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Flippers return to Chicago housing

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Foreclosures, Irving Park, Market conditions, Neighborhoods, Portage Park posted on October 12th, 2012

THE FLIP SIDE:

THE FLIP SIDE: With newly finished hardwood floors, fresh paint and wainscoting, this living room is typical of the houses being flipped in Portage Park and nearby neighborhoods. This 3-bedroom house, complete with 2 more bedrooms in the finished basement, sold for $306,000 in just five days in September. Before being rehabbed, it was just another beat-up bungalow in foreclosure until an investor bought it in March for $157,200.

Hundreds of investors, it seems, are now spotting opportunity in Chicago’s rejuvenated housing market.

House-flipping, a practice where someone buys a house (presumably at a discount) and quickly resells it for a profit, is once again on the rise. According to RealtyTrac, a real estate data firm, there were 1,067 homes flipped in the seven-county Chicago area during the first half of 2012 — a 30% jump from the previous year.

Investors often buy these homes as foreclosures and then fix them up, sometimes with cosmetic improvements like new paint, but often by gutting and replacing much of the interior and mechanicals. In many Chicago neighborhoods, the houses look almost new by the time they hit the market again three to six months later.

Over the past year, I’ve seen a good deal of flipping in areas like Irving Park, Logan Square, and Portage Park. These aren’t necessarily the hottest North side neighborhoods, but they are solid middle-class enclaves close to public transit and full of houses in the affordable $250,000 to $350,000 range.

Competition for distressed homes, which often sell below $150,000 in these neighborhoods, can be very fierce, and many ordinary buyers are outbid by investors willing to pay cash. But once the homes are rehabbed and offered for sale, they can be appealing deals for the end buyer. After all, it’s not easy to find a 3 or 4-bedroom house with a finished basement and new plumbing, electric, roof, paint, kitchen, baths etc. for $300,000 on Chicago’s North side.

I helped some first-time buyers find just such a house this year in Portage Park. This particular couple started out looking at condos in Uptown, but once they discovered they could afford a house if they were willing to move a few miles west, the house search was on. We looked at dozens of old and often rundown bungalows, Victorians, and ranch houses until we finally came across a lovely, fully rehabbed 4-bedroom Portage Park house for $279,000.

KITCH

REHABBED: Most buyers would prefer a new kitchen with stainless steel appliances. If the rehab work is done properly, these renovated houses tend to sell quickly. This one sold for $6,000 over the asking price, suggesting that there were multiple offers that drove up the price.

It was a great deal for my buyers, who knew how difficult it was to find a renovated house in their price range, and they snapped it up quickly. And it was apparently a great deal for the investor who flipped it as well. He bought it as a short sale for $115,000, renovated it, and sold it about five months later for more than double the price.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

The return of the multiple offer

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Edgewater, First-time buyers, Irving Park, Lincoln Square, Market conditions, Portage Park posted on April 8th, 2012

OFFERS

MULTIPLE OFFERS AT PARK TOWERS: Located at 5415 N Sheridan, this popular high-rise overlooking the lake in Edgewater offers studios and 1-bedroom condos at relatively low prices. One of my buyers was recently in a multiple offer situation here, with the winner paying nearly full price, in cash, and closing about two weeks later.

With home buyers streaming through Chicago neighborhoods this spring in search of a bargain,  I’m beginning to see a phenomenon that hasn’t reared its head much in recent years: the “multiple offer situation.”

Dreaded by home buyers but embraced by sellers, this pulse-racing affair occurs when more than one buyer makes an offer on a property at the same time, sometimes within the space of hours (or even minutes). The seller’s realtor will then advise all parties of the “multiple offer situation” and often ask everyone to submit their so-called “best and final offers.” Sometimes, however, one offer is so outstanding that the sellers will decide to negotiate further with only that buyer, leaving the others by the wayside.

I have been extremely busy during the last month, taking various buyers out to see properties as soon as they hit the market and helping submit dozens of offers (hence my recent lack of blog posts!) Many of our offers have been negotiated and accepted, but I can think of at least five that wound up competing against stronger offers and losing out. The bidding wars weren’t confined to a single price range, either; I saw them cropping up anywhere from a $130,000 condo in Edgewater to a $650,000 house in Ravenswood. In two situations, I was representing an investor who was bidding against five to ten other offers (often cash offers) for houses in Irving Park or Portage Park.

It is becoming commonplace to run into other buyers looking at the same property, and to hear the seller’s realtor mention that he/she has showed the home seven or eight times in one day.  By the end of March, I was advising my buyers to move quickly if they really liked a home — especially if it was priced well and in good condition. It’s always better to be the first one in and get the property under contract than to wind up paying more because someone else wants it too.

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More Chicago buyers shun condos and choose houses instead

filed under: Albany Park, Buyers, First-time buyers, Irving Park, Jefferson Park, Market conditions, Portage Park posted on February 5th, 2012

Irving Park, Chicago house

HOME SWEET HOUSE: More Chicago buyers are bypassing condos in favor of single-family houses. This 3-bedroom Irving Park house on an extra-large 50x163 lot recently sold for $225,000. It had a newer roof, but the listing noted that the house "will need some updating."

I’ve witnessed an interesting trend emerging in recent months, just by watching my own buyers as they move through the home-hunting process. And now I have some hard data to prove it: Chicago buyers are increasingly buying single-family houses, often skipping right past the condo stage that was once the point of entry for first-time buyers.

Five to ten years ago, if you were a North side buyer approved for a loan of $200,000 to $400,000, your best option was often to buy a condo if you wanted to live in a lively neighborhood with plenty of restaurants and shops (and sometimes even the lake) within walking distance. The Loop, South Loop, River North, Bucktown, Wicker Park, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, North Center, Roscoe Village, Lincoln Square, Andersonville, Uptown, Edgewater — all of these areas were bursting with new condo developments that made the most of city living at prices that were affordable for first-time buyers. Most of these folks never even considered buying a single-family house.

But today, Chicago housing prices have fallen so far that decent 3-bedroom houses can now be had for the price of a condo. The demand for single-family houses has climbed rapidly, with 37 percent of Chicago buyers choosing a house in 2011, according to data gathered by the National Assn. of Realtors. Two years ago, only 27 percent of buyers made a similar choice.

Likewise, the appetite for condos has waned. Just 39 percent of Chicago buyers opted for a condo in a building with at least five units in 2011, compared with 54 percent in 2009. (The rest presumably bought townhouses, two-flats or some other type of residential property.)

Among my buyers, the shift seems to be happening because they realize that by compromising a bit on the neighborhood, they are able to find a house for $200,000 to $300,000. These houses generally are neither large nor new. They tend to be around 1200 to 1600 square feet (often a bungalow, a ranch house, or an A-frame home) and they often need some cosmetic updating, especially things like refinishing the floors and renovating the kitchen and baths. But they usually offer all the appeal of a single-family house — including a backyard, garage, and basement, while NOT including a condo association, upstairs or downstairs neighbors, or monthly assessments.

“I never dreamed we would be able to afford a house,” one of my buyers recently told me. But more and more buyers can — particularly if they are willing to look a bit further west than they may have lived previously. Instead of the neighborhoods mentioned above, areas like Irving Park, Albany Park, Avondale, Logan Square, Portage Park and Jefferson Park are now attracting Northsiders who want a house but may only have $250,000 or so to spend. At price points around $300,000 and above, you can sometimes find newly rehabbed houses with finished basements in these neighborhoods. There is literally nothing to do but move in (which, in years past, was often the appeal of many new and gut-rehabbed condos.)

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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.

APRK

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.

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

ME

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.

Illinois foreclosure notices jump 24%

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Foreclosures, Illinois unemployment, Irving Park, Market conditions posted on July 16th, 2010

OPPORTUNITES ABOUND: This 3-bedroom foreclosure in Irving Park is listed way below market value at $119,900. The previous owner attempted to sell it in 2008 for $3

OPPORTUNITES ABOUND: Part of a wave of foreclosures sweeping Chicago, this historic 3-bedroom house in Irving Park is listed way below market value at $119,900. The previous owner attempted to sell it in 2008 for $364,900. It needs work, but the price is nonetheless appealing.

Even as the job picture brightens slightly in Illinois, the number of homes facing foreclosure continues to soar. The Illinois unemployment rate is now 10.4% — still one of the worst in the country, but better than the 11% we saw earlier this year. The scarcity of jobs has left thousands of local homeowners in trouble, and they are continuing to default on their mortgages in record numbers.

Nearly 24% more Illinois properties received a foreclosure-related notice in the first six months of 2010 than during the same period last year, according to RealtyTrac Inc., a real estate listing service that tracks distressed properties. This means more than 85,000 properties statewide — most of them residential, and many of them in the Chicago region — got a notice. Illinois had the 9th-highest rate of foreclosure notices in the nation.

Nationwide, the rate rose slightly more than 8%, RealtyTrac reported. More than 1 million homeowners will likely lose their homes to foreclosure this year.

What does this mean for our Chicago housing market? Nothing good, I’m afraid. Are you noticing more “For Sale” signs sprouting in your neighborhood lately? Now that the government’s tax credits for home buyers have expired, the inventory of Chicago homes for sale is starting to rise again. There were 4,259 listings in the Chicago area last week, according to Midwest Real Estate Data LLC, but only 855 closings.

This is an ominous sign. Last year the inventory was roughly the same (it was 5% higher then) but the number of closings during the same week last year was 31% higher.

In other words… there is a lot more pain to come in the Chicago real estate market. I predict more foreclosures, fewer qualified buyers to absorb increasing inventory, and further price drops. Anyone looking to buy will have plenty of homes at attractive prices to choose from, and anyone looking to sell will have an increasingly tough time.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.