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Home prices jump 15% in 2014, but cold weather chills sales

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Market conditions, Sellers posted on January 8th, 2015

GOING TO GRACELAND:

GOING TO GRACELAND: This beautiful 1906 home in the west Graceland neighborhood sold for $820,000 -- $21,000 above the list price -- in just 3 days this fall. With fewer homes to choose from in Chicago, prices are up 15% over last year.

The new year is off to a bitterly cold start, with temps hitting 5 below zero this morning and Chicago public schools closed for the second day in a row. While the brutal weather is never ideal for house-hunting, Chicago’s real estate market nonetheless is on the upswing, with prices increasing a whopping 15% in 2014, according to the latest sales figures from the Illinois Assn. of Realtors.

Home price appreciation in the city was more than double that in the state of Illinois as a whole, where prices rose 6.9% from November 2013 to November 2104. But fewer homes were changing hands — a mark of the low inventory that continues to flummox buyers who enter the market with high hopes only to discover how few homes are actually for sale.

“As we round out the year, higher median sales prices and low inventory continue to be the market pattern,” said Hugh Rider, president of the Chicago Assn. of Realtors.

Home sales in Chicago dropped 11.5% over the past year, and the scarcity of homes listed for sale helped push up prices. The median home price increased to $230,000 in November, the latest month for which data is available.

Some analysts also said that a spate of freezing weather in November (which has gotten even worse in January!) was to blame for driving down sales. It was the state’s “fourth-coldest November on record,” pointed out Geoffrey Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Lab at the University of Illinois. “While prices continue to improve, the sales forecast for the next three months indicates declines,” he said. Foreclosures sales are also on the decline, leading to fewer investor purchases.

All of which points to 2015 as a bright year for home sellers, who may be able to finally sell their home at an acceptable price — which for most people means they won’t have to bring any money to closing. If the Chicago market continues to recover, more and more fortunate sellers could even reap a profit.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Lincoln Square on a Tear as Average House Price Tops $600,000

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Lincoln Square, Market conditions, Sellers posted on January 5th, 2015

FINISHED PRODUCT: This new FINISHED PRODUCT: This new 5-bedroom house in the Bowmanville area of Lincoln Square recently sold for almost $900,000. The previous home, shown below, was torn down.

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.

RAW MATERIAL:

RAW MATERIAL: The original house, which stood for more than 100 years, was purchased by a developer for $250,000 cash in early 2013 and demolished.

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.)

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

More choices ahead for Chicago buyers as rally cools

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Edgewater, First-time buyers, Market conditions, Sellers posted on November 20th, 2014

OR BEST OFFER: OR BEST OFFER: This 5-bedroom Lakeview home, priced at $629,900, had been used as rental house for two decades. It needed some updating, and though it sold quickly in September, it went for $575,000. Buyers can expect more room to negotiate with sellers in 2015, as inventory rises.

OR BEST OFFER: This 5-bedroom Lakeview home, priced at $629,900, had been used as rental house for two decades. It needed some updating, and though it sold quickly in September, it went for just $575,000. Buyers can expect more room to negotiate with sellers in 2015, as inventory rises.

I recently represented a buyer who was looking for a condo in Edgewater. We found a good option, and even though my buyer made a cash offer within a few thousand dollars of the asking price, the seller’s agent kept insisting that there was “a great deal of interest” in this property and that we’d better come up to list price or it would be gone. But the days went by, and despite the alleged tide of interest, no one else actually emerged with a better offer. The seller eventually accepted my buyer’s offer and we are scheduled to close shortly.

A year ago, I wouldn’t have been surprised if, in fact, there were at least 2 or 3 other interested buyers. Inventory was quite tight as sellers held off listing their homes, hoping for prices to climb — and they did. Chicago home prices jumped dramatically in 2013, by more than 11%, and multiple-offer situations became quite common.

But in the last few months, buyers again seem to be gaining advantage as inventory increases. The number of homes on the market is now up more than 5% over last fall, according to MLS data. And new listings have increased each month since March.

This means we are now close to a balanced market in Chicago, in which supply and demand meet in the middle and neither buyers nor sellers have the upper hand. There is now almost a 5-month supply of homes on the market, and most experts consider a 6-month supply to be the critical balance point.

So if you weren’t able to find the home of your dreams this year, don’t give up! A bigger selection of homes for sale, and possibly a slowdown in prices, may be ahead in 2015.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

It’s over: After 7 years, buyer’s market in Chicago comes to an end

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Lincoln Park, Sellers posted on August 26th, 2013

MOVING

MOVING ON UP: With home inventory scarce and prices up 25% over last summer, buyers have lost their edge in the Chicago market. But sellers still must be mindful of the comps and price their homes accordingly. This 2-bedroom, 2-bath Lincoln Park condo sold rapidly, in 14 days, after the sellers dropped the price from $499,000 to $475,000.

For all the Chicago home buyers out there who were waiting for the bottom, it has arrived. In fact, we seem to have hit it sometime late last year, as the spring market here rebounded with a fury. Now, as the summer season winds down, we can clearly see that home prices are up substantially, inventory is still quite low, and Chicago real estate is selling more quickly than it has in many years.

What’s a buyer to do? First, it’s time to recognize that the market has fundamentally changed. No longer can you see a well-kept property in a desirable area like Lakeview or Lincoln Park or Bucktown, throw out a lowball offer and expect to get a deal. In most cases, you won’t even get a call back. The home will be gone, sold to another buyer, oftentimes in a matter of days at a price close to the asking price. This scenario, meanwhile, is spreading to other less-central, less-gentrified neighborhoods that aren’t considered as hot.

So, if you are a serious buyer, you must get your ducks in a row. Decide early on which neighborhoods you would like to live in, because you will need a disciplined focus — not just a general preference for “anywhere on the North side” or “somewhere near an L stop” — in order to  jump on good listings as soon as they hit the market. Get pre-approved for a loan if you need one, or prepare to provide proof of funds if you plan to pay cash. And then, get to know the current market.

For example, in June, Chicago home prices surged 17.5% when compared to the previous June, and sales were up 12.5%. The average time a home was on the market, meanwhile, fell 32.9% to just 51 days.

And the market only grew hotter as the summer wore on. By July, the median price was $250,000 — up 25% from the previous July when it was $200,000. Sales were up 31.1% over the past year. Average market time dropped to 48 days.

“The market is starting to come together, especially in the condo arena that was hard-hit across most areas of the city. That condos are moving at a strong pace now and prices are also increasing means that both buyers and sellers are feeling confident,” said Zeke Morris, president of the Chicago Association of Realtors.

As we head into the fall season, Chicago’s real estate market will inevitably slow down. The fall is a good time for potential buyers to start exploring the market, even though there won’t be a lot to choose from. There also won’t be as much competition from other buyers. You can go to open houses, check out some neighborhoods, get a sense of pricing.

My buyers who start their search in the fall or winter are the ones who are best prepared to find a good deal come spring, when sellers start to list their homes again. These buyers know the market quite well by that time, and they are ready to pounce when the right house comes along.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Chicago home prices & sales skyrocket in May

filed under: Andersonville, Bucktown, Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Loop, Market conditions, Sellers posted on June 24th, 2013

LINKED

GOING FAST: Like many homes in desirable Chicago neighborhoods, this Lincoln Square house sold in less than a week. With 3 bedrooms, 3 baths and a finished basement, it went for $555,000 -- less than $5,000 off the asking price -- and closed in May.

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!

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Obama refi plan could help housing market

filed under: FHA loans, Foreclosures, Sellers, Short sales posted on January 25th, 2012

GRACELAND

UNDER DISTRESS IN GRACELAND WEST: This 3-bedroom 1908 home is now listed as a short sale for $500,000. It was snapped up by a buyer in just a day, but has yet to close. Like many distressed homes in Chicago, this one bounced on and off the market for several years at much higher prices, starting at $945,000 in 2007.

In his State of the Union speech last night, President Barack Obama proposed a new plan to let all underwater homeowners refinance at today’s super-low mortgage rates — a proposal that could help heal the housing market and inject fresh cash into the economy.

If Congress approves it, that is. And with a Republican-controlled House that continues to block many of Obama’s initiatives, that is a big if.

The Obama administration has already offered a variety of programs aimed at stemming the tide of foreclosures, helping people modify their loans, and promoting refinancing for government-backed mortgages. But so far, the impact has been minimal and more than 3 million homes have been repossessed since the housing boom ended in 2006.

In Chicago, where the median home price has dropped about 30% since the downturn began, thousands of underwater homeowners have either lost their homes to foreclosure or been forced to sell in a short sale. Nearly half of the recent sales here now involve distressed properties. Each year, I meet dozens of people who would like to sell, if only they could get enough to pay off their mortgage.

Obama’s plan would at least help these folks hang onto their homes. Each homeowner could save an estimated $3,000 per year if he/she could refi and take advantage of the lowest rates (around 4% for a 30-year fixed mortgage) in half a century. Then they could pump those savings back into the economy, whose lifeblood is consumer spending. The Obama administration estimates that the program could benefit two to three million homeowners, according to the New York Times.

It’s a sensible plan all around, but some financial analysts are already proclaiming it dead on arrival, saying it won’t get through Congress. The sticking point seems to be a “small fee” that would be imposed on large banks to help fund the plan. Will this prove to be  another instance of Congress protecting Wall Street profits at the expense of Main Street homeowners?

Written by Sue Fox // 1 Comment »

Chicago home prices drop 12% in year

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Market conditions, Sellers posted on December 25th, 2011

UNDER CONTRACT:
UNDER CONTRACT IN ANDERSONVILLE: This 4-bedroom house, listed at $524,500, found a buyer this month after more than a year on the market. The price started at $699,000 and was cut multiple times.

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season this year.

I just wanted to give you a quick update on where prices are heading: Down, in a word. The latest housing data from the Illinois Assn. of Realtors shows that Chicago home sales are picking up, but prices have continued to fall throughout 2011.

In November, sales of single-family houses and condos in Chicago totaled 1,377 — a 20.4% jump over the previous year. But nearly half of them involved short sales or foreclosures, troubled properties that are often sold at a discount. That’s the main reason, in my view, that Chicago’s median price has continued to slide.

The median price for a Chicago home sold in November was just $160,000. That’s 12.3% lower than it stood in November 2010 — and a startling 45% decline from the median price of $290,000 in November 2007.

Check out the plunge, year over year:

November 2007: 1859 sales and median price of $290,000

November 2008: 1093 sales and median price of $222,500

November 2009: 1905 sales and median price of $215,000

November 2010: 1144 sales and median price of $182,500

November 2011: 1377 sales and median price of $160,000

It seems that our local market is stabilizing as far as sales go, albeit with a lower volume of homes changing hands. But prices have yet to bounce back by any long-term measure. They may increase slightly for a month or two, but year-over-year home prices have declined for about half a decade now.

As the new year approaches, it looks like it will be a stellar year for home buyers, who now enjoy the lowest prices in 11 years and the lowest mortgage rates in more than half a century. Homeowners, however, will continue to suffer and sellers who are truly motivated will have to lower their asking prices to match this sunken market.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

How to sell your Chicago condo in 2012

filed under: Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, Market conditions, North Center, Sellers posted on December 16th, 2011

274 DAYS LATER...

274 DAYS LATER... This unique 2-bedroom/2-bath Roscoe Village condo, located in an intimate 3-unit Victorian building, hit the market in June 2010 -- not a great time to list a condo in Chicago. Besides missing the spring market when most home-buyers are out looking, this one also missed the $8,000 tax credit the government gave to first-time buyers who signed a contract by April last year. Demand was really low by the summer, and this condo -- which included an office, back deck, large backyard and parking -- did not sell until the following April, 274 days later. By then the price had dropped from $350,000 to $300,000.

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!

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Home prices expected to rise in 2012

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, First-time buyers, Market conditions, North Center, Sellers posted on December 9th, 2011

A FALTERING FLIP?

A FALTERING FLIP? It's hard to flip a house for a profit when prices keep sinking. This 3-bedroom home in Roscoe Village, a foreclosure, sold in just 8 days for $285,000 in July. But its new owner put it right back on the market, without doing much besides staging it, for $419,000. With prices down about 5% citywide this year, there were no takers. Four months later, the house is still for sale -- now at $339,000.

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.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Trick or treat? Fall buyers grab sweet deals

filed under: Buyers, Lakeview, Market conditions, Sellers posted on October 31st, 2011

A SCARY TIME FOR SELLERS:

A HAUNTING TIME FOR SELLERS: This 4-bedroom home in Lakeview just sold in October for $786,000 -- more than $110,000 off its original list price in May. Autumn is usually an excellent time for Chicago buyers to score a deal, since many sellers are eager to sell before another winter descends.

Happy Halloween! As the Chicago streets fill with little pirates and princesses, this time of year is often particularly scary for people trying to sell their homes. Many of them listed the property in the spring, waited all summer in hopes of a buyer, and now are facing a fading autumn with increasing desperation.

That’s why the fall is such a great time for serious buyers to find deals. Sellers have been knocked to their senses, with a brutal market showing them just how few homes are selling and at what prices. Some of them are doing the math and realizing that if they don’t sell now, they will likely be holding onto their homes through the winter and into the spring, paying another six months of mortgage payments and taxes. Serious sellers are ready to cut a deal.

In the last week alone, almost 900 new listings — 293 single-family houses, 434 condos, and 155 multi-unit buildings — hit the market in Chicago. But just 298 home sales closed. Multiply those trends over the autumn months and you’ve got thousands of homes out there in search of buyers — not to mention all the ones listed earlier in the year that still haven’t sold.

Qualified buyers remain a rarity. So if you are considering a home purchase anytime in the near future, remember that the fall season offers unusual treats for buyers ready to pounce. Wait until spring, and you’ll be out house-hunting with hundreds of competing buyers, amid sellers who aren’t so motivated to bargain.

Written by Sue Fox // Comments Off on Trick or treat? Fall buyers grab sweet deals