Sue Fox, @Properties. Direct 773.816.1788
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Little by little, Chicago developers are once again breaking ground on new houses on lots sprinkled across the North side, bringing dozens of high-end homes to neighborhoods like North Center (which includes Roscoe Village and Ravenswood), Lincoln Park, and Bucktown. In North Center, for example, 18 new homes were sold this year, another 16 are still on the market, while 4 more are under contract.
It looks like Chicago is now witnessing the Return of the Spec Builder — local developers who plan, design and build single-family houses without having a buyer lined up ahead of time. “While spec building never entirely dried up, it slowed significantly after the bust, leaving only a few developers with deep pockets still standing” said a recent story in Crain’s Chicago Business. “Now, smaller builders that waited for signs of life — and the availability of financing — are once again breaking ground on million-dollar-plus homes, confident that buyers will bite.”
In North Center, the new homes for sale range from a 3-bedroom frame house at 2440 W Fletcher St. for $649,900 (with delivery planned for 2012) to a 7-bedroom mini-mansion on an oversized lot at 1936 W Grace St. for $1,749,900 (that the builder promises to customize.) But the majority of the homes are 5-bedroom houses, many of them in the Coonley elementary school district, for $1 million to $1.3 million.
A typical offering is 4108 N Claremont Street, which has a large family room on the main floor, a second-floor laundry room, and a finished basement with a rec room and a wet bar. It has been on the market for only a week, priced at $1,199,000. Once finished, it will be just over 4,000-square feet, with amenities like radiant heat, steam showers and an outdoor fireplace.
While Chicago is just starting to see a glimmer of new construction, housing starts — a measure of how many homes builders are working on — are up sharply throughout the country. Today the Commerce Department reported that housing starts jumped 9.3% in November, the highest in the past 19 months. It seems that low interest rates for mortgages, as well as lower home prices, are propelling buyers back into the market for new houses.
In Chicago, developer Mike Barrett of Barrett Homes is building three spec homes, in Roscoe Village, west Lakeview and Bucktown. “I wouldn’t say the market is flush with prospective buyers,” he told Crain’s, “but the people who are looking seem to be well-qualified and have a pretty good idea of what they want in a home.”
With the spring home-buying season right around the corner, it’s time for all you home sellers out there to put your plan into action for 2012. Selling property in Chicago, especially a condo, has gotten quite difficult, and every year there are thousands of perfectly nice condos that linger on the market without attracting a buyer. Here are some important steps you can take to make sure yours isn’t one of them:
1) Time it right: Chicago has a seasonal real estate market, with most properties going under contract during the first half of the year. In Chicago, the “spring” home-buying season starts early. Every year, I start getting calls from potential buyers as soon as New’s Year’s Day — and this year, I’ve even gotten a bunch in December. Despite the cold (and often despite heavy snow), many Chicago buyers throw on their winter coats and go house-hunting throughout January and February. The buyer traffic picks up even more after the Super Bowl, usually held during the first week of February. So if you are a home seller, aim to get your home onto the market sometime between January and May. By the summertime months, home sales start to decline and they are usually much slower by the fall. Often, the properties that take ages to sell (and endure multiple price cuts) are the ones that hit the market in the second half of the year, when not many buyers are out looking.
2) Stage it right: Many Chicago condos tend to be rather small, or short on storage or closet space. But even the larger ones, with 3 or more bedrooms, could benefit from the eye of an experienced realtor or home stager. We know what people like. By and large, buyers want to see clean, open spaces, free of bulky furniture that eats up the space, crowded counter tops, and stuffed closets. In this market, your condo literally needs to look like a developer’s model — beautiful, spare, tasteful, spacious. Imagine the rooms in a Pottery Barn catalog. Now is the time to rent a storage space or haul all your extra stuff out to your parent’s basement. Please get rid of all clutter and unnecessary furniture, and this often means items you don’t perceive as clutter or furniture that seems necessary to you. When you are trying to sell your condo, you often must spend months living with half your stuff in storage, as inconvenient as that is. Believe me, buyers don’t want to see that desk you had to cram into your bedroom because there was no other place for it, or that huge square ottoman that’s taking up half your living room floor. Reduce, reduce, reduce. Your condo will be much more attractive to buyers and will sell more quickly.
3) Price it right!!! This is by far the most important thing. Even a ratty old condo that hits the market in early October will sell if the price is low enough. Assuming you have something much nicer to sell, it is still IMPERATIVE that you price it correctly, which means: In line with what similar condos in your neighborhood have actually SOLD for in recent months, or slightly lower. It does NOT mean: what you paid for it, or what you owe. Those numbers are not relevant to the current market. If you aren’t sure what your condo is worth today, please call me at 773-816-1788 and I’d be happy to prepare a Comparative Market Analysis and bring it over. Unfortunately for sellers, Chicago home prices have fallen back to levels last seen a decade ago, which means most people who bought their condo more recently are either underwater (owing more than the property is worth) or forced to sell for less than they paid. Buyers today are a hesitant bunch, with little sense of urgency or desire to compromise on their wish list, and they will skip right over properties that are overpriced.
One last thing: If you are underwater on your condo but still need to sell or rent it, please let me know. I can help walk you through the various options so that you can move on with your life!
With so many foreclosed homes and short sales on the market, I’m sometimes contacted by home buyers hoping to scoop up a distressed property in one of Chicago’s most affluent neighborhoods. Trouble is, these areas have held their value better than most, and often there aren’t many foreclosures or short sales to choose from.
But in Lincoln Park, I have seen distress sales steadily rising over the last couple years — to the point that more than 1 in 8 condo sales in Lincoln Park in 2011 involved a foreclosure or short sale. So far, there have been 658 condo sales this year; 45 were short sales and 42 were foreclosures, meaning that 13.2% were distress sales. The majority of them involved homes that sold for $250,000 or less.
The bargains included 20 condos, all studios or one-bedroom units, that sold for $100,000 or less — a price range once virtually unheard of in Lincoln Park.
If you’re hoping to find a single-family house being sold under a financial cloud, however, your choices are fewer. Only 13 out of 135 Lincoln Park houses sold in 2011 were short sales or foreclosures. That’s less than 10%.
Most of these single-family houses sold for less than $1 million, but there were a handful of high-end luxury homes that also slid towards foreclosure. In some cases, it looks like a developer overestimated the market and got caught with a new home he/she couldn’t sell. At 2664 N Greenview, which the listing describes a 6-bedroom “designed mansion” built in 2008, the developer originally listed it for sale four years ago at $2.4 million. But as the market tanked, no buyer stepped forward, and the price was steadily chopped until the house finally sold this June (as a short sale) for $1.5 million.
Even a millionaire likes a bargain, after all. The most expensive distress sale in Lincoln Park was a new 15-room mansion at 2461 N Geneva Terrace “designed by a European architect for himself,” according to the listing, that sold in September for $2,725,000. Apparently the European architect couldn’t afford the grand home, which hit the market in early 2009 with a $6.25 million price tag. By 2010, it was being marketed as a short sale, and it eventually was seized by the bank and sold as a foreclosure.
It was still one of the most expensive homes sold in Lincoln Park this year.
Please see my other blog posts at www.hometochicago.com
At last, housing prices will finally hit bottom and begin to increase in 2012, according to a group of 54 economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal.
The increase will be slight, probably less than 2.5% a year — not enough to keep up with inflation, the economists said. Yet the rebound will still be a welcome relief for homeowners across the country, who saw prices slip again this year. The economists predicted that home prices, as tracked by the Federal Housing Finance Administration, will fall 2.7% in 2011.
In Chicago, we’ve seen home prices drop about 5% this year, according to the most recent data from the Case-Shiller home price index. Prices started to recover here over the summer, only to dip ever so slightly (less than 1%) between August and September.
What’s next for the Chicago market? With interest rates at record lows — local lenders like Guaranteed Rate are now offering 30-year fixed mortgages at 3.85% — it’s still a stunningly cheap time to buy a home. But unemployment remains stubbornly high in the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville area, a factor that is likely to keep a lid on home prices. Even though Illinois led the nation in job growth in October, unemployment jumped from 8.8% a year ago to 9.7% in the Chicago area.
Every year, I have a sizable number of buyers who want to live in Lakeview. They may already rent an apartment there, or perhaps in Lincoln Park, and they draw the line at Addison (or sometimes Irving Park Rd.) and refuse to go any further north, where housing prices drop considerably. And now, they don’t have to.
Like other hot neighborhoods in Chicago, Lakeview has become increasingly affordable. A nice 2-bedroom/2-bath condo, often including parking, is now within reach of many first-time buyers. There are now 53 such condos for sale at prices under $250,000, and 45 of them come with parking.
At the low end (under $200,000), many of the units are shorts sales, which will require some time and patience on the part of buyers to close the deal. These tend to be in high-rise buildings with vintage features, and some updating of kitchens, bathrooms, and outdated carpets is often needed.
In the $200K to $250K price range, the majority of these condos are also in high-rise buildings, but they are often larger and more updated, sometimes with lake views. Occasionally I’ll come across a Lakeview condo in a small building, but these are few and far between in Lakeview, and are typically snatched up quickly — if they are priced right.
Take a look at 634 W Roscoe St. #2N, a recent rehab in a 22-unit courtyard building in a prime east Lakeview location. It was initially (over)priced at $275,000 and has now lingered on the market for almost a year. But in that time, the seller slashed the asking price to $225,000. The unit is on the small side, with bedrooms that measure 14×10 and 10×9, but it is updated and includes a rental parking spot across the street for $185/month. It’s also in the coveted Nettlehorst elementary school district.
There are several other short sales in small buildings that are already under contract. Whether they will actually close is anyone’s guess. But if you want a sure thing, check out 1645 W School St. #401 in the popular 60657 Lofts building, right beside Whole Foods, Caribou coffee, and the Wishbone restaurant. It’s a loft with 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, nearly new kitchen appliances, a fireplace and a balcony for $249,900. This one, too, has been on the market awhile (since February) because it was initially priced $75,000 higher. The owner is asking an additional $25,000 for parking. But in this market, everything is negotiable.
There will certainly be more condos hitting the market as soon as the new year begins. So if Lakeview is your preferred neighborhood, 2012 should bring plenty of affordable condos to choose from — a rare opportunity in one of Chicago’s most desirable areas.
Check out my listing at 5400 N Sheridan, a low-rise building located a block from the lake in Edgewater. It’s hard to find a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo — with parking included — in this area for less than $150,000, especially one that’s not in a high-rise building with high monthly assessments.
The assessments here are just $368 per month, and that includes heat, gas, and basic cable TV. And the unit is big, with 2 large bedrooms, including a master bedroom with a huge walk-in closet, an in-suite bath, and a full laundry room. There are newly-refinished hardwood floors throughout, an updated kitchen, a gas fireplace, and plenty of closet space. It also comes with a parking space and extra storage in the basement.
Best of all, this condo is just a block from the lake and three blocks from Andersonville’s shops and restaurants. It’s also close to the Red line, the Bryn Mawr historic district, and the new Dominick’s store at Foster and Sheridan.
We just reduced the price $10,000 to $149,900 — a great deal for this neighborhood — so give me a call at 773-816-1788 if you want to come see it!
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.
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!
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.”
Condo 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.
Yesterday I took some buyers out house-hunting in Uptown, a historic neighborhood packed with vintage architecture, restaurants, nightclubs, and classic music halls like the Riviera, the Aragon Ballroom and the Green Mill jazz club. One of the best aspects of Uptown, in my humble realtor’s opinion, is that it’s one of the only North Side neighborhoods close to the lake that offers big, roomy, vintage homes at affordable prices — and the prices have gotten even more affordable lately.
If you’re looking for lots of space — meaning a large living room (often with a fireplace and built-in bookshelves), a separate dining room, spacious bedrooms, an eat-in kitchen, and often a sunroom and back deck to boot — Uptown should definitely make your short list. Condo buyers in particular should check out the Sheridan Park section of Uptown, bounded by Montrose, Clark, Lawrence and Broadway, which has dozens of historic six-flats. My buyers and I just visited several 3-bedroom units, with parking included, in the $230,000 to $280,000 range. These condos often sold for $325,000 and up just a few years ago, and they are so big that buyers can be confident they won’t outgrow them in a few years.
For buyers hunting for a single-family home, Uptown features turn-of-the-century gems with lots of space for the money. Many of them are Victorian homes built in the 1890s or Prairie style houses built over the next two decades. For a history lover like me, these homes are so gorgeous that mere words fail to do them justice… So here are some photos to tell the story. All of the homes pictured here are currently for sale:
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