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Downtown condos with stunning lake views for under $700,000

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Loop posted on July 14th, 2011

A CONDO WITH A VIEW:

A CONDO WITH A VIEW: This is the view from the southeast corner of Aqua, located at 225 N Columbus Drive. A 2-bedroom/2-bath condo on the 55th floor is now available there for $625,000 (marked down from $705,000 after 19 fruitless months on the market.)

Recently I helped one of my clients find a 2-bedroom condo in downtown Chicago. But this wasn’t just any 2-bedroom unit she was after; it had to be above the 15th floor with a fabulous, unobstructed view of Lake Michigan. Two baths, a balcony, and parking were also on the list.

We searched on and off for months, exploring high-rise buildings along the lake like 1212 Lake Shore Drive and 1300 Lake Shore Drive. Then we moved further south, where we saw plenty of units in newer luxury buildings such as 225 N Columbus Drive (“Aqua”); 420 E Waterside Drive; 340 E Randolph Street; 130 N Garland Court; and 60 E Monroe Street, among others. One of the nice upsides to our prolonged real estate downturn is that the Chicago Loop is now swimming in condos, many of them still owned by developers — and this oversupply means buyers can now get a piece of prime downtown property for a reasonable price.

Take 130 N Garland, a high-rise built in 2005 that directly overlooks Millenium Park, with the lake shimmering behind the grassy expanse and the Pritzker Pavilion. In 2007, several 2-bedroom/2-bath units sold in the building at prices between $800,000 and $850,000. But this summer, my buyer was able to find an east-facing condo on the 23rd floor for substantially less.  It had been on the market for two long years, originally priced at $795,000 (with parking sold separately for another $40,000.)

My buyer closed last week… for $690,000, including parking. Just in time to watch the Fourth of July fireworks from her new balcony overlooking the lake!

These are the kind of deals people are now finding in downtown Chicago. Almost new units in almost new buildings, in the heart of the city with a true lake view. Many of these 2-bedroom units can now be had for less than $700,000. Call me at 773-816-1788 if you’d like to see some.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Experts predict bottom for housing prices

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Gold Coast, Market conditions, Sellers posted on July 6th, 2011

Will 2011 prove to be the bottom for Chicago home prices? The jury is still out, but on a national level, many housing experts believe that the worst will soon be behind us.

A MILLION DOLLAR DISCOUNT: This Gold Coast

DRAMATIC DISCOUNTING: This Gold Coast greystone, built in 1883, still boasts many historic details, such as a hand-carved staircase, leaded glass windows and a mosaic tile foyer. All it needs now is a buyer! Have prices finally found a bottom in Chicago? One can assume that this owner, who 0riginally priced the home at $2.15 million, hopes so. Currently for sale at $1.49 million, it has been on the market for nearly 3 years. Jeanne Carava of Prudential Rubloff has the listing.

In June, MacroMarkets LLC polled more than 100 economists, real estate experts and investment strategists with a wide range of viewpoints, including the National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, Moody’s Analytics economists Mark Zandi and Cecilia Chen, FusionIQ CEO Barry Ritholtz, and Freddie Mac Chief Economist Frank Nothaft. More than half of the panel said they expect U.S. home prices to hit bottom sometime this year and then remain stable through 2015.

“A significant majority of our panelists believe that the bottom for home prices arrived in the first quarter or will arrive sometime before year end,” said Robert Shiller, co-founder of the Standard & Poor’s/ Case-Shiller National Home Price Index and Macro Markets’ chief economist and co-founder. “Despite persistent macroeconomic uncertainly and unprecedented housing market dysfunction, almost two-thirds of the panelists see the U.S. residential real estate market as at an historic turning point.”

To be sure, I still see plenty of homes that aren’t selling. But those that do sell tend to be either distressed properties at bargain prices or handsome homes with plenty of amenities in solid neighborhoods. Put it all together, and it seems home prices in Chicago are finally starting to touch bottom.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Condo & townhome prices up in Lincoln Park

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Lincoln Park, Townhomes posted on July 5th, 2011

A SPARK IN LINCOLN PARK: Some Chicago areas are still hot, even in this punishing market and some

A SPARK IN LINCOLN PARK: Some Chicago areas are still hot, even in this punishing market, and some are not. Lincoln Park, one of the city's most popular and wealthy neighborhoods, has held its value. Condo and townhome prices have surged 14.2% here during the past two years. This 3-bedroom townhome at The Pointe, for instance, sold for $710,000 this spring.

Buyers often ask me for advice about a key question: Is it better to buy a smaller place in a nicer neighborhood, or a bigger home in a slightly less-desirable area? Real estate always involves a series of trade-offs (regarding price, location, size of the home, age of the home, amenities, school district, etc. etc. etc.) but this Location Vs. Size debate is one of the central decisions that buyers must make. In other words, is it a better investment to buy a 2-bedroom condo in, say, a stable, affluent area like Lincoln Park… or maybe a 3-bedroom condo a little further north, perhaps in Uptown or Edgewater?

These days, my vote would have to go with Location. That’s because we are now in Year 5 of a brutal and unrelenting real estate downturn, and I’ve watched homes in many fine North Side neighborhoods lose their value as buyers increasingly turned away from up-and-coming, less central areas in favor of those that were already quite popular. A bird in the hand is probably worth at least five in the bush in these uncertain times, and if you buy in an established, thriving community like Lincoln Park, you will likely come out ahead no matter what.

Consider the prices of condos and townhomes in Lincoln Park over the past two years. While other Chicago communities (and the city as a whole) saw home prices drop, the median sale price for Lincoln Park condos and townhomes increased 14.2% since June 2009, according to MLS data. And the climb has been relatively steady. Two years ago, the median sale price was $530,000. A year later, it was $557,500. And this June, it had jumped to $605,000.

Chicago home buyers are voting with their feet. Every day, they are choosing where to invest, live, and raise families — and they aren’t in a mood to gamble on a neighborhood that seems to be struggling or battered by foreclosures or lacking a strong commercial center or too far from the action. Lately I’m seeing more buyers opting for places like Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Bucktown, and the Gold Coast over areas like Logan Square, Irving Park, Albany Park, Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park — even if it means less space.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Sweet interiors in Wicker Park and Bucktown townhomes

filed under: Bucktown, Buyers, Chicago home prices, Sellers, Townhomes, Wicker Park posted on June 20th, 2011

BUCKTOWN LUCK:

BUCKTOWN LUCK: This snazzy kitchen, burnished by $60,000 in upgrades including custom cabinetry and Brazilian granite countertops, was an eye-catching centerpiece of a Bucktown townhome. Priced at $669,000, it went under contract within just three weeks.

I have some clients looking for a townhome in the $700,000 range in Wicker Park, Bucktown, or Lincoln Park, and lately we have run across several impressive homes with a least three bedrooms, garage parking and a roof deck. Because Wicker Park and Bucktown tend to boast newer construction than other areas of the city closer to the lake, their selection of mid-range townhomes has been more attractive than that of, say, Lincoln Park, where many townhomes were built in the 1980s.

Take, for example, the 4-bedroom, 2-and-a-half bath townhouse at 1757 N Paulina, Unit O in the heart of Bucktown. Tucked away in a narrow courtyard off a nondescript street, these brick townhomes aren’t much to look at from the outside. (This is often the case with Chicago townhome developments; you’ll find an expanse of brick broken up by an occasional bay window jutting out, usually framed in metallic cladding or limestone as an accent. Nothing too exciting, generally, but once you step inside some homes rapidly distinguish themselves from the masses.)

Here on Paulina, the home immediately opens up into a soaring living room bathed in light, anchored by a dramatic floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace. The kitchen –which has seen some $60,000 in upgrades — was truly beautiful, with custom Brookhaven cabinetry and white Brazilian granite. There was a huge island and room for a large table (or a built-in banquette, in this case.)

This elegant home was priced at $669,000 — and it’s not alone. We have seen several at this price point that are worth consideration, a welcome change from the lofty prices such upgraded homes used to command. There was a similar unit in this development that sold for $800,000 in 2008.

Even in this market, a lovely home in a good location that is well-priced is likely to sell. People still value beauty (and location). And while this Bucktown townhome wasn’t quite right for my buyers, it sold quickly — just three weeks after hitting the market.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

More troubled sales at Catalpa Gardens

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Edgewater, Foreclosures, Sellers, Short sales posted on June 14th, 2011

CATALPA GARDENS FALLS SHORT: Not two years after many owners bought here, 13 of them are trying to sell their condos short. Because these deals require lender approval (and the lender will lose money), they often fail.

CATALPA GARDENS FALLS SHORT: Over the past year, 9 of the 12 sales here was a short sale. Another was a foreclosure.

For a building that is only four years old, Catalpa Gardens has seen more than its fair share of trouble. This colorful complex had the misfortune to be built and unveiled to the public just as the Chicago condo market was beginning a steep decline. This plunge not only caught off guard the developers — who were forced to slash their asking prices by as much as $150,000 on some 2-bedroom units — but it pretty much trapped dozens of buyers who purchased their units here before the massive price cuts in 2009.

I’ve written about the problems here before; in fact, in late 2009 I warned potential buyers to beware of this 126-unit building, a virtual ticking time bomb since so many owners were deeply underwater. Now we are seeing the fallout.

Over the past year, there have been 12 sales in the building, including 9 short sales. One was a foreclosure, and the last two were the developer’s “liquidation” of the final units. One of those, a sixth-floor unit with 2 bedrooms, 2 baths and garage parking, sold for $230,000 — the highest price in the building all year. It had previously been priced as high as $417,301 (with parking an additional $31,900.)

But the real losers in the Catalpa Gardens debacle are the regular folks who paid top dollar for a new building whose value was sinking by the day. Like the owner of #703, who paid a whopping $439,661 for a 1200-square-foot 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo in the summer of 2008. The housing market was already crippled then, and a year later this owner was trying to get out. But Catalpa Gardens was in serious trouble, and unit #703 (priced at $399,900) did not sell. The owner was forced to cut the price seven times, to $189,000, before it finally sold as a short sale last spring.

That’s right. This poor homeowner owned the place for less than two years, sold it for an appalling 57% less than he paid for it, and destroyed his credit in a short sale. And consider the fate of a similar sixth-floor unit, #603, whose owner paid $435,061 in 2008. That one has been for sale now for almost two years, currently priced at $175,900. It’s also a short sale.

Today there are six units for sale at Catalpa Gardens, and five of them are short sales or foreclosures. The cheapest is a 1-bedroom, one-bath condo priced at $103,500. More distressed sales are certainly ahead for this star-crossed building, but prices are now so low that these units are beginning to seem like a deal.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Chicago for sale: Priced right & sold in a week

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Edgewater, Market conditions, Sellers posted on March 30th, 2011

SOLD! In just a week, this nearly new

SOLD! In just a week, this nearly new 3-bedroom condo in a luxury building had a buyer. The property was priced just right at $359,000, a price determined by recent sales -- or lack thereof -- of similar units in Edgewater.

I was going to write about my latest listing, a 2000-sq-ft luxury condo with three bedrooms, two baths, garage parking and a roof deck with a great view of the lake. But it’s already been snapped up by a buyer, after just a week on the market.

So what’s the secret? Yes, it was a lovely unit with plenty of space and high-end finishes, in a snazzy building built just a few years ago. But the reason is sold so quickly, which I see time and again in Chicago, is that it was priced right. My sellers were realistic, asking $359,000 for a unit they purchased new from the developer in 2006 for nearly $90,000 more.

No one likes to take such a loss. But consider the fate of two similar luxury units in the same little lakeside stretch of Edgewater, just south of Loyola: One condo, at 5722 N Winthrop #3S, was on the market for a tragic 1,134 days. The price started at a lofty $489,500 and finally fell to… $359,000. But it didn’t sell. The owner, probably beaten down by three years of relentless price reductions, finally gave up and took it off the market a month ago. Another similar condo, at 6121 N Winthrop #2N, was originally priced at $359,000 in January, and it went under contract in less than two months.

So when it came time to list their unit, my sellers carefully considered the recent comps, listened to my take on market trends and priced their unit accordingly. Within a week, we had a buyer!

And that is really the point. What good is listing your home if you don’t sell it? We’re now seeing thousands of Chicago home sellers each year that — despite months on the market and multiple price cuts — ultimately fail to attract buyers. If you price your home correctly, you needn’t be one of them.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Chicago home prices flat while sales sink

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Market conditions, Sellers, Uptown posted on March 23rd, 2011

UPTOWN

AN AVERAGE PRICE TAG: What can you get for the median home price in Chicago, currently $177,500? Try this 2-bedroom, 2-bath Uptown condo, located in a nearly new building at 1000 W Leland Ave. A short sale, it recently sold for just under $179,000.

The monthly sales data is out for February, and the median home price in Chicago — now $177,500 — appears to be pretty much what it was a year ago. It’s actually a tad higher (by $1,000). Perhaps prices have finally stopped their relentless downward slide in the Windy City.

Yet sales volume continued to plummet, meaning that fewer properties are actually changing hands.  A year ago in February, there were 1,225 single-family homes and condos sold in Chicago, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors. But in February 2011, only 1,056 homes were sold, nearly a 14% drop. This is not encouraging news for sellers who are hoping to attract buyers during this year’s spring market.

And prices are way down from where they were even in 2008, which was well after the downturn began. Take a look at Chicago’s median home prices in February over the past four years:

  • February 2011: $177,500
  • February 2010: $176,500
  • February 2009: $218,625
  • February 2008: $290,000

This simple chart shows the devastating impact of the thousands of Chicago homes that have fallen into foreclosure or are being marketed as short sales. All these distressed properties have pushed the year-over-year median price down nearly 40% in just a few years.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Chicago sellers adjust to new reality

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Lincoln Square, Market conditions, Sellers posted on February 27th, 2011

LINCOLN

LINCOLN SQUARE AFFAIR: This 5-bedroom Bowmanville house sold last week for $450,000, considerably less than its original price tag of nearly $570,000 when it hit the market last May. It had a new second floor, a custom kitchen and updated electric, plumbing and zoned HVAC. The seller had purchased the home just two years ago for $550,000.

This spring, it seems that Chicago homeowners have gotten the message that housing prices have dropped considerably — and they’re not coming back anytime soon. As I meet with prospective sellers this month, I’m sensing a sober new attitude towards selling their homes. People are being realistic, thoughtful, even calm as they digest the latest sales figures in their neighborhood and decide on a reasonable price.

It’s a noticeable change from recent years, when sellers were apt to be more skeptical of the comps, and more insistent that their home must be worth more. Chicago home prices have been falling steadily for about five years now, with each year worse than the last, and at this point many of those folks who wanted to sell in 2007 and 2008 but kept waiting until the market recovered have finally concluded that a rebound could be years off. Do they want to keep waiting?

Some of them, the ones who really need to sell, are deciding to bite the bullet. I have four new listings on or about to hit the market, and all of the sellers know that they are not going to make any money on their sale. Three of them are listing their homes for less than what they paid four or five years ago.

While the circumstances vary, it’s not uncommon these days for people selling an ordinary, run-of-the-mill condo to lose $50,000 on their sale, when you factor in the commissions and closing costs. That’s why inventory in Chicago is so low right now — the month’s supply in January was 30% lower than it was a year ago. People who can’t afford to sell simply aren’t selling (or else they are attempting a short sale.) People who can afford to sell are, it seems, finally pricing their homes to actually sell them.

And deals are getting done. I just sold a house in Evanston last week… for about 10% less than the seller paid for it in 2004.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Back to 2002 for Chicago home prices

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Lincoln Park, Market conditions, Sellers posted on February 25th, 2011

SOLD AT LAST

SOLD AT LAST: This 3-bedroom house on Wrightwood Ave. in Lincoln Park closed this week for $625,000. The sellers had been trying to unload it since the summer of 2008, when it was priced just shy of $1 million. But Chicago home prices have now fallen so far, they are back to 2002 levels.

Chicago home prices slipped again in December, capping another dismal year for the Chicago real estate market. According to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, average home prices in Chicago fell 7.4% in 2010. This is even worse than the 7.2% drop in 2009 (but not as bad as the 14.3% plunge in 2008.)

As a whole, the 20-city index has fallen 31.2% from its peak, according to data released this week. Average home prices in Cleveland, Detroit, Atlanta, and Las Vegas are now below what they were 11 years ago. Robert Shiller, the Yale economist who co-founded the index, said this week that he sees “substantial risk” that home prices will continue to fall — which would put Chicago (along with Dallas, Charlotte and Minneapolis) there, too. In Chicago, the home price index is already back to its March 2002 level.

Chicago condo prices, which until now have remained one of the brighter spots in our market, fared even worse in 2010.  Condo prices fell nearly 12% citywide, substantially worse than the 8.7% decline in 2009 and the 7.3% drop the year before. The condo index has sunken back to its July 2001 level, making this a lost decade for Chicago condo prices.

But not everyone is lamenting. This is a fantastic time to be a buyer, obviously (if you have cash or can qualify for a loan!) Home buyers have their pick of some very choice Chicago real estate at what are now basically the lowest prices seen in a decade.

I’ve noticed that inventory is down, however — probably because so many home owners can’t stomach the idea of selling at these prices. Fewer people are listing their homes for sale than in recent years. Last week, for example, there were only 1,120 property listings in Chicago, compared to 1,552 a year ago. That’s a significant drop — 28% fewer listings in just one year. The decline means buyers have fewer properties to choose from, so the popular ones may actually attract multiple offers.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Chicago housing prices slip again

filed under: Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Market conditions, Rogers Park posted on January 29th, 2011

GAZING AT THE LAKE

A LAKE VIEW (FOR UNDER $200K): This Rogers Park 2-bedroom condo, an east-facing unit with a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan, sold in December for $198,000. That was roughly the median home price in Chicago last month: $199,250. This particular condo, originally priced at $299,900, was on the market for nearly a year.

When will it end?

Not in 2010, apparently. The latest round of real estate data shows that Chicago home prices fell 5% to a median $199,250 in December 2010, compared to the same month a year earlier, according to the Illinois Assn. of Realtors. And substantially fewer homes changed hands: Chicago home sales (single family and condominiums) totaled 1,444 sales in December, an 18% decline from the 1,767 homes sold in December 2009.

The housing numbers look different, however, if you survey the entire year’s activity. For the year, Chicago home sales dropped only slightly; they fell 1.6% with 19,089 sales in 2010, compared to 19,398 sales for 2009. This stability was undoubtedly due to the giant pillar propping up the housing market all spring — the federal tax credits for home buyers. Once that artificial support was removed, both sales and prices plunged. For the year, Chicago’s median sales price fell 8% to $207,000.

“Buyers are finding value and opportunities in the marketplace and making long-term investments in real estate due to compelling pricing and low interest rates,” said Mabel Guzman, president of the Chicago Assn. of Realtors. “The median price for the city of Chicago in 2010 was $207,000, down from $225,000 the previous year, reflecting the influence of distressed properties in communities across Chicago.”

I’m beginning to hear both buyers and sellers ask the obvious question: Are we at the bottom? We could be bumping along it, I think. Across the country, the average home prices in major cities have fallen to their lowest point in many years, according to a recent New York Times story. The latest Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index show home prices in nine of 20 cities — including Chicago — have fallen to new lows for this economic cycle. The Chicago index has slipped 7.6% from November 2009, with most of that decline happening since September.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.