Sue Fox, @Properties. Direct 773.816.1788
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Archive for the 'Lincoln Square' Category
It’s getting harder to find an affordable house in Lincoln Square, a lovely, low-key neighborhood just north of North Center and west of Andersonville. In the last year, single-family home prices in Lincoln Square have climbed 8.2%, pushing the average house price here to $630,000. The gain comes on top of a huge run-up in prices in 2013, making the once-sleepy Lincoln Square one of the hottest areas in the city.
What’s driving the boom? The neighborhood has long appealed to Northsiders looking for a less expensive, quieter alternative to Lincoln Park and Lakeview. With plenty of good restaurants to be found along Lincoln Avenue, tree-lined streets filled with quaint A-frame houses, acres of green space and ball fields at Winnemac Park — not to mention easy access to the Brown line, Lincoln Square became a natural destination for buyers priced out of neighborhoods closer to the city core.
But as Chicago’s housing market recovered, this area exploded in popularity – and its home prices quickly followed suit. Two years ago, the average price was $475,000 for a house here, according to MLS data. The average condo price was $199,000. Now both of those figures are up about 32% — and the demand has led to bidding wars for even the lowliest foreclosures. Local schools have improved, too. In recent years, Chappell Elementary School went from the middle of the pack to earning a 9 out of 10 rating from Great Schools, a nonprofit that provides school information nationwide.
Cash buyers are snapping up rundown Lincoln Square homes, particularly in the Bowmanville area north of Foster Avenue, where even a mold-ridden house lacking a working kitchen will likely attract multiple offers. Six months later, you may see the same address — now featuring a brand-new house or a gut-rehab renovation — back on the market for upwards of $700,000 or even $800,000.
Consider, for example, the fate of 2200 W Farragut Avenue, a dilapidated, century-old house that sold in early 2013 for $250,000. The listing described it as “very dark and dangerous” and warned that the buyer “must be ready for a project.” Indeed, the cash buyer tore down the house and promptly replaced it with a five-bedroom house complete with three and a half baths, a finished basement, and a roof deck over the garage. It sold in less than two weeks, for $889,000.
So if you’re looking to buy in Lincoln Square, or any city neighborhood, contact me. I have the resources to get you the down-low on the best deals (and steals) in Chicago.
(Note to readers: This blog post originally appeared on Dec. 29 the @properties blog, where I am one of the regular agent bloggers.)
It’s getting hot out there! In the space of just a couple months, Chicago’s housing market has gone from listless to galloping — at least in many of the most popular Chicago neighborhoods such as the Loop, River North, Lincoln Park, Bucktown, Lakeview, Lincoln Square and Andersonville. The latest sales figures from the Illinois Assn. of Realtors just came out, showing that home prices in Chicago jumped 17% between May 2012 and May 2013.
Home sales — the number of properties trading hands — were even stronger, soaring 30% over last spring. In May 2012 there were 2,125 homes sold in Chicago, compared with 2,762 sales last month. Properties are also selling much faster; the average market time in Chicago is now less than two months.
If you’re thinking of buying a home this year or even next spring, it’s time to get serious about the search, because there isn’t much for sale and the best properties sell very quickly. “What is going on with this market?” I had a buyer ask me yesterday. “If I see something I like online, within a day or two it’s already gone.” Yep, that’s now the case in many hot neighborhoods. In Andersonville alone, I’ve been involved in three transactions in the last month where the home sold for list price or slightly under (1 to 2% less) within a week of hitting the market. And in one case in Lakeview, I had a buyer offer a bit more the asking price because we knew the home would attract multiple offers (it did, but my buyer won out.)
There is a supply problem right now in Chicago: not enough homes are being listed for sale, especially in the areas buyers prefer. In order to compete, buyers must be pre-approved for a loan (or, even better, pay cash) and be ready to jump on new listings as soon as they hit the market.
And sellers? Well, you are certainly better off now than you were a year ago. Your home will likely sell fester, and for more money, than it would have last summer. But keep in mind that prices citywide are still much lower than they were in 2006 and 2007. Still, Chicago sellers now have a good chance of attracting a buyer (or even multiple buyers) if they stage their home properly and price it fairly. Let me know if you need help!
The spring housing market has been very busy this year, with many homes going under contract quickly and multiple offers cropping up on some of the most desirable properties. Recent data from the Illinois Assn. of Realtors confirms that the Chicago market is finally gaining strength again after several years of steady declines.
In the city of Chicago, the median home price for April jumped 9.3% over that of the previous year, to $184,800. April home sales were also up significantly, rising 19.4% over this time last spring (which was kind of sluggish). Last April there were 1,466 single-family houses and condos sold, but this year the number shot up to 1,750. Chicago home prices and sales also increased in March over the prior year, though not as dramatically.
“With rents in the city of Chicago increasing, paired with a limited supply of rentals available, renters are reviewing their options,” said Bob Floss, president of the Chicago Assn. of Realtors. “Historically low interest rates and great opportunities in the market are compelling to both first-time and move-up buyers looking to spend their dollars wisely and own their own home.”
I have seen a lot of activity this spring, from first-time buyers finally ready to jump into the market to investors paying cash to snap up distressed properties to families seeking to move into a larger home. There have been more than a few bidding wars, particularly on single-family houses in desirable locations. The market finally seems to be finding its footing. But what I don’t see is buyers — who are without exception looking for a good deal — bothering with homes that are obviously overpriced.
If you are looking to buy a Chicago-area home this year, keep in mind that updated properties in nice neighborhoods tend to attract a lot of interest, and if they are well-priced they could sell quickly. And if you are trying to sell a home, be sure it is competitively priced. Buyers are out there for homes that are properly priced — and you may sell faster than you imagined.
Short sales are getting a tad easier these days. That’s not to say they aren’t a pain in the neck — they are, for both buyers and sellers — but hundreds more of them are closing in the Chicago area, and nationwide, as banks finally realize that in many cases this is a better outcome than a foreclosure.
Why are short sales so difficult? The answer is that someone — a bank — will lose money. With a short sale, a borrower is trying to sell his/her home for less than what they owe on the mortgage, sometimes considerably less. In order for a short sale to close, the lender must agree to the loss, and banks by nature don’t want to lose money. Many banks are also swamped with mortgages gone bad, and they typically take months to respond to a short sale offer. And sometimes they say no.
Right now, I have three different short sale deals under contract with various buyers. One was supposed to be ready to close “right away,” since several previous deals had fallen through and the bank had already approved the list price. But it’s been more than a month so far. The other two deals will probably drag on for much longer, since the banks involved have yet to approve a short sale or even respond.
Still, short sales are on the rise. According to a story yesterday in the Chicago Tribune, there were 907 short-sale transactions in the Chicago area in January alone — a 35% increase over a year ago. Foreclosures, however, accounted for twice as many sales.
Nationally, too, more short sales are being completed. An estimated 105,000 short sales closed during the first quarter nationwide, the highest number in three years.
I still don’t advise attempting to buy a short sale if you’re on any sort of a timeline. But if you have months to spare, and plenty of patience to boot, you could give it a shot. More deals seem to be closing, and you’ll probably get a good deal on the price. Short sales sold at an average discount of 23% in January, the Tribune said, while foreclosures sold for 29% off.
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.
With financing for development so tight, it’s gotten quite hard to find new condos under construction throughout Chicago’s North side. What you can find, however, are hundreds of condos built in the last five years — where the value has fallen so far from what the original owner paid that many of them are nearing or already in foreclosure.
That means there are plenty of almost new condos in almost new buildings, many of them being sold at bargain prices. In Lincoln Square and North Center, two popular areas that include Ravenswood and Roscoe Village, there are more than 50 condos with at least 2-bedrooms that fit this description — all for sale at prices under $400,000.
At the lower end of the scale you have distressed (meaning financially troubled, not necessarily physically damaged) properties like 2472 W Foster Ave. #206, a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit with garage parking for only $194,000. This empty unit is a short sale, which requires bank approval (and patience on the part of a buyer). The 1300-square-foot condo boasts limestone baths and a balcony, and it is located in a 5-year-old building where similar units sold for $280,000 to $335,000 in late 2006 and early 2007.
Meanwhile, there are several properties for sale in the $300,000 range with considerably more space. Consider 4809 N California Ave. #2W, also in Lincoln Square, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath with Brazilian cherry floors, a master bath with a steam shower and jacuzzi tub, and a large deck. Parking is $20,000 extra. Or 4313 N Western Ave. #2 in North Center, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath unit with parking. It features cherry cabinets and granite counters, stone baths and hardwood floors, located in an intimate 3-unit building built in 2008.
At the upper end of the range, there’s a 3-bedroom, 2-bath Roscoe Village condo with two parking spaces, a large deck and a balcony. Located at 2332 W Belmont Ave. #2, this is a 1700-square-feet unit featuring a separate dining room, gourmet kitchen, limestone baths and custom closets. It is priced at $398,500.
So if you’re looking for new construction in this age of scant construction, don’t despair. There are some wonderful, slightly used condos out there, available for much less than the first owner paid.
Chicago two-flats are back… as a good investment option, that is. For much of the last decade, their price had climbed so high as to no longer make sense for many owners. As I had warned in previous posts, it is ludicrous to pay $500,000 or $600,000 (or more) for a two-flat when each unit will only rent for $1,200 or $1,300 a month.
And once the recession hit, this obvious math finally caught up with many two-flat owners. Suddenly people were scrambling to unload these properties, and the price of multi-unit buildings plunged. Now that they are priced more realistically — meaning that if an owner were to rent out both units, it would come close to covering the mortgage and other expenses — Chicago two-flats are suddenly in demand once more.
In Edgewater, for instance, a classic red brick two-flat located at 1300 W Norwood Street recently sold for $370,500. The math here makes sense: Assuming the buyer put down 10% and got a 30-year loan at a 4.5% interest rate, the monthly payment (including property taxes and insurance) would be about $2,525. Each unit has 3 bedrooms and a bath, which in Edgewater would rent for around $1,400 per month, giving the owner $2,800 in income. That’s enough to cover the expenses… which indicates that this purchase is a sound investment. (And in my example, the buyer didn’t even put down 20 percent! The numbers would work even better if he/she had.)
What wouldn’t make any sense at all is paying $600,000 for the same property, which is where it was originally priced in January 2010. The seller had to reduce the price seven times over the next year, finally settling at $429,000. Still, this two-flat closed for nearly $60,000 less when it sold in April 2011.
In Chicago, people sometimes buy two-flats with the intention of converting them into a single-family house. But even then, the property must be obtained for a reasonable price to make financial sense. These days, dozens of affordable two-flats can be found in appealing neighborhoods. I just searched the MLS in four North side neighborhoods relatively close to the lake — Edgewater, Uptown, Lincoln Square and North Center — and found 29 two-flats for sale from $149,000 (a foreclosure in Lincoln Square) to $400,000.
Is it time to jump back into the two-flat market? If the numbers make sense, I say yes.
Check out my new listing, an elegant duplex-up condo in the heart of Lincoln Square. In real estate parlance, a duplex-up is a two-story condo unit where the bedrooms are upstairs, rather than tucked below grade on the basement level in a duplex-down unit. Duplex-up condos are much harder to find than duplex-downs, and they are prized because the bedrooms feel light and airy since they are often on the third floor or above.
This duplex, located at 2646 W Gunnison #2, is nearly new and packed with upgrades. The building was gut rehabbed and converted to condos in 2007, and this unit features a gourmet kitchen with cherry cabinets, granite counters, a tile backsplash, a breakfast bar, and all stainless-steel appliances. The kitchen opens to a striking living/dining area with classic recessed ceilings, a gas fireplace, and large windows that let in the sunlight. There are hardwood floors, crown molding, and elegant finishes throughout. You can check out more photos here.
On the upper level, there are two bedrooms and two luxury baths, each ensconced in a private suite. There is also a laundry room down the hall, making it easy to wash and fold clothes without trekking up and down stairs.
The condo is located in an intimate 10-unit building that is across the street from a park. It’s close to the Brown line and all the restaurants and shops of Lincoln Square. This is a beautiful, modern home, priced to sell at $299,900. If you would like to see this duplex, or any of my other listings, please call me at 773-816-1788. Thanks!
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.
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 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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- How to Buy a Chicago Foreclosure (as Supply Steadily Shrinks)
- Home prices jump 15% in 2014, but cold weather chills sales
- Lincoln Square on a Tear as Average House Price Tops $600,000
- More choices ahead for Chicago buyers as rally cools