more impressive, the median home price — which has been falling and falling in Chicago for several years now — actually ticked up 2.2% in May over the previous year. Chicago’s median price is now $230,000, up from $225,000 in May 2009.
“The tax credit created a more positive impact on the Chicago marketplace than the movement we saw in 2009,” said Mabel Guzman, the incoming president of the Chicago Association of Realtors. “Additionally, the credit afforded buyers the opportunity to look at higher-priced homes, helping keep their options more affordable.”
I expect that we’ll see more of the same — dramatically increased sales, and possibly slightly higher prices — when the June numbers are released. But home-buying demand has certainly slipped in Chicago since the tax credits expired April 30 (the date by which buyers had to have a home under contract in order to qualify.) They have until June 30 to close the deal.
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