Monday, March 31, 2008

New-Construction Update: 3/31/08

Emerald, 123 S Green

Every Monday, we present vital data on condos under construction. If you have a new development to report on a new development, e-mail it to

To view Building Profile on, click address. To visit developer’s Web site, click name.

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
1050 W HubbardHubbard St. Lofts4/21$310-620KNow
1140 N LaSalleFlats on LaSalle88/250$120-140May
123 S GreenEmeraldNA/212$297-526Now
1529 W Chestnut1529 W Chestnut2/5$524-649May
2921-7 N LincolnChelseaNA/12$465-620NA
3245 N AshlandLV Lofts5/24$300-390+May
340 E Randolph340 on the Park2/344$1.9-2.2MNow
3505 N AshlandVue 10/22$350-720Now
3641 N ElstonElston Timber Lofts18/25$280-340NA
5526-40 S CornellSolstice on the Park145/145$500-2.5M'10
SOURCES:, developer sites

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Saluting: @properties' Scott Graden

The second in a series of profiles saluting Condo Superstars, agents who ranked in the Top 10 for selling the most Chicago condos in 2007.

A Scott of All Trades Finds Success in Rehabbing

Name: Scott Graden. Brokerage: @properties. Age: 34. Years as Agent: 11. Transaction Rank: 6 (178 units). $ Volume Rank: 9 ($52 million). Resale $ Volume Rank: 87 ($7 million). Condos (as % of business): 90. Source of Statistics: Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI), Chicago condos closed in 2007.

Several of Scott Graden’s friends say that the real-estate agent-extraordinaire reminds them of the obsessive-compulsive Los Angeles real-estate speculator who starred in last season’s popular Bravo series, “Flipping Out.”

Like series’ star Jeff Lewis, Scott rehabs most of the condos he sells. He acknowledges he is as meticulous as his TV counterpart about his properties. “I’m not as high maintenance, but I, too, will do anything to make a unit sparkle. And we do have the same type of look and drive the same model car” [a 2006 Grey Range Rover].

And like Lewis, Scott relies on a close-knit team of 28-to-40-year-olds to help him as he generates tens of millions of dollars of sales each year. His “family” at @properties includes eight licensed agents and an administrative assistant, although he personally generates 90% of his sales.

Says Scott: “The MLS will show in the $60-million range for 2007, but I sold another $25 million in Chicago off the MLS. For agents who've been around, the MLS isn't always needed. If I get a $10-million building on my desk, I know 10 agents can get it sold for me, so I just call them. They will return the favor for me later.”

Scott’s real-estate savvy is in his genes. His father owns his own real-estate company in Indiana, and those family ties drew him to the business. He got his real-estate license when he was just 23 and he began to fashion his particular way of developing and selling condos while working in northwest Indiana and learning on the job.

But he then moved to Chicago, where he had a brief stint in the corporate world at Kraft Foods. “The 9-to-5 hours didn’t work for me,” he says. “I needed more freedom and ability to move up the ladder faster. Real estate was perfect, and there’s no better city for real estate than Chicago, where there’s a wonderful mix of new and old.”

He vividly recalls his first condo sale in 1997. He sold a first-floor, three-bedroom, two-bath, 1600-square-foot unit in the 2800 block of Halsted for $240,000. “That got me going,” he says.

He began at Chicago Greystone, a local builder, and later moved to Koenig & Strey before getting into condo development himself in a big way. He’s been with @properties for about 3½ years. “Basically, I handle a couple of projects on my own and represent 25 developers.

"What distinguishes me from the rest is that I facilitate the project from the beginning, finding the project for the developer, helping finance a project through financier or banker connections,” he explains. “I also design all the units and interiors, sell them and close them. I do it all myself.”

In the process, he has become a real-estate professional with a deep knowledge of what today’s buyers are seeking in a condo (“great kitchens and baths, high-tech wiring, higher finishes, Internet access,” among other features).

But Scott has had to sacrifice to be the jack, or Scott, of all trades. “There’s little time for a personal life,” says the 34-year-old bachelor. I’m working 80-to-100 hours a week. When everyone is at home, I’m out there, working with clients, viewing properties, mailing building owners, hunting for prospects.”

And when things do slow down in Chicago, especially in the winter, Scott escapes to Phoenix for one week of each month--but not for vacation. He has been establishing real-estate relationships there and in suburban Scottsdale and already has a staff of five 25-to-32-year-olds working with him.

In addition to the $85 million in Chicago, he sold almost $50 million worth of condos and homes in Arizona in 2007. Scott plans to open a brokerage in fast-growing Scottsdale in the next year, but will continue full speed ahead in Chicago.

So much for carving out any personal time.

What is Scott Graden’s secret? What motivates him and makes him unique? What does he predict for the condo market? What advice does he have for other agents? Why should buyers, sellers or developers work with him? What would he rather be?

In a recent interview, by phone and e-mail, he addressed those questions. In his words:

How does it feel to be a Top 10 Condo Superstar? Great. I’m not one for accolades, but it is the perfect barometer to know that the hard work is paying off.

What are your secrets to selling so many condos? Picking the right projects. We sell properties that are well designed and have great finishes, while maintaining a price that is usually lower than all other projects.

* Motivation: I have a passion for sales, and enjoy designing and creating interesting spaces.

* Strengths: Sales, design, putting the right people together.

* USP (Unique Selling Proposition): I’m different because I do it all myself. Most agents step into a project after it has been designed, and have little or no say in the floor plan or level of finish. I control projects from start to finish. Most of my success comes from gut rehabbing old buildings; it’s really new construction with an existing shell.

I didn’t have any design background, but I would see all different types of condos, noting which layouts, interiors and amenities were selling the best. We try to keep our units, on average, in the $300,000 to $320,000 range. At our Roscoe Village project at 1944-54 W. Newport for instance, we’re selling a two-bedroom, two-bath unit for $300,000 that might go elsewhere for $400,000.

* Mix: We sell anything. We understand that a developer’s profit is in the last few units. Some agents slow their marketing efforts at the end of a project; we increase them. For a project to succeed, all units must sell. This will enable the developer to free up his money to buy another project--from us!

* Role of Internet: We have a lot of exposure for our clients on multiple, high-traffic sites.

Why do you sell so many condos? We pick great projects, design them well, price them correctly, have a great sales staff, and use every marketing strategy. We get more people through our units than do most agents. It’s a numbers game.

Who are your typical buyers? They’re first-time buyers, 27-to-29 years of age and probably two-to-three years away from having children. They watch the HGTV cable channel and related shows so they’re looking for condos with great kitchens, baths, nicer finishes and the other features they see on TV. The shows have had a huge impact, and developers are responding by putting more features into their units.

Who is your toughest competitor? I don’t compete with anyone else. I am the only one who can limit the amount of business I do.

What is your greatest weakness? Sometimes, I can’t shut “business” off. I am always working even if I am relaxing.

Path to success? My parents are hard workers and instilled in me a great work ethic.

How do you enjoy your personal time? I love to stay in shape, go to the beach, and I’m learning to play the piano and cook.

What advice do you have for agents who want to become Superstars? More than working harder than others, you have to work smarter. Educate yourself on the market and you will go farther than those who are working more hours.

What do you look for when hiring an agent? Drive, determination and, most of all, the ability to think outside the box.

Why should someone work with you? I give clients 110%, and bring lots of ideas to the table that they probably haven’t thought of. I have been out there, and have heard what people are looking for, for years, and that is invaluable. I can help a developer build the most saleable building.

What kind of condo do you prefer? I move every 8-12 months. I live in River North now but I’ve lived in six neighborhoods. Mostly, I enjoy Old Town. I like a unit in a smaller building, new construction, with zero amenities to keep the monthly assessment low. I’m thinking about resale and people should think about that. You may have a pool and an exercise room, but your monthly assessment may be $800. Someone will buy my unit over one with an $800 assessment.

What’s the secret working with developers? In the past, I worked with some developers who would promise everything up front and wouldn’t deliver. They’d pull the wool over our eyes, and buyers wouldn’t get what they thought they were getting. We don’t keep developers who do that because agents get the blame.

Now when we first meet with developers and sign the listing agreement, we have them sign a spec sheet to hold them to their promises. I pride myself on selling quality projects, and we have weeded out the developers who were producing sub-standard products.

Looking back on 2007:

* Most important decision: To continue specializing in low-to-moderate priced units.

* Highest moment: On the same day, we had grand openings at 4434 N. Damen and 1954 W. Newport. We sold 45 units to 45 buyers. It was a long, but fun, day!

* Lowest moment: Pushing through the slow times.

* Biggest mistake: Not increasing my advertising sooner. As most agents decreased their advertising, I increased mine and saw results immediately.

Looking ahead in 2008:

* Market forecast: Unit sales will be down slightly, due to economic diversions, and the election year. Appreciation will be flat in most areas of downtown.

* What are today’s buyers doing? They’re negotiating more. Where prices were coming down by $5,000, they’re now coming down double that. But the downtown Chicago condo market is still good.

* Where is the market hot? West Lakeview is great. We’re outperforming sales more so than any other neighborhoods, because we are better priced and better finished and still close to everything.

* No. 1 goal: Work less.

* Biggest challenge: Overcoming buyers’ concerns about the economy. It’s a great time to buy.

What would you rather be? A race-car driver.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Top 10: Agents, New-Construction $ Volume

If you include conversions, new construction comprises 48% of the city's total condo sales. Which 10 agents generated the most dollar sales volume of new-construction Chicago condos in 2007?

As he did with both transactions and total sales volume, Equity Marketing's Michael Holtorf topped the list. Our con(do)-gratulations to those who made the Top 10 list:

RankNameBrokerageVolume (Millions)
1.Michael HoltorfEquity Marketing$303
2.Leila ZammattaMagellan270
3.Thomas WeeksLR Realty104
4.Chris FeurerKoenig & Strey84
5.Matt GarrisonColdwell Banker55
6.Jeff LoweC21 Sussex & Reilly51
7.Iris AdeMCL46
8.Dana DiPasqualeBaird & Warner45.7
9.Lisa Madonia@properties45.1
10.Scott Graden@properties45
SOURCE: Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI), new-construction (and conversion) condos in Chicago closed in 2007.

New-Construction Update: 3/24/08

At left, Lakewood Lofts, 3133 N Lakewood

Every Monday, we present vital data on condos under construction. If you have a new development to report on a new development, e-mail it to

To view Building Profile on, click address. To visit developer’s Web site, click name.

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
1000 S MichiganPark 1000139/346$440K-$4M'10
4840 N BroadwayGunnison St. Lofts4/22$300-400Now
1727 S IndianaPrairie District Lofts79/116$230-4206/08
1935 S WabashTerrazio108/180$180-4308/09
2035 S IndianaLakeside Lofts14/100$240-390Now
2359 N SeeleyEcoLogic LoftsNA/94$220+9/09
2741 N SheffieldRotunda8/8$490-7509/08
2800 N Lincoln2800 Lincoln NA/9$530NA
3133 N LakewoodLakewood Lofts19/25$280-680NA
720 S ClarkBurnham Pointe150/298$250-5505/08
SOURCES:, developer sites

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saluting: Rubloff's Mario Greco

This is the first in a series of profiles saluting Condo Superstars, agents who ranked in the Top 10 for selling the most Chicago condos in 2007.

From Engineer to Esquire to Extraordinary Agent

Name: Mario Greco. Brokerage: Rubloff. Age: 37. Years as Agent: 6. Transaction Rank: 7 (142 units). $ Volume Rank: 7 ($57 million). Resale $ Volume Rank: 1 ($35 million). Condos (as % of business): 59. Source of Statistics: Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI), Chicago condos closed in 2007.

In 2001, Mario Greco, an honors graduate from Northwestern University in both chemical and environmental engineering and from Boston University in law, was earning $200,000 a year as an attorney.

Yet, every morning, the 30-year-old son of Italian immigrants awoke with an empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. He dreaded his work in intellectual property litigation as a senior associate at a prestigious Chicago law firm. For one thing, any decision he was allowed to make had to be reviewed by three management levels above him.

Over the next two years, two real-estate agents changed his life. The first, his buyer’s agent for the first condo he bought, served as a negative role model, teaching him how easy it was to earn $8,000 by doing nothing and being unprepared.

The second, an ex-attorney who was listing agent for the first home he and his wife, Julie, bought, did everything right. And he persuaded Mario to follow in his footsteps. In September 2002, Mario left his law career to become a full-time real-estate agent. Julie was encouraging; his parents told him he was a fool. (They have since told their son they are proud of him.)

When he awakens these days, Mario can’t wait to get to work. Typically, the 37 year old is in the office by 4:30 a.m.—answering e-mail, searching MLS hot sheets, searching the MLS for active buyers--and doesn’t return home until 9 p.m. In 2007, his passion and enthusiasm helped him earn the No. 7 rank in selling Chicago condos.

To his way of thinking, Mario ranks as Chicago’s No. 2 full-service condo agent. By full-service, he means excluding agents who sell their own developments, who work exclusively or primarily with developers or who sit in sales offices all year selling new-construction and includes only agents, like himself, who generate their own business.

Using that definition, Mario ranked No. 1 in units sold (transactions) in 2007 among the 15,500 members of the Chicago Association of Realtors. In dollar volume, considered the more important metric since commissions are based on it, Mario placed No. 2 among full-service agents, trailing only Jeff Lowe of Century 21 Sussex & Reilly.

In dollar volume of resale (existing) city condos, excluding new-construction units, Mario is indisputably No. 1, with $35 million sales in 2007.

Although The Mario Greco Group has 16 additional members, including seven sales agents, Mario as the group’s leader generates 99% of all sales. His agents, who are paid a bonus for each deal, generally just show units.

In 2007, Mario personally sold 142 units, with a combined value of $57 million. (And condos represent only 59% of his business. His total gross sales were $103 million!) Of that $57 million, he earned $2.7 million in commissions, before splitting fees with brokerages, paying his 16 people, advertising and other expenses.

And 2007 simply continued a series of record years. Since January 2002, Mario has sold $438 million in real estate: $9 million in year one, while still a practicing attorney; $30 million in year two; followed by annual sales of $70 million, $90 million, $101 million and, last year, $103 million. In the first nine weeks of 2008, he sold $35 million.

Any way you slice the statistics, Mario is a Condo Superstar.

What is Mario Greco’s secret? What motivates him? How did he get to the top? What advice does he have for other agents who want to climb into the Top 10? What is the personal cost to him? What does he predict for the condo market?

In an interview in Rubloff’s Lincoln Park office recently, he candidly answered those questions, and more. In his own words:

How does it feel to be a Top 10 Condo Superstar? Even after six years, success still creates a good feeling.

What are your secrets to selling so many condos?

* Motivation: Work ethic of immigrant parents (father held three jobs). Satisfaction of helping people. I’m a great front-runner. I don’t like to play catch-up. Each client is a different puzzle to solve. My greatest satisfaction comes from having a huge impact in peoples’ lives: helping them find a home, advising them on their most important investment.

* Strengths: Ability to read, relate to and connect with, anyone. Organized, detail-oriented. Some agents have told me their clients enjoyed our showings so much, they bought my unit even though they may not have initially liked it as much as other units. I delegate everything that is not of substance so I can focus on three things: meeting new clients, negotiating, showing.

I possess a great radar for people-reading. I'm a life-long Sox fan, so if I’m making a presentation or a showing on the South Side or notice something that indicates a certain allegiance, I anticipate that my potential client likely will be a Sox fan and act accordingly.

* USP (Unique Selling Proposition): Structure (staff), organization (staff), and detail-oriented staff that supports me. A full-time scheduler. All showings are followed up with immediate e-mail to the client and a follow-up call to the agent. I have a full-time person whose only job is to gather feedback from each showing and send a summary spreadsheet to sellers every Tuesday.

* Mix: Ratio of listings to “solds” is 70/30. Ratio of new to resale is 30/70. I don’t try to create an ideal balance between the two; I take what comes.

* Help from others: 90% referrals; 10% call me and want my help, including smaller developers.

* Role of Internet: It’s growing. We’re relaunching as a blog-centered site. Fewer than 10 clients have resulted from cold Internet leads. My site is more a tool to sell listings. Someone comes from a search engine, sees I’ve sold several units for $1.2 million and knows I can sell his or her million-dollar home.

Why do you sell so many condos? They are more affordable, so more people buy them. Also, there are more condos than homes on the North Side, where I do 95% of my business.

Who is your toughest competitor? I am.

What is your greatest weakness? Sometimes I’m stretched too thin.

How do you enjoy your personal time? Our lives tend to center on our five dogs, all of them “rescues.” We even live where we do because our home is near a dog park.

What was your path to success? A child of immigrants, I was raised, along with two siblings, by a stay-at-home mother and a father who taught high school and held two other jobs. My parents gave me a great work ethic. Their dream for me was a “stable” career, such as a doctor or lawyer. I followed their dream. During college, I worked as an engineer for Dow Chemical and Monsanto. After graduation, I went directly to law school in Boston. Back in Chicago, I worked for three law firms. I got my Realtor’s license on 1/11/02, began selling real estate on the side. That September, I started selling full-time and never looked back.

What advice do you have for agents who want to become Superstars? 1) Work hard (there’s no substitute), 2) price correctly, 3) spend money to make money. Spend money on: a. staff (start with an assistant who enables you to focus on clients), b. branding yourself (consistently), c. marketing your listings.

My most effective advertising: yard signs with “Contract Pending”; Just Listed and Just Sold postcards to every home within three blocks of every listing. We get mailing lists from tax records. I spent about $30,000 on postage last year. I’m an old-school guy: There’s no substitute for yard signs and word of mouth.

When thinking of adding an assistant, don’t think of it as $30,000 a year in expenses, but as an investment that will help you sell an additional property per month. Hire enough people to delegate to so you can focus on substance.

I’ve never made a single cold call, never called a “FSBO” for a listing. I prospect, but I don’t troll. I have no written business plan or goals for new-construction vs. resale, etc. I take what business comes my way. I go with the flow. I have all the numbers in my head, as well as my business plan, to the extent I have one. My accountant and bookkeeper do track every dollar in and out. I want to grow organically.

What is the cost of being a Superstar? The personal toll: Not being around family and friends, enjoying a Sox game, etc. I work 100 hours a week, 20 of them managing, 80 selling. On a typical busy weekend, we show 100 properties.

Mario and wife, Julie, on vacation in Argentina

Also, now that my original buyers are becoming sellers (and buying again), they expect the same level of personal service I gave them when I had fewer clients.

What do you look for when hiring agents? They must be responsible, personable and detail-oriented.

Why should buyer/seller work with you? To profit from my personal attention and the support of our staff, we go where our motto promises: “Above and Beyond.”

Looking back on 2007:

* Most important decision: To ignore the pessimistic reports of a crumbling market in the media and keep a positive attitude and keep spending money on staff and marketing.

* Highest moment: Being name exclusive listing agent for a 150-unit project at 47th and Cottage Grove in Hyde Park, called The Shops and Lofts at 47.

* Lowest moment: Scheduler decided to leave group while I was on my only vacation for all of 2007. I’m still trying to recover.

* Biggest mistake: Putting off for yet another year upgrading my Web site.

Looking ahead in 2008:

* Market forecast: This year’s condo market will be much better than 2007. Unit sales will be up 10 to 20%. Appreciation will be up 3%. My sales are already up 25% year to date, to nearly one a day.

* No. 1 goal: To balance my life and not allow my “out time” to be violated (with phone calls, etc.).

* How increase rank: I hired a second scheduler and am making my Web site more visible to search engines.

* Biggest challenge: Balancing my life while still managing a growing business and an expanding staff.

* Blog plan: I’ve hired a college student to manage the creation of a blog-centered Web site by a Silicon Valley company and a freelancer to write daily posts. If I have several new listings in Lakeview, for example, we’ll post a story on a new shop in that neighborhood. When users Google Lakeview, my site will pop up at, or near, the top of search results.

What would you rather be? Nothing. I’m really happy doing what I do and being who I am.

New-Construction Update: 3/17/08

At left, The Winchester,
3175 N Hudson

Every Monday, we present vital data on condos under construction. If you have a new development (change in price, e.g.) to report on a new development, e-mail it to

To view Building Profile on, click address. To visit developer’s Web site, click name.

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
1215 S Prairie1 Museum Park26/289$599K-2.5MApril
100 E 14th1400 Museum Park17/260$300-725April
1621 S Prairie1600 Museum Park100/270$290-70012/08
1624 W DivisionVisionNA/33$440-590NA
23 N AberdeenCA2319/48$660-1.6MNA
27-41 N MorganMorgan Row6/12$460-67090 days
207 E 31stSignature Residences8/36$150-3803/09
225 N ColumbusAqua 257/267$660+NA
3175 N HudsonWinchester41/47$380-1.9M12/09
659 W RandolphR+D659107/237$230-42011/08
SOURCES:, developer sites

Friday, March 14, 2008

Top 10: Top Brokers, Highest Volume/Agent

Of the Top 10 brokerages in generating the most dollars in sales of Chicago condos in 2007, which one produced the highest average dollar volume per agent?

The answer: Jameson Realty Group. Although it ranked No. 9 in dollar-transaction volume, with $311 million, the company's 105 agents each averaged nearly $3 million in condo sales. Jameson's ratio of listing-to-sold volume is roughly two to one, meaning it earns twice as much money representing sellers as it does buyers.

With the most-productive agents among the Top 10, Jameson might be expected to have fared well in last year's market, which was up 1% in volume sales. Yet, the agency's condo dollar volume was down 20% from the previous year. Asked to comment on the decline, Gay Johnson, managing broker, said: "In some instances, the media have prompted this."

Invited to comment on her agents' performance, Gay said: “Our ranking is a reflection of Jameson’s core values of listing high-quality product and recruiting and retaining agents with the skill sets that we know will make them successful.

"We continue to focus on the basics: strong support staff, great agents and great clients. Our newly launched Web site at is the best overall real-estate site in the city and has contributed to our success in both buyer and seller representation.”

Our con(do)gratulations to Jameson and the other Top 10.

1.Jameson$2.96 million
4.Dream Town2.24
5.Koenig & Strey2.2
6.Baird & Warner1.8
7.Coldwell Banker1.7
8.Prudential Preferred1.1
9.Sudler Sotheby's960,000
10.Keller Williams870,000
SOURCE: Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI).
NOTES: Excluded in the above list are marketing agencies and developers. This is a re-ranking of the Top 10 brokerages in dollar volume. Some much-smaller brokers have a higher average volume per agent.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New-Construction Update: 3/10/08

At left, The Columbian, 1160 S Michigan
Every Monday, we present the latest vital data on condos under construction. If you have a new development (change in price, delivery date, etc.) to report on a new development, e-mail it to

To view a Building Profile of any project listed below, on, click address. To visit developer’s Web site, click name.

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
1160 S MichiganColumbian66/220$350K-$2MNow
160 E IllinoisAvenue East20/133$380-900Now
1712 S PrairieX/O200/486$400-650'10
1720 S Michigan1720 S Michigan438/498$202-400+Now
235 W Van Buren235 Van Buren400/714$186-437Sum '09
24 S MorganPure40/67$245-850NA
2520 N LakeviewLincoln Park 2520NA/314$500K-10M'09
2950 N Sheridan2950 N Sheridan 79/79NANA
565 W Quincy565 QuincyNA/NA$210-45012/09
8 E 9thAstoria Tower171/248$240K-1.5M12/08
SOURCES:, developer sites, others

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Good News for Buyers 'Frozen With Fear'

Thanks to Don DeBat, a local real-estate columnist, we now have additional information and insight from the latest Downtown Chicago Residential Benchmark Report by Appraisal Research Counselors (ARC). (ARC defines downtown as the area from Cermak to North Avenue, east of I-94.) In the Sun-Times, Don quotes ARC’s Gail Lissner as saying:

“With so much uncertainty in the market, potential buyers [of new condos] are confused, cautious and deferring purchase decisions. Sales traffic is down overall in the downtown market and conversions of traffic to sales also are down.

“Frozen with fear, potential buyers are afraid of making a bad buying decision while at the same time wanting to purchase only when they are certain that prices have hit rock bottom.

“Of the new-construction condo projects that started marketing programs during 2007, only approximately 33 percent of the units were placed under contract by the end of the year. [That compares to 43 percent in 2006 and 60 percent in 2005.] No longer is it a quick, simple process to meet that typical 50-percent pre-sale requirement to break ground within less than one year.”

Good news for buyers: “Developers continue to offer a wide range of mortgage programs, frequently through preferred-lender programs. Some developers are also offering mortgage rate buy-downs. Nearly all developers will offer some sort of perk to get a buyer to sign a contract. With the consensus that price discounts are not good for the market, most developers are looking at more creative ways to offer incentives, with the most popular ones being free upgrades, free parking and free assessments.”

For additional ARC observations, see previous post.

Don DeBat’s weekly real-estate column, The Home Front, can be found at

Friday, March 7, 2008

Top 10: Agents, Highest Re-Sale Dollar Volume

What if we eliminate sales of new-construction units, which are often listed and sold more-or-less wholesale, and focus our Top 10 target solely on sales of existing (re-sale) units? We get a much-different list of top-producing agents.

Only three agents on this Top 10 re-sale, dollar-volume list also ranked among the Top 10 agents on total transactions (units sold) and on dollar volume for sales of Chicago condos in 2007. They are Mario Greco (above), Chris Feurer and Jeff Lowe. These guys must have something special going.

Note that one agent, Scott Berg (right), sold $30 million of city condos from his Berg Properties office in Oak Park, just outside the Chicago city limits. He did so by serving as a "Flat Fee MLS Realtor." By phone, Scott explained that he lists sellers' units (FSBOs) on the MLS for $299.

Prello Realty, owned by Richard Picciariello, is also a discount broker that charges $299 for MLS listing and 3.5% for full service.

As on the other lists, some agents below lead teams of agents.

Agents With Highest Re-Sale $ Volume, Chicago Condos

RankNameBrokerageRe-Sale $ Volume
1.Mario GrecoRubloff$35M
2.Scott BergBerg (Oak Park)30
3.Robert PicciarielloPrello25.4
4.Chezi Rafaeli Coldwell Banker25.3
5.Chris FeurerKoenig & Strey22.4
6.Tricia FoxKeller Williams22.1
7.Jeff LoweC21 Sussex & Reilly21.6
8.Nick ColagiovanniBaird & Warner21.1
9.Jenny AmesColdwell Banker20
10.Robert J. AndersonBaird & Warner17.3
SOURCE: Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI), sales of Chicago condos closed in 2007.

Monday, March 3, 2008

NEW: Interactive Chicago Condo Maps

Starting today, you have access, on our Web site,, to three of the coolest, most-innovative, most-colorful, most-informative maps of Chicago's condo market. In seconds, with the flick of your mouse, you can become a citywide expert!

See the essence of the Sales Map at right, which, for technical reasons I do not understand, is not interactive on this blog. (Copyright (c) Condominium Enterprises.)

At a glance, on our companion Web site, you can now instantly see where the action is, in terms of units sold and median sales prices, in each of the city's 77 census areas. Then, you can link to an in-depth profile of that area that includes a map, boundaries, demographics, appreciation rates, schools and more.

1. City Map shows the boundaries of each area. What's unique about our city map is that, by placing your cursor over any area, you see the name of the area and its ranking on the basis of Units Sold and Median Sales Price in 2007. Placing your cursor over area 8 (8008), for example, brings up this text: Near North Side, 1st in Sales, 2nd in Price. Clicking on that area takes you to its profile.

2. Sales Map (upper right) uses four colors to show which areas have the most units sold. Red, for example, indicates 0-99 units sold. One of the first things you will notice is that only 24 of the 77 areas had 100 or more unit sales in 2007.

3. Price Map uses the same four colors to show which areas have the highest median sales price. The ten areas with an MSP of $300,000 or more are colored green (as in greenbacks, dollars, commissions).

To take these exclusive maps for a test drive: Go now to Enter your user name and password. (If you forgot them, click "Forgot User Name/Password?" and they will arrive instantly by e-mail. If you're not registered, do so.) Click Go. When your personal home page appears, click the large blue button, "Find & Compare Neighborhoods," and you'll see all three maps. Enjoy!

Agents & Brokers: If you would like to post interactive versions of our maps on your Web site or blog, e-mail your request. One more way we are trying to help you sell more condos in less time with less effort.

News: Dollar Volume Down 8% Year to Date

Based on closings of Chicago condos on the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI), the number of units sold year to date is 24% below the end of February in 2007. But median sales price is up 12%, so total dollar transaction volume is down only 8%.

Chicago condos sales volume down 8%. Keep that in mind as you read all the gloom-and-doom stories in the local and national media in coming days and weeks.

Unit sales were down 36% in January, so the "down 24%" at the end of February is a significant improvement in the market in the past 29 days.

There are actually 1% fewer actives (for-sale units) on the market than there were one year ago and 12% fewer new listings so far in 2008 than during the same two-month period in 2007. Average market time is also 1% less than it was a year ago. Supply is up 7%, to 8.7 months.

For actual numbers, see the permanent chart we have added in the right-hand column of this blog. (Scroll up a bit.) For more details, visit Market Overview on

Asked to comment on the February numbers, Mike Golden, co-founder of @properties and president of the Chicago Association of Realtors, made these observations:

"First, the key numbers to look at are how we are trending from 2007 to 2008 and the news is surprisingly good. Listings fell 5% February 2008 from 2007 and 12% year to date 2008 versus 2007. The total number of units active also fell from February 2007 to February 2008. Supply going down is good news relative to the concern that there is too much product on the market.

"The large upswing of units on the market January to February 2008 is not concerning. A lot of people took their units off the market in late 2007 and waited until February to put them back on.

"The median sales price is up from last year," Mike continued, "and the days on market is down from 2007, both month to month and year to date--more positive indicators that our market is showing signs of recovery. The sales volume is still down from last year, but February is up over February 2007, indicating that we are heading in the right direction.

"I would expect January to be down and would expect to continue to see improvements in sales volume as we get over the hangover created by the sub-prime issues from late 2007."

To add your expert analysis of, or insight into, these numbers, click Comments below.

New-Construction Update: 3/3/08

At left, artist's rendering of Peshtigo
Starting today, every Monday, we will present the latest vital data on condos under construction. What will distinguish our weekly report from those of various other Web sites is that ours will be written in Sgt. Joe Friday's "Just the facts, ma'am" style. (Perhaps we should post it on Friday and call it the Friday Report?)

If you have a new development (change in price, delivery date, etc.) to report on a new development, e-mail the information to

To view the (sometimes sparsely populated) Building Profile of any new-construction project listed below, on, click address. To visit developer’s more-complete, up-to-date Web site, click name.

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
1440 S WabashColiseum Park11 of 39$250-450KSpring
1555 S Wabash1555 Wabash106/176$250-640Fall
225 S SangamonZen12/82$260-39060 days
2301-15 S MichiganMotor Row Lofts40/52$310-650Spring
2390 S WabashWabash Club6/62$430-46030 days
2918 N Sheffield2918 N Sheffield2/8$57530 days
3744 S Cottage GroveOakwood ShoresNA/NA$170-370NA
515 N PeshtigoPeshtigo303/357$480K-2.7MNA
6 N MaySix North May8/16$380-430Now
60 E MonroeLegacy at Mlnm Pk53/355$450K-4MSu '09
SOURCES: and developer sites

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Top 10: Agents With Highest Dollar Volume

Condo Superstars! Part 2.

With one exception, the Top 10 agents in generating the most Chicago condo transactions (units sold) in 2007 are also the Top 10 in dollar-transaction volume.

As he did on the list posted here last Monday, Equity Marketing's Michael Holtorf led the powerful pack. As Equity's controller, Michael was credited with combined sales transaction volume of $303 million.

The agent in the No. 10 position, MCL's Iris Ade, earned credit for $47 million in sales. Iris, who oversees residential listings for MCL Companies, one of the city's largest builders, is the only agent on the dollar-volume list not on the units-sold transaction list, likely indicating a higher median sales price for the units she did sell.

Our con(do)gratulations to them all!

Figures in the chart below are based on sales of city condos closed in 2007 on the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI).

Agents, Highest Dollar Transaction Volume for Chicago Condos

RankNameBrokerageVolume (Millions)Transaction Rank
1.Michael HoltorfEquity Marketing$3031
2.Leila ZammattaMagellan2722
3.Chris FeurerKoenig & Strey1073
4.Jeff LoweC21 Sussex & Reilly728
5.Matt GarrisonColdwell Banker664
6.Art CollazoKoenig & Strey57.45
7.Mario GrecoRubloff577
8.Scott Graden@properties526
9.Dana DiPasqualeBaird & Warner4910
10.Iris AdeMCL47


Monday's Top 10: Agents With Highest Re-Sale $ Volume

Auction: 51 Parking Spaces

Except to update new-construction projects, we hadn't planned to use this blog to advertise specific properties or sales. But, in light of our recent post predicting more condo auctions in 2008, we thought we'd note an upcoming auction for 51 parking spaces in two condos: Millennium Centre at 33 W. Ontario and New York at 3660 N. Lake Shore.

In a postcard we received from Rick Levin & Associates, the auction house, the spaces are positioned as "Developer Closeouts." Of the 27 spaces at Millennium Centre, 10 will be sold "absolute, regardless of price." Suggested opening bids from $12,000 for spaces previously priced to $49,000. Of the 24 at New York, 10 will also be sold absolute. Suggested opening bids for those from $10,000 for spaces previously priced to $65,000.

Buying a space that once retailed for $65,000 for just $10,000, at auction, would be great fun, don't you agree? Part of our mission is to make it fun to buy a condo, so why not broaden that to include buying a parking space in a condo, at a bargain?

The auction is set for 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 2 at Crowne Plaza, 733 W. Madison. For details on on-site inspections and a bidder's information package, visit the Web site.

Would anyone care to offer tips on how (and whether) to buy a parking space at auction? Just click Comments below. We've never been to one. If you go, let us know how much fun you have.