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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.

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Chicago home sellers: Should you stay or should you go now?

filed under: Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Lincoln Square, Market conditions, Sellers posted on January 25th, 2011

A couple days ago I met with a group of about 25 seasoned @properties realtors to discuss a weighty topic in our topsy-turvy industry: pricing. Leading the discussion was Paul Boyd, our assistant managing broker and performance coach, who emphasized that Chicago homes that aren’t selling in today’s market are, by definition, over-priced. If they were priced correctly, he pointed out, they would attract a buyer.

THE PRICE IS RIGHT: This 3-bedroom Lincoln Square house sold

THE PRICE IS RIGHT: This 3-bedroom Lincoln Square house sold in October for $504,000. But it was on the market for nearly two years. A classic case of over-pricing, the house was rehabbed and originally listed for $744,000 in 2008. The price was then reduced five times to $725,000; $619,900; $599,000; $575,000; and finally $545,000. Whew!

The realtors gathered around the conference room swapped stories about stubborn sellers who refused to lower their prices, their homes gathering dust without showings for months. We recalled others — the ones who listened to us! — who agreed to a reasonable price right off the bat and quickly found buyers. We lamented the difficulty of telling “the brutal truth” to sellers: Your property is worth much less than you had hoped.

Finally, Paul advised one of us to tell a seller (someone who was unwilling to lower her price, despite being on the market for months with no showings), “I think you should stay here.”

Because that, after all, is what it really comes down to. Do you want to move, or do you want to stay? And if the answer is move, that usually means you are going to have to lower your price. More than you wanted to. More than your neighbor did when she sold two summers ago. Maybe more than you can really afford. But enough so that buyers who are out house-hunting this spring will actually come to visit your home, realize that it is well-priced, and be confident enough to make an offer.

How much is enough? Your realtor should have a pretty good idea. Ask her or him to sit down with you and carefully explain the comps for your neighborhood and type of home, so that you can see clearly what similar properties are selling (or not selling) for. If your home is already on the market, consider how much traffic you’ve been getting and what comments prospective buyers have made.

And whatever you do, do not simply leave your house or condo on the market for months at the same price! If it’s not selling, that means it’s priced too high for the current market. And if you’re not willing to lower the price, as Paul says, maybe you should just stay put.

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Sales of Chicago’s luxury homes soar

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Downtown, Market conditions posted on January 19th, 2011

HIGH-RISE GLAMOR:

HIGH-RISE GLAMOR: Sales of condos at luxury high-rises -- like this one at 2 W Delaware Place -- drove Chicago's market for pricey homes last year. Some 3-bedroom, 3-bath units in the building that were priced above $1.4 million in 2007 are now listed at $1.25 million.

Got a million dollars? If the recent sales figures are any indication, more wealthy home buyers are sinking their cash into Chicago real estate, driving up sales of condos and houses priced at $1 million or more. Sales of such properties jumped 31% in 2010, according to a recent story in Crain’s Chicago Business.

Such transactions are relatively rare: There were only 480 Chicago home sales for $1 million or higher in 2009, and 630 last year. These pricey properties, which are typically found in choice neighborhoods such as Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Gold Coast, and Streeterville, tend to move slowly, sometimes taking a year or more to attract a buyer. In a sluggish market like ours, this means the backlog of unsold luxury homes could easily amount to an 18-month supply — more than twice the inventory we’d see in a healthy market.

The downtown Chicago condo market helped drive the increase in high-end sales, according to Crain’s. Luxury condo sales soared nearly 50% , to 364 units in 2010. Closings at new high-rises — like the Gold Coast’s Elysian Hotel & Private Residences, 11 E. Walton St., and Walton on the Park, 2 W. Delaware Place — contributed to the increase.

If you’re in the market for a high-end property, now may be the ideal time to buy. The median price of Chicago’s luxury single-family houses slid 12% to about $1.3 million last year, compared to $1.5 million in 2009. The median price for high-end condos actually rose a bit, but it was skewed by sales at top-shelf projects such as the Elysian. In general, Chicago condos with million-dollar price tags can now also be found in (the swankiest corners of) the bargain bin.

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Most IL home sellers forced to cut price

filed under: Chicago home prices, Market conditions, Sellers posted on January 18th, 2011

DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS?

DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS? Data shows two-thirds of Illinois home sellers had to reduce their price in 2010. The sellers of this 2-bedroom Lincoln Park loft, originally listed at $449,000 in early September, cut the price to $423,000 by the month's end and $400,000 a week later. It finally went under contract this week.

More evidence that home sellers often overestimate the value of their properties in this difficult market: New data from the Illinois Assn. of Realtors shows that 66% of Illinois home sellers had to reduce their asking price at least once in 2010.

The trend was particularly pronounced in the Chicago area. In Cook County, sellers agreed to 17,335 reductions per month, according to numbers compiled by Chicago Agent magazine. Cook County claimed more than half the statewide figure of about 30,000 price cuts monthly.

Home sellers in the Chicago area — one of the regions hit hardest by foreclosures nationwide — also had the largest price cuts in the state, chopping an average of 6% (or $16,000) each time they reduced their asking price.

Studies have shown that the longer your home remains on the market, the more likely a price reduction becomes. And the more price cuts a property endures, the less money you will eventually pocket. Properties grow stale, after all. Buyers aren’t so keen on homes that have been on the market for months on end, with the seller steadily chipping away at the price. Even if the home is finally priced well, many buyers will assume that the seller must be desperate by now and offer even less.

I know well, dear sellers, the temptation to just try to get a higher price, the price you want, that imaginary figure in your head that would allow you to at least break even. It’s a temptation you should avoid. The only numbers that count in this game are the comps — the sales prices for other similar homes that have sold recently. Take a hard look at what such homes are selling for, and price yours accordingly.

Otherwise you too will join the unfortunate ranks of those forced to cut the price in order to sell their home.

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Sweet deals in historic Andersonville

filed under: Andersonville, Chicago home prices, Market conditions, Short sales posted on January 6th, 2011

A VINTAGE BEAUTY IN ANDERSONVILLE

VINTAGE BEAUTY IN ANDERSONVILLE: This 4-bedroom Queen Anne Victorian, built in 1888, is one of the oldest houses in Andersonville. Featuring original woodwork, gorgeous stained glass windows and a grand staircase, this historic gem sold two weeks ago for $837,000.

Andersonville, home to the tony Lakewood-Balmoral district of beautiful turn-of-the century homes, is now seeing a variety of historic homes selling at bargain prices. Even some of the gorgeous rambling Victorians — the kind that used to routinely go for more than $1 million — have been selling at sharply reduced prices.

Take 1450 W Summerdale, a 4-bedroom, 3-bath, elegantly restored Queen Anne Victorian that sold in December for $837,000. It was originally priced at $939,000 when it hit the market in May 2010. Or 5418 N Magnolia, a historic 1911 house  in Lakewood-Balmoral that was offered “pre-foreclosure” for $975,000 in June. It sold in October for $825,000.

New homes — a relative rarity in Andersonville — could also be found in the bargain bin. 1619 W Winona, a newly constructed 5-bedroom home featuring a media room with a wet bar, a chef’s kitchen, and a roof deck was priced at $925,000 when it hit the market last January. It sold for $867,000 in July.

I’ve lived and owned property in Andersonville for six years, and a few years ago it was nearly impossible to find a single-family house here for less than $500,000. But several Andersonville houses have recently sold in the $400,000 range, including a short sale at 1701 W Farragut that went for $400,000 in September. This one was a lovely 3-bedroom house, built in 1904 but still in good condition, with an updated kitchen. (It lacked a garage, however.)

Another short sale, a 3-bedroom brick Victorian at 1657 W Carmen, sold for $435,000 in August. With an updated kitchen and baths and a lofted third bedroom, the house was originally priced at $575,000 in October 2009. And 1520 W Hollywood in north Andersonville, a cute and compact 3-bedroom in updated condition, sold for $397,000 in August. I remember showing this little blue house to buyers over the summer, when it was priced at $450,000.

So if you love Andersonville’s friendly vibe, the restaurants and shops along Clark Street, the leafy streets and proximity to the lake and Red Line, now is the time to put down roots in a great community where houses used to be out of reach for everyone but the wealthy.

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Chicago real estate feels winter chill

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Market conditions, Sellers posted on December 31st, 2010

LINCOLN PARK:

A BARGAIN (AT LAST) IN LINCOLN PARK: This 3-bedroom brick rowhouse sold in November for $675,000 after just 9 days on the market. Nine days this year, that is. The home was also offered for sale in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 at prices starting at $1.2 million and ending at $899,900. But in September, it was re-listed at a more reasonable $699,900 and it quickly attracted a buyer.

Sales of Chicago single-family houses and condos fell a dramatic 38.5% in November compared to the previous year, according to the latest data from the Illinois Assn. of Realtors. Prices slipped, too. The median home price in the city of Chicago was $206,000, down 4.2% from $215,000 a year ago in November 2009.

While prices seem to be looking for a bottom, far fewer properties are changing hands than in years past. If you look three years back, to November 2007, you’ll find that 1801 sales closed that month compared to 1144 this November, a sobering 37% plunge. Prices plummeted in those three years as well, sinking from a median sale price of $290,000 to today’s $206,000 — a 29% drop.

This is why we’re now seeing so many short sales and foreclosures in Chicago. Thousands of people who bought homes in 2005, 2006, 2007, and even 2008 have seen the value of those properties drop perhaps 10 to 40%, depending on what they own in which neighborhood. If they need to sell due to a job loss, move, divorce, illness or any other reason, they may find that a short sale (or even a foreclosure) is the only way out because they owe their lender so much more than the home is now worth.

It’s a vicious cycle, and it looks like it will continue into 2011. The more distressed properties pour onto the market, the more prices will be pushed down, which makes it even harder for existing owners to keep their heads above water when it comes time to sell.

Sellers will need to price their homes more aggressively than ever in the new year if they want to find a buyer. And buyers (the few that remain ready with cash or strong enough credit to obtain a mortgage) will continue to find many excellent real estate bargains and low interest rates throughout Chicago in 2011.

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WBEZ interviews Sue Fox about Chicago home sales

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Market conditions, Sellers posted on November 23rd, 2010

Today the Illinois Assn. of Realtors released its October sales data, and WBEZ housing reporter Ashley Gross called me to discuss the latest grim numbers (listen to the WBEZ interview here).

AT LAST IN LAKEVIEW: This 3-bedroom home, located at 1223 W Barry, finally sold for $465,000 in October. It had been for sale for much of the past three years, starting at an asking price of $746,000.

AT LAST IN LAKEVIEW: This 3-bedroom home, located at 1223 W Barry, finally sold for $465,000 in October. With an outdated kitchen and baths, the house languished on the market for much of the past three years, starting at an asking price of $746,000.

In the city of Chicago, home sales fell nearly 40% in October compared to the same month a year ago, with 1,217 sales compared to 2,012 homes sold last October. Much of the decline, in my opinion, can be attributed to the death of the federal tax credit for home buyers. Buyers last year (and for the first four months of 2010) stood to reap thousands of free dollars from the federal government if they bought a home. But once the credits expired in April, so did much of the demand from home buyers.

In Chicago — as the local realtor associations like to point out — total home sales from January through October are still up 4.6% compared to the first 10 months of 2009. That’s true, and that’s good news. Overall, our local market found some stability in 2010.

However, all of that gain came in the early months of the year. Ever since the summer, we’ve watched sales volume wither. The story is much the same throughout the larger Chicago metropolitan area as well as Illinois as a whole.

But prices have plunged more steeply in Chicago than the rest of the state. The city’s median price in October 2010 was $183,000, a 14.9 % decline compared to $215,000 in October 2009. For the state as a whole, prices fell 6.5% over the past year.

As I told WBEZ, I don’t expect a recovery in 2011, not with so many foreclosures clogging our Chicago market. Home sellers need to price their properties accordingly if they want to attract a buyer — an increasingly rare species these days.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Chicago market stalls amid few closings

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Market conditions, Sellers posted on November 16th, 2010

A NOVEMBER SALE:

A NOVEMBER SALE: This relatively new 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo, located at the corner of Belmont and Damen in North Center, featured a large master suite with a spa-like bath and a deeded parking space. It closed last week for $350,000.

I was just reviewing the data on Chicago home listings and closings for the first week of November. I hate to say it, but even this unseasonably warm weather hasn’t kept our real estate market from going ice cold.

Far, far fewer homes are being sold now than at this time last year, according to the latest Chicago Association of Realtors stats. For example, during the first week of November last year, 555 sales of single-family houses, condos, or multi-unit buildings closed in Chicago. But this year? There were only 273 closings in the first week of November.

That’s a 50% drop in a single year! And this year, keep in mind, interest rates are significantly lower than they were last year, making this a better time to buy. So where are all the erstwhile Chicago buyers?

I suspect that many of them, if they were in a position to buy a home in 2010, already did so. Why wouldn’t they have bought in the spring, or even last year, to take advantage of the $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time buyers (or the $6,500 credit for other buyers)? That was when my business, and that of most other realtors I know, was running at a fever pitch as everyone scrambled to put  deals together before the credits expired on April 30.

Since then, as the November data reflects, real estate has been slow. Prices have resumed their steady  downward slide in most Chicago neighborhoods. Fewer buyers mean fewer closings — despite record low interest rates — and fewer closings mean sellers will face a tougher time than ever.

After all, Chicago property listings are continuing to hit the market, to the tune of nearly 1,000 per week! That is fewer listings than we saw this time last year, when 1,210 homes hit the market during the first week of November 2009. But it’s only a 19% drop in listings, compared to a staggering 50% drop in actual sales that closed.

Which means that if you want to sell your home anytime soon, you will be trying to thread an increasingly tiny needle. Please call me if you need a hand.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Lovely Edgewater houses for under $500,000

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Edgewater posted on November 8th, 2010

HISTORIC EDGEWATER:

HISTORIC EDGEWATER: This beautiful American four-square home, at 6329 N Hermitage, was listed at the end of September for $459,000. It boasts a total of six bedrooms. Maureen Barone of Coldwell Banker has the listing.

The decline in Chicago real estate prices does have its upside. For example, it’s now possible for buyers to afford a historic home in leafy, tree-lined Edgewater for less than $500,000.

And they aren’t all fixer-uppers. Many of these spacious houses are already in fine condition, with perhaps a bit of cosmetic work to do.

Consider 6329 N Hermitage, a rambling American four-square home built in 1903 that has four bedrooms on the second floor and two more upstairs in the attic. The lot is large by Chicago standards: 37.5 feet wide and an extra-long 162 feet deep. It looks fairly well-maintained and gets lots of light, and it features a large unfinished basement with high ceilings (a plus for those inclined to renovate.)

Other recent Edgewater offerings include 1413 W Hood, a 3-bedroom house with original oak trim throughout, refinished floors, a new kitchen and baths, and a six-year-old roof. Priced at $475,000, it’s been on the market less than a month.

There’s also 1619 W Bryn Mawr (which is closer to Andersonville), a cute 3-bedroom with a new kitchen, new baths, and a fully finished basement. It was listed for sale a month ago at $499,900.

These are charming houses in good locations at prices that were unthinkable even two years ago, when similar houses were selling for $600,000 and up. So if you are one of Chicago’s many condo owners who face a loss if you sell now, take heart! You will only gain when it comes time to buy your next home, especially if you’re moving up into a single-family house.

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Autumn in Chicago: Sales plunge and foreclosures rise

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Developments, Foreclosures, Market conditions, Short sales, South Loop posted on November 1st, 2010

HEADED SOUTH IN THE SOUTH LOOP: Many of the South Loop's newer condo projects

HEADED SOUTH IN THE SOUTH LOOP: Many of the South Loop's newer condo projects, like this one at 1620 S. Michigan, have been battered by foreclosures and short sales. Recent data show 12 foreclosure filings here in the last three months ... but only one sale, a 2-bedroom on the sixth floor that was a short sale, closing in September for $175,000.

Chicago’s real estate market continues to gasp and wheeze this autumn, with the Illinois Association of Realtors reporting that homes sales fell 27% in September compared to the previous year. The city’s median price dropped like a stone as well, falling 20% — from $225,000 a year ago to $180,000 this September.

However, if you look at the entire year, things are a bit brighter. Thanks largely to the now-expired federal tax credit for home buyers, Chicago’s year-to-date sales jumped 11% during January through September 2010, compared to the same period in 2009. The year-to-date median home price fell 8%.

Looking ahead to the always-slow winter season, I would say that qualified buyers have a great opportunity to buy a home at both a stellar price and interest rate … but everyone else (sellers and existing homeowners) is in for a long, chilly slog towards spring.

The number of foreclosed homes, meanwhile, is soaring in Chicago. In fact, the Chicago metro region recently ranked third in the nation for foreclosures, with more than 12,000 foreclosed homes in the third quarter of 2010, behind only Phoenix and Miami. The Chicago area’s foreclosure activity jumped 35% in the third quarter, according to RealtyTrac, a company that tracks distressed properties.

Some of Chicago’s more affluent neighborhoods — like the Loop, West Loop, South Loop and Lincoln Park — have also seen large increases in foreclosures. In the Loop, for instance, there have been 205 foreclosure filings during the first nine months of the year, a 77% increase over the same period in 2009, according to data compiled by the Woodstock Institute, a non-profit research group based in Chicago.

The troubled buildings in the Loop include River City at 800 S. Wells, where there were 16 new foreclosure filings in the last three months; Century Tower at 182 W. Lake St. (nine foreclosure filings); Park Millennium at 222 N. Columbus Drive (six), according to the Woodstock Institute. In the South Loop, where many of the newer condo buildings have ended up filled with renters, a handful of buildings had two-thirds of the recent foreclosure filings: 1620 South Michigan Ave. (twelve); Vision on State at 1255 S. State St. (eleven); and 1720 South Michigan Ave. (eight).

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