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Home sales up 28% in June as prices slip

filed under: Andersonville, Bungalows, Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, First-time buyers, Market conditions, Tax credits posted on July 22nd, 2010

BUNGALOW BEAUTY: This restored historic bungalow in Andersonville was one of the 2000 Chicago homes that sold in June.

BUNGALOW BEAUTY: This restored historic bungalow in Andersonville was one of the 2,526 Chicago homes that sold in June. With a fireplace, built-in bookshelves, a gourmet kitchen, a full finished basement and a landscaped backyard, this home attracted multiple offers. I sold it in 3 days!

You can really see the impact of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers. In June, the final month buyers could claim the credit, Chicago home sales shot up nearly 28% over the previous June, according to data released today by the Illinois Association of Realtors. That marks the 1oth consecutive month of year-over-year increases in Chicago.

But just because more properties are changing hands doesn’t mean home prices are recovering. In fact, the opposite is true in Chicago. The median home price, now $234,250, is down 3.2% compared to a year ago.

Genie Birch, president of the Chicago Association of Realtors, pointed out that the year-to-date number of homes sold in Chicago is up 41% for the first half of 2010 versus 2009. “We believe this is a positive indicator that Chicago’s housing market is stabilizing,” she said. “Motivated buyers and sellers are working toward realistically closing deals at current market values.”

I have my doubts about whether our market is truly stabilizing, or whether we are just witnessing a final surge of home sales fueled by a government stimulus program that no longer exists. Congress has since extended the date to close on a home purchase through September (provided you were already under contract by April 30) to help people seeking the tax credit who were unable to close by June 30, the original deadline.

So we may yet see a slight swell of closings in July, August and September that were actually spurred by the tax credit. But that doesn’t mean our local housing market is healthy enough to stand on its own.

Written by Sue Fox // 1 Comment »

Chicago home sales surge 32% in May; prices climb 2%

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, First-time buyers, Lakeview, Market conditions, Tax credits posted on June 24th, 2010

LUCKY IN LAKEVIEW: This house

LUCKY IN LAKEVIEW: This updated, 4-bedroom Victorian at 1307 W Byron Street closed in May for $675,000. Priced at $699,900, this century-old historic home sold in just 10 days.

Thanks to the federal home buyer’s tax credits, Chicago buyers turned out in droves to snap up properties in May, according to data released this week by the Illinois Association of Realtors.

In the city of Chicago, May home sales (single-family and condominiums) skyrocketed 32.1% to 2,057 sales, compared to 1,557 homes sold in May 2009. The increase marks the the ninth consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. Sales are now almost back to where they were two years ago in May 2008, when 2119 homes were sold in Chicago.

Even more impressive, the median home price — which has been falling and falling in Chicago for several years now — actually ticked up 2.2% in May over the previous year. Chicago’s median price is now $230,000, up from $225,000 in May 2009.

“The tax credit created a more positive impact on the Chicago marketplace than the movement we saw in 2009,” said Mabel Guzman, the incoming president of the Chicago Association of Realtors. “Additionally, the credit afforded buyers the opportunity to look at higher-priced homes, helping keep their options more affordable.”

I expect that we’ll see more of the same — dramatically increased sales, and possibly slightly higher prices — when the June numbers are released. But home-buying demand has certainly slipped in Chicago since the tax credits expired April 30 (the date by which buyers had to have a home under contract in order to qualify.) They have until June 30 to close the deal.

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Senate votes to extend June 30 deadline

filed under: $6500 tax credit, $8000 tax credit, Buyers, First-time buyers, Tax credits posted on June 17th, 2010

MORE TIME TO CLOSE: The Senate voted to extend the June 30 deadline to close on a home purchase and qualify for a tax credit until Sept. 20.

MORE TIME TO CLOSE: The Senate has voted to extend the June 30 deadline to close on a home purchase -- and qualify for a $6,500 or $8,000 tax credit -- until Sept. 30.

The Senate has approved a proposal that would give home buyers trying to claim the $8,000 tax  credit an extra three months to close on their purchases, provided they have already met the April 30 deadline to get their home under contract.

Basically this would help clear the huge backlog of people who are all desperately trying to close their deals by June 30 in order to qualify for the tax credit, as the law now requires. Real estate deals often don’t close on time — they can be delayed by problems with the appraisal, lengthy turn-around times in lender underwriting or other wrinkles in the loan process — and right now many lenders are backed up with a swell of loans that all need to close in the next two weeks. I have one Chicago buyer who has been practically doing back-flips to get his loan approved in time, but when we asked the lender yesterday whether it would close by June 30, she said bluntly, “I have no idea.”

To take the pressure off, the Senate voted 60-37 yesterday to extend the closing deadline to Sept. 30, 2010. The extension would also apply to “move-up” buyers trying to claim a $6,500 tax credit for purchasing a home they intend to live in.

The new deadline would help an estimated 180,000 home buyers now racing the clock to close on time, several thousand of whom undoubtedly live in the Chicago area.

But the extension, if approved by Congress and the president, will only apply to people already in the home-buying pipeline. To qualify for the tax credit, you must have already signed the contract to buy your home on or before April 30.

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A quiet May as Chicago buyers return to sidelines

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Market conditions, Tax credits posted on May 16th, 2010

OPEN, BUT MOSTLY EMPTY: Despite low interest rates and a large inventory of homes for sale in Chicago, buyers seem to have returned to the

OPEN, BUT MOSTLY EMPTY: Despite low interest rates and a large inventory of homes for sale in Chicago, buyers seem to be taking a break after a surge in spring sales fueled by the government tax credits.

No one was quite sure how the April 30 expiration of the federal home buyers’ tax credits would affect the Chicago market, but two weeks later, I’m ready to call it: Things have definitely and dramatically slowed down.

As one agent put it (anonymously) to the Yo Chicago real estate website, “Between agents, the water-cooler talk is kind of dead. Showings seem to be dwindling, which isn’t a good sign going into June and July.” This agent confided that he (or she?) hasn’t had a closing all year.

I was fortunate to have a pretty busy spring selling real estate, with plenty of buyers and sellers going under contract throughout March and April on a wide range of homes priced from $120,000 to $600,000. But in the last two weeks, I would agree that showing requests have abruptly declined. I was chatting with another realtor I know in Andersonville recently, and he mentioned that despite having 16 listings not a single person had called to see any of these properties on a recent weekend in May.

It will be at least a month until we start to see actual sales data for May, which is usually an active month for home-buying in Chicago. But some data is emerging that shows that many realtors were already disappointed by buyers in April.

According to the Credit Suisse monthly survey of real estate agents, the buyer traffic index fell from 34 in March to 26 in April, indicating traffic levels below agents’ expectations (any reading below 50 shows  traffic below expectations).

“Agents noted they expected to see a pickup in sales activity in April ahead of the April 30th tax credit expiration, but saw an underwhelming response from buyers throughout most of the month,” the Credit Suisse report said. “One agent commented, “We may have exhausted the buyer pool – not sure, but demand is not there like last year.” …One agent saw a delayed response to the tax credit expiration, commenting that, “Demand for the tax credit deadline kicked in LATE April.”

Home buyers who are now out and about seem to be kicking the tires rather than actively hunting for a property to buy. One couple I took out this weekend said that if they couldn’t find a house they liked at a price they could afford, they may wait a year or two to buy.

When the sales numbers for May arrive, I suspect we may find that hundreds of other potential buyers in Chicago feel the same way.

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A last-minute frenzy as buyer’s tax credit ends

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, First-time buyers, Lincoln Square, Market conditions, Tax credits posted on May 2nd, 2010

SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES: My sellers sold this lovely 2-bedroom, 2.5 bath duplex in Lincoln Square in just 12 days. The buyer was a first-time buyer who signed the deal by April 30, in order to claim her $8,000 tax credit.

SELLING LIKE HOTCAKES: My sellers sold this lovely 2-bedroom, 2.5 bath duplex in Lincoln Square in just 12 days. The buyer was a first-timer who pushed to sign the deal by April 30, just in time to claim her $8,000 tax credit.

April 2010 was one of the busiest months I’ve ever seen as a realtor! Even though the government’s home buyer tax credits (in one form or another) have been in place for more than a year, there were plenty of Chicago home buyers who waited until the last minute to buy.

April 30 was the deadline for signing a home purchase contract; buyers now have until June 30 to close the deal.

I had four different buyers or sellers go under contract in the last 10 days of April alone. In one deal, the buyer made an offer on my seller’s Lincoln Square condo around 9 pm on April 29. Her realtor and I negotiated the deal until slightly after midnight, and everyone signed the contract the next morning… thereby just making the April 30 deadline. Whew!

Plenty of other real estate agents in my office, and across Chicago, witnessed the same eleventh-hour mania. Now hopefully we can all get the inspections, attorney review periods, and mortgage loans completed in time to close by June 30! Expect a similar frenzy at title companies in June as everyone piles in to close before the deadline.

We should see healthy home sales throughout the Chicago region for April, just like the 50% leap over the previous year we witnessed in March. But now that the government’s home-buying stimulus is a thing of the past, the question on everyone’s mind is… Now what?

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Chicago home sales skyrocket 50% in March

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home prices, Chicago home sales, First-time buyers, Foreclosures, Lincoln Square, Market conditions, Tax credits posted on April 29th, 2010

The home buyer’s tax credit — which expires tomorrow — has certainly helped light a fire under Chicago home buyers. Home sales shot up again in March compared to March 2009, making this the seventh month in a row of year-over-year gains.

THREE YEARS NEW: After three years on the market, this new luxury home in Lincoln Square sold in March for $1.2 million. It was priced at nearly $1.6 million in 2007.

THREE YEARS NEW: After three years on the market, this new luxury home in Lincoln Square finally sold in March for $1.2 million. It was priced at nearly $1.6 million in 2007.

In the city of Chicago, March total home sales (single-family and condos) rose 49.7% to 1,814 sales compared to 1,212 sales a year ago, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors. For the entire first quarter, home sales were also up considerably, by 41.6% citywide.

But prices have continues to slip. Chicago’s median home price in March was $209,000, a 4.6% drop compared to $219,000 last year.

Dr. Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) of the University of Illinois, pointed to the latest figures as evidence of an “upward trend.” He told the Realtor’s association that “there is increasing evidence that the housing market is stabilizing; in many parts of the country sales have increased but prices remain stubborn. In places where there have been increases, they are modest; there is no doubt that the downward pressure on prices can be traced to the volume of distressed properties on the market.”

Meanwhile, foreclosures have continued to climb across Chicago and the metropolitan region. Nearly 3,500 Chicago homes went through a court-ordered auction in the first quarter, and 95% of them were acquired by the bank, according to a story in today’s Chicago Tribune.

This flood of bank-owned homes, which I’m now seeing popping up even in trendy neighborhoods like Lakeview and Lincoln Park, is depressing home prices across the board. But at last, homes are finally changing hands again at a healthy pace, and some stability is returning to our Chicago market.

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Chicago home buyers out in droves

filed under: $8000 tax credit, Buyers, Chicago home sales, First-time buyers, Market conditions posted on March 24th, 2010

It’s finally spring, and the $8,000 home buyer’s tax credit expires in only a month! These two factors combined seem to have pushed Chicago home buyers into overdrive this year.

In February, home sales in Chicago shot up 41.5% over last February, with 1,225 condos and single-family houses sold. This marked the sixth consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases, according to a report this week from the Illinois Association of Realtors.

BUYING BOOM: Chicago home buyers, maybe of them seeking the first-time buyer's tax credit, drove home sales up 41.5% last month.

BUYING BOOM: Chicago home buyers, many of them seeking the first-time buyer's tax credit, drove home sales up 41.5% last month.

“The tax credit has been a tremendous help for those home buyers on the fence,” said Genie Birch, president of the Chicago Association of  Realtors. “With interest rates still favorable, and a month left before the tax credit expires, those considering making a purchase should do so now to take advantage of these great opportunities while they are still available.”

Thousands of buyers are still out house-hunting in March, and I predict that we’ll see strong sales volume in the Chicago area all spring. (Prices, of course, are another story. The median home price in Chicago fell more than 19% since last February.)

I’m starting to see multiple offers on well-priced properties… even properties that have been on the market for months! The demand right now is strong, but buyers are being careful not to overspend.

Home sales are also up in the Chicago region as a whole, rising 37.5% in Cook County in February.

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The move-up theory: Why Chicago home sellers should be on the market now

filed under: Buyers, Chicago home sales, Edgewater, First-time buyers, Sellers, Tax credits posted on March 17th, 2010

MOVING ON UP, ANYONE?: This charming 4-bedroom Victorian in Edgewater could benefit from a wave of move-up buyers this spring. Now priced at $549,900, it's been on the market just under three months. Michael Wall of Baird & Warner has the listing.

MOVING ON UP, ANYONE?: This charming 4-bedroom Victorian in Edgewater could benefit from a wave of move-up buyers this spring. Now priced at $549,900, it's been on the market just under three months. Michael Hall of Baird & Warner has the listing.

It’s already March 17 — Happy St. Patrick’s Day! — which means Chicago’s spring home-buying season is well underway. And the market is truly bustling right now, with buyers out in droves, making offers and getting ready to close on their new homes.

The government’s first-time home buyer’s tax credit has done wonders for the Chicago housing market, but it expires in six weeks. And that’s exactly why anyone hoping to sell a home in 2010 ought to be hustling that property onto the market as soon as humanly possible.

It’s not just to take advantage of the wave of first-time buyers, who make up half of all buyers nationwide, by some estimates. Many buyers seeking the $8,000 tax credit (or earlier versions of the credit) have already found homes, and hundreds of thousands of them  have already closed. But that means that hundreds of thousands of home sellers are now free to go buy something else.

This what I call the move-up theory: When someone sells her $300,000 condo, for example, she is now free to go buy that $450,000 house. Which then frees up the next seller to go buy something else, and so on.

Of course, not every seller has the equity, or perhaps the desire, to buy a more expensive property. But once some people are able to sell, the market loosens up again, breaking the massive real estate logjam that has been strangling our market since 2007. Properties start changing hands again. Sales volume increases. We are already seeing this happening on a broad scale in Chicago.

So if you are considering selling this year, the time is NOW! Many of those move-up buyers are already out and about hunting for their next home, which could mean a healthy late spring/summer for mid-range home sales in the Chicago area.

Written by Sue Fox // 1 Comment »

Tax credit countdown: Chicago home buyers have only 2 months left

filed under: $6500 tax credit, $8000 tax credit, Buyers, First-time buyers, Mortgage Rates, Tax credits posted on February 22nd, 2010

Chicago home buyers, time is running out to claim your $8,000 tax credit!

TIME IS RUNNING OUT: First-time home buyers must have a property under contract by April 30 to enjoy their $8,000 in free government money.

Congress has already extended and expanded the $8,000 first-time home buyer’s tax credit once, and it’s unclear that lawmakers have the appetite to do so again. So if you are still considering buying a home, you now have about two months left to scoop up thousands of free dollars.

This is a great deal for buyers, but many of them aren’t quite ready to act. Here’s why they should:

1) First-time buyers (who earn up to $125,000 as a single person or $225,000 as a couple) can get $8,000 back on their taxes. This is free money, one of the primary ways the government is helping regular people rather than banks and other corporations. Buyers who have already owned homes can now qualify for a $6,500 tax credit if they purchase a home they intend to occupy.

2) Interest rates are phenomenally low right now. I just had a buyer lock in a rate of 4.83% on a 30-year loan! But we will not see rates of 5% and below for much longer, because the government has already announced its intention to stop buying the mortgage-backed securities that are keeping rates artificially low. Many experts predict mortgage rates will rise half a point to a full point this year, beginning at the end of March.

3) There are tons of real estate bargains out there right now. More foreclosures are hitting the market, holding down prices across the board, and even new condo developments in trendy neighborhoods like River North, Gold Coast, Streeterville, West Loop and the South Loop have seen dramatic price reductions in an effort to attract buyers.

Remember, to qualify for the tax credit you must sign a contract to buy the home by April 30 and close by June 30.

Written by Sue Fox // Please leave a comment.

Super Bowl Sunday kicks off Chicago home-buying season

filed under: $6500 tax credit, $8000 tax credit, Buyers, First-time buyers, Tax credits posted on February 7th, 2010

Looking for a Chicago home? The spring season officially kicks off today!

GAME TIME: Along with the big game, Super Bowl Sunday traditionally kicks off Chicago's spring home-buying season.

Before I head out to a friend’s house for a combo Super Bowl Party/Baby Shower (don’t ask), I just wanted to say… Go Saints!

Actually, I wanted to say that Super Bowl Sunday kicks off our spring season in the land of Chicago home buying. This year, buyers have already been out and about for a solid month — I had six showings today, for two different sets of clients — because many of them hope to take advantage of the $8,000 first-time buyer’s tax credit.

Expect a busy spring for well-priced properties, because the credit is soon to expire. Buyers must have a property under contract by April 30 in order to qualify. This deadline also applies to move-up buyers who qualify for the $6,500 credit for those buying another home.

And you must close by June 30. That said, enjoy the game!

Written by Sue Fox // 1 Comment »

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