Sue Fox, @Properties. Direct 773.816.1788
Subscribe to Site
- FHA loans
- Market conditions
- Tax credits
Real Estate radio
Archive for the 'Neighborhoods' Category
It’s an odd conundrum: Mortgage rates have never been lower and home prices have plunged, making 2012 an excellent time to buy property… And yet, there are so few places to choose from. Where have all the houses gone?
In Chicago, housing inventory is so low that many would-be buyers have grown frustrated with their search and decided to wait until the spring. As of October 1, there were 37,619 condos and single-family houses for sale, a 17% decrease over a year ago. In fact, Chicago’s home inventory has been steadily falling for years.
Here are the October figures for the last few years, according to data kept by the ITT Technical Institute:
October 2011 45,162 homes for sale
October 2010 51,265 homes for sale
October 2009 53,949 homes for sale
October 2008 60,169 homes for sale
October 2007 67,479 homes for sale
The limited selection has meant long and aggravating searches for buyers eager to find a home. Making matters worse (at least for ordinary buyers who want to live in the home without doing major renovations) many of the houses and condos on the market are distressed properties that need work. When a well-kept home in a desirable neighborhood does hit the market, it often sells quickly and sometimes attracts multiple offers.
This summer, I helped one couple find a 4-bedroom house in Edgewater, in a good school district they had targeted for their children. But the search took six months, and they made offers on at least two or three other homes that went to other buyers. They were very motivated to buy, but the problem was there were hardly any houses to choose from! Another couple I worked with, who were seeking a 3-bedroom condo in Andersonville, Edgewater or Uptown, ran into the same problem and finally decided to keep renting until the spring, when more properties hit the market.
I can think of at least three reasons for the tight inventory: Many Chicago homeowners are still underwater and can’t afford to sell, banks who own foreclosed homes have been holding some of their inventory off the market so as not to further depress prices, and thousands of would-be sellers simply don’t want to list their homes now — at the bottom of the market — when prices look like they will be higher next year or the year after.
Serious Chicago buyers know that they need to be ready to pounce when they see the home they want, before it’s gone. And for sellers, the lack of quality inventory gives them a chance to finally sell their homes, especially if they are in good condition and priced competitively.
The spring of 2012 seems to mark the turning point for the Chicago housing market. We now have several months of solid data showing that home prices and sales are both on the rise, and the latest numbers from May suggest that the market is finally gaining strength.
In May, sales of single-family houses and condos soared almost 20% over the previous year, from 1,703 to 2,037 homes. It looks like buyers are snatching up mortgages with record-low interest rates (or simply paying cash) to take advantage of home prices that rival those last seen more than a decade ago. But prices, too, are now on the rise; the median sale price in May was $203,000, up 6.8% over last May.
Last week, I had a buyer getting ready to make an offer on a condo in Lakeview. She was reviewing comps I’d sent her about six weeks earlier, when we began looking in that area, and she had devised what seemed like a fair price. But wait! I ran the latest comps, which captured all the May and early June sales, and it was immediately clear that prices had already shot up. That’s how quickly this market is moving.
It’s been a relief for many sellers — those who priced their homes reasonably — to see how quickly they were able to sell this spring. Buyers are finally out in force, and they are sometimes getting into bidding wars for the most desirable places. If your home is still on the market this summer, it is likely priced too high. It’s time to take a closer look at the recent sales and adjust your price accordingly, before the inevitable fall slowdown comes.
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.
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.
In many Chicago neighborhoods we’ve been seeing condo prices falling steadily, while the price of single-family houses has tended to hold up a little better. This is the case in places like Lincoln Square, Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park, West Ridge and Logan Square.
In Lakeview and North Center, which are two of the most popular North side neighborhoods, both condos and houses have held their value and prices have even slightly increased over the past two years.
But in Lincoln Park — another popular neighborhood, and one of Chicago’s most expensive — I’m seeing condo prices hold steady (with just a small 3.3% decline over two years) while single-family house prices have fallen steeply. The median single-family house price is now $1,280,000 in Lincoln Park, a 22.4% drop over two years earlier, when the median was $1,650,000.
This plunge suggests the difficulty of selling high-end houses in a time of uncertainly and austerity. In Chicago, only the Near North Side (home to Old Town, the Gold Coast, Streeterville and River North) now boasts higher single-family home prices than Lincoln Park, with a median price of $1.6 million. But that figure also reflects a major drop, down 25.6% in the last two years.
I think there could be something more at work, though. Maybe some luxury buyers are choosing the suburbs over the city? Over the past two years, single-family home prices have held relatively steady across much of the North Shore, including Wilmette, Winnetka and Glencoe.
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.)
The highest end of Chicago’s housing market took a beating in 2011, with sales of homes for $1 million or more falling 14.4% over the prior year. Only 539 such properties sold in 2011, compared with 630 homes in 2010.
Luxury condo sales were particularly hard hit, according to a recent story in Crain’s Chicago Business. Sales of million-dollar condos plunged 29% to 259 units, compared with 364 in 2010. The decline was partly attributed to the fact that no major new luxury condo developments were completed last year.
But the uncertain economy and troubled real estate market also certainly played a role. Many people are holding off on big-ticket purchases, and million-dollar homes are taking longer to sell. There’s a year-and-a-half supply of luxury homes sitting unsold throughout the Chicago area, Crain’s reported.
On the ground, I’m seeing some of these single-family homes endure multiple price reductions, occasionally to the point that their original asking price is sliced nearly in half. Often homes priced slightly above $1 million will sell for closer to $850,000 or $900,000. On the other hand, new or recently-built homes in hot school districts tend to sell quickly, with less of a discount off the asking price.
While home prices in most Chicago neighborhoods have been steadily falling, North Center — a desirable area with good schools and walkable neighborhoods like Roscoe Village — is bucking the trend. In 2011, the median price for a single-family house here rose to $805,000, a 7.5% increase over the year before.
More of these lovely houses are being sold, too. Sales of North Center houses soared almost 23% in 2011.
Condo prices in North Center, meanwhile, have held steady, ranging from a median of $365,000 to $370,000 over the past three years. Considering that condos in many other North Side areas have fallen at least 10-20% in value in recent years, North Center is definitely holding up quite well.
As the new year begins, I have two buyers looking in North Center, both young couples with children interested in homes available here in good elementary school districts such as Coonley, Bell and Audubon. And despite the relatively high median price of $805,000, you can definitely find an updated 3 or 4-bedroom house in North Center for considerably less money. More than 30 houses, many of them century-old homes that have been renovated, sold for $500,000 to $700,000 in 2011.
- Sizzle is back in the South Loop
- 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