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Downtown condo sales on the rebound

filed under: Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Developments, Downtown, First-time buyers, Market conditions posted on June 2nd, 2012

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THE SCOOP IN THE LOOP: This 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo, located in a new 46-story tower at 235 W Van Buren, was listed at $329,900 and is now under contract. Sales of downtown Chicago condos like this one have skyrocketed this spring.

In another hopeful sign for Chicago’s real estate market, the sales of downtown condos recently hit a two-year high. It seems as though buyers are finally starting to absorb the excess inventory that has shadowed the downtown market ever since the downturn, holding down prices and forcing some newer buildings to turn to renters.

In April, there were 360 condo sales pending in the downtown area, up 55% from a year earlier. While this is good news, prices have yet to recover in downtown Chicago, making this summer an especially good time to buy a condo in the heart of the city.

Over the past two years, according to MLS data, median prices for condos in the Loop have fallen almost 8%, from $352,500 to $325,000. Developers of many downtown condos have had to slash prices to attract interest. Interest rates, too, have dropped and are now at record lows — around 3.75% for a 30-year loan for people with the best credit and sizable down payments.

The combination of low prices and rock-bottom interest rates make this year the best time to buy a Chicago home in at least the last 12 years. Will prices downtown continue to slump, or are we at the bottom? We have seen a recent uptick in prices (and sales) citywide, suggesting that a recovery, however faint, may finally be taking hold.


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Chicago condos (and houses) for under $200,000

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Downtown, Edgewater, First-time buyers, Irving Park, Lincoln Park, Loop, Market conditions posted on November 25th, 2011

LOOP:

THE LOOP WITHIN REACH: There are dozens of 1-bedroom condos for sale in the Loop at prices below $200,000. This one, located across from Grant Park at 888 S Michigan #902, features an updated kitchen and a large bedroom. It is priced at $195,000 and does not include parking.

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.

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A HOUSE ON THE CHEAP: This 4-bedroom Irving Park house was priced at $339,000 when it hit the market in May. The seller must have quickly wised up to Chicago's new real estate reality, because the house is now a mere $190,000.

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!

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Downtown Chicago condo sales still sluggish

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Developments, Downtown, First-time buyers posted on November 20th, 2011

Chicago downtown condos for saleCondo 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.

First-time buyers seem to be driving the condo market in the lower-priced buildings, such as 200 N. Dearborn, Silver Tower, 757 Orleans, 235 West Van Buren and Quincy 565, said Gail Lissner, an Appraisal Research vice president. At luxury buildings such as Trump International Tower, Legacy at Millennium Park and Aqua, third-quarter sales were also solid, helped along by cash buyers.

Overall, though, it’s hard to imagine the downtown market getting much worse. Downtown developers closed only 614 condo and townhouse sales in the first nine months of 2011, compared with 1,431 a year earlier — and last year wasn’t all that great.

Keep in mind that Chicago developers once enjoyed crowded sales centers, rarely cut their prices and easily sold thousands of glittering high-rise condos each year. In 2005, for example, developers sold more than 8,000 units in downtown Chicago.

But the downturn means it’s a great time to buy a new condo downtown, many of them with sweeping lake or city views, sleek gyms and swimming pools. The supply is steadily being absorbed — especially since so many condo projects have now been converted to rental buildings. No new units will hit the market this year, and the only buildings now under construction, the 89-unit Ritz Carlton Residences and Lincoln Park 2520, are scheduled for 2012 deliveries.

“We’re still looking at a few years of unsold inventory levels in the market,” Lissner told Crain’s. “It’s being absorbed, but slowly.”

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Chicago sales above $5 million? Count them on your fingers

filed under: Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Downtown, Gold Coast, Lincoln Park posted on September 16th, 2011

THE TOAST OF THE COAST: This Gold Coast mansion, located at 25

THE TOAST OF THE COAST: This 18-room Gold Coast mansion, located at 25 E Banks Street, finally sold for $6.8 million last October -- about half its original asking price. It was one of only three single-family houses to sell for more than $5 million in Chicago during the past 12 months.

When it comes to truly high-end real estate, Chicago is worlds away from New York. While the Big Apple has dozens of properties that sell for multiple millions, it’s exceedingly rare to find homes in the Windy City that close for $5 million or more.

How rare? Over the past year, only three single-family homes in the entire city of Chicago have sold for upwards of $5 million, according to  Midwest Real Estate Data LLC. Another five houses went for $4 million to $5 million. The most expensive Chicago house to sell was 25 Banks Street, a 13,500-square foot Gold Coast mansion built in 1880. Located a block from the lake, it boasted 8 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a media room, a wine vault, staff quarters with a separate entrance, and a rooftop terrace. But even this grandeur came at a bargain price: $6.8 million, about half its original price tag of $13.5 million after more than three years on the market.

Of course, there were also seven Chicago condos that sold for upwards of $5 million over the past year. With the exception of one, they were all at the Elysian, the new luxury building located at 11 E Walton Street. (The other was a top-floor penthouse located above the Four Seasons Hotel at 132 E Delaware Place.) At $8.6 million, the priciest condo cost more than the most expensive house — and both were cash deals, as were the majority of all the $5 million-and-up sales. Hmmmm, I was just wondering what to do with that $5 million just sitting in my bank account…

In any case, multi-million dollar sales of any sort are a rare breed in Chicago. There were only 50 single-family houses and 75 condos that sold for $2 million or more citywide (mainly in the Gold Coast, Streeterville or Lincoln Park) over the past year. On the North Shore, moreover, there were 86 homes that sold for over $2 million, but only six that fetched more than $5 million.

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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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Downtown Chicago condo sales plummet

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Developments, Downtown, Market conditions posted on August 18th, 2010

SLUGGISH SALES: With only a few hundred new condos sold each year in downtown Chicago, prices have declined as well, giving buyers an attractive opportunity to buy a luxury unit in the heart of

SLUGGISH SALES: With new condo sales down 52% in downtown Chicago, prices have declined as well, giving buyers a chance to buy an affordable luxury unit in the heart of the city. This new 2-bedroom condo at 505 N McClurg sold for $473,500, about 15% less than its asking price.

It looks like the wind has once again been knocked out of the sails for Chicago’s downtown condo market. Sales of new construction condos plunged 52% in the second quarter of 2010 compared to the same period last year, according to a new report from Appraisal Research, a real estate research firm based in Chicago.

Even compared to the first quarter of 2010 — when the federal government’s tax credits for home buyers were still in force — the numbers look pretty weak. There were 256 downtown Chicago condo sales in Q1, but only 150 sales — a 41% drop — in Q2 this year.

“With the tax credit expired, continued concerns about the economy and job market, worries about the stability of housing prices, and the difficulty in selling an existing residence and securing financing, many buyers continue to remain on the sidelines for the near term,” said the report.

It’s been a rather rude awakening for downtown developers, who once feasted on thousands of sales of glittering high-rise condos each year. In 2005, for example, developers sold more than 8,000 units in downtown Chicago. Last year they only sold 572. But the collapse means it’s a very attractive time to buy a new condo downtown, many of them with sweeping lake or city views, sleek gyms and swimming pools.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been taking out a pair of buyers to see many of the new 2-bedroom, 2-bath condos with lake views in Streeterville, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the prices. At 505 N McClurg, a snazzy building built in 2008 with floor-to-ceiling windows and beautiful finishes, a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit that was priced at $554,500 last summer recently sold for $473,500. And with sales slumping, I expect to see even greater discounts ahead this fall.

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Downtown Chicago condo logjam finally breaks

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Developments, Downtown, First-time buyers, Market conditions posted on May 18th, 2010

And now for some good news… After several years of sluggish sales, condos in downtown Chicago are finally selling at a healthy clip, according to a recent report.

Downtown Chicago condos finally start selling

Is it time to buy a condo in downtown Chicago? Buyers finally say yes.

Downtown builders sold 256 condos and townhomes in the first quarter of 2010, up from 148 in the previous quarter and just 55 in the same period a year ago, according to Appraisal Research Counselors, a real estate consulting firm. Just to be clear, that’s nearly five times as many condos sold as compared to a year ago!

Of course, this glut of unsold units didn’t just miraculously begin to mesmerize buyers. Chicago developers chopped tens of thousands of dollars — sometimes hundreds of thousands — off their prices to attract buyers.

“If you discount, they will come,” Gail Lissner, vice president at Appraisal Research, told Crain’s Chicago Business.

For example, at 565 W. Quincy St. in the West Loop, developer Belgravia Group Ltd. slashed prices on some units by as much as 30%, sparking dozens of sales. The 241-unit project sold 59 condos in the first quarter (a period that coincided with the $8,000 first-time home buyer’s tax credit.)

Other Chicago projects also relied heavily on price discounts to attract buyers, including those at 200 N. Dearborn St., 222 E. Pearson St., the R+D359 development in the West Loop and the 38-story Silver Tower in River North.

Still, Chicago developers are climbing out of a very deep hole (Chicago Spire, anyone?) Crain’s reports that developers sold only 572 condos and townhomes in 2009 and 592 in 2008, a tiny sliver of the 8,162 they sold at the peak in 2005.

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Developers slash prices on downtown Chicago condos

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Developments, Downtown, Market conditions posted on February 16th, 2010

Starved for buyers, developers are slashing prices on unsold Chicago condos.

DOWNTOWN DOWNTURN: Some developers have cut prices as much as 30% to sell a glut of downtown Chicago condos. The bargains include new units like this one at 565 Quincy.

After slogging through two years of sluggish sales, many local developers seem to be finally getting the message and deeply cutting prices on downtown Chicago condos. The downtown area was rapidly overbuilt during the boom with thousands of new condo units hitting the market each year, and when demand suddenly stalled developers were left with huge numbers of spanking new, but unsold, condos.

The Chicago Tribune ran a story about the trend this weekend, pointing out that from 2008 to 2009 there were 7,750 condo units built downtown, an area that includes the Gold Coast, River North, Streeterville, Loop, West Loop and South Loop. About 2,200 new-construction units are still available for sale by developers. And that doesn’t count the 3,000 or so downtown condos on the market that aren’t brand new, but are resales.

“The market presents an excellent buying opportunity, certainly unmatched by anything we’ve seen recently,” Gail Lissner, vice president at Appraisal Research Counselors, told the Tribune. “For anyone with a job, who feels good about their employment, this is a great time to buy. There are some outstanding values in the market.”

Many downtown developers have recently cut prices by up to 30%, leaving Chicago condo buyers with plenty of bargains to choose from. These properties include 565 Quincy, where prices on a 1-bed/1-bath condo dropped from $312,900 to $219,000, including indoor parking.

But, as always, buyers must be careful! No matter how awesome the “Dramatic Price Reductions!!!” trumpeted on the sales brochures seem, your realtor needs to do her/his homework and research how many short sales and foreclosures are already cropping up in any given building. The massive price cuts do have a dark side, since they chop the legs out from under any early buyers who may have paid much more for a similar unit in the same building. Those buyers — the ones who paid $150,000 more than today’s lucky buyers — are in trouble.

And if there are too many of them in any given building, soon the building is going to be in trouble, too. Do you want to live in a development that will soon be filled with dozens of short sales and foreclosures as those owners try to get out?

I’m not saying that these downtown condos aren’t great deals — many of them are. I just want buyers to remember that however sparkling the sales pitch, they should make sure the building they buy into is stable before signing that contract.

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South Loop: Condo auctions find new bottom

filed under: Buyers, Condo auctions, Developments, Downtown, Market conditions, South Loop posted on November 17th, 2009

Motor Row lofts

FIRE SALE: Slow sales at the Motor Row Lofts forced an auction, where 19 units sold at nearly half price.

The bursting of the real estate bubble sounds more like a balloon slowly deflating in the South Loop. Condo developers badly overbuilt this area, and in the last three years we’ve seen many projects — once hyped with glossy promises of sophisticated urban living — fade into half-occupied shells as prices fell so sharply that many units were converted into rentals.

After failing to find buyers through the usual channels, some developers are now hauling their leftover condos to the auction block. This week, two auctions involving condo developments in the South Loop and Near South Side produced dramatic discounts for buyers, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

In a 269-unit condo tower at 1400 S. Michigan Ave., known as Michigan Avenue II, 43 units were auctioned off at prices 27% off the previous list price. And at Motor Row, a 51-unit loft conversion project at 2301 S. Michigan Ave., 19 units were sold at a 45% price reduction.

The fire sale comes after a similar auction in March at the Vetro condo project, 31-story tower at 611 S. Wells St. that was built two years ago.

And now, with Chicago’s Olympic bid crushed and Illinois foreclosures and unemployment on the rise, I think it could be many years before the South Loop becomes the trendy destination its backers are hoping for. Lenders on other stalled downtown condo projects may also force developers to hold auctions, clearing out the overbuilt inventory by taking an axe to condo prices.

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Forecast: weak growth ahead

filed under: Downtown, Market conditions posted on August 20th, 2009

Last week, policy makers at the Federal Reserve suggested that the recession appears to be ending. Consumer spending — which accounts for almost 70% of economic activity — seems to be stabilizing. Other hopeful signs in recent weeks include data showing the country’s three-year housing slump is slowing, and news that unemployment leveled off in July after climbing precipitously in the months before.

In Chicago, we are seeing more evidence that the housing market, while not exactly bouncing back to previous heights, at least does not seem to be sinking further. According to a new report, sales of new homes downtown jumped sharply in the second quarter, from 55 to 313 homes. The quarterly tally is still down 35% compared to a year ago, according to the Downtown Chicago Residential Benchmark Report issued by Appraisal Research Counselors, a real estate consulting group. But at least things are heading in the right direction.

Developers across the city continue to announce dramatic price cuts, sometimes up to 20 or 25%, in order to move their inventory, particularly in large buildings where dozens of units remain unsold. The discounting appears to be working: “The developments exhibiting the strongest sales were the developers which were offering the largest price discounts,” the benchmark report said.

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