Wednesday, April 30, 2008

County Auctions 3 Condos, One at 33% Off

One lucky buyer (sadly, not Ana, at left) bought a three-bedroom condo on Sheridan Road from Cook County for $278,000--a savings of $137,000 (33%) off the appraised value, and only $1,333 above the minimum bid.

Two other condos, one on West Pratt, the other on West Wrightwood, sold for 4% and 5% above their appraised values.

Those three Chicago condos were among 17 properties sold at auction by the Cook County Public Administrator's office, representing owners who died without a will.

More than 100 people attended the auction, but fewer than a half-dozen bid on many of the properties. Several houses sold for tens of thousands of dollars below the appraised value; some received no bids and will be re-auctioned later.

The condo units sold were:

• 2747 W. Pratt, 1W. This two-bedroom was appraised at $115,000; opening bid $76,667. Winning bid: $120,000, $5,000 (4%) above the appraised value.

607 W. Wrightwood, 310. One-bedroom appraised at $160,000; opening bid $106,667. Winning bid: $167,200, $7,200 (5%) above the appraised value.

6101 N. Sheridan, 36-A. Three-bedroom appraised at $415,000; opening bid $276,667. Winning bid: $278,000, $137,000 (33%) below the appraised value.

Below is a dimly lit photo, from my comfortable backrow seat:

For details on the next auction, which will likely be held at the County Building at 118 N. Clark in three or four months, call the real-estate department of the Public Administrator's office at (312) 603-0100 or visit There, you can sign up to receive notifications of future auctions.

Monday, April 28, 2008

New-Construction Update: 4/28/08

At left, Eco 18, 1818 S Wabash

Every Monday, with help from our friends at, we present vital data on condos under construction, including conversion.

To view Building Profile on, click address. To visit developer’s Web site, click name. To use Chicago's best condo search engine to review in-depth profiles of 900+ new-construction properties and find the unit type that meets any combination of 100 preferences, click here.

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
1010 W MonroeMonroe Collection NA/15$480-580K2008
1327 S WabashGlashausNA/262$230-1.1MSp '09
1818 S WabashEco1870/93$270-650Sp '10
3033 N Sheridan3033 N Sheridan115/143$147-335+NA
3414-24 N RacineRacine FlatsNA/13$330-440Now
SOURCES:, developer sites,

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cool New Neighborhood Tool From @properties

As part of the re-launch of its Web site and the release of its 2007 Market Report, @properties, the No. 1 brokerage in unit sales (transactions) of Chicago condos, has rolled out a unique, new, online tool.

The tool enables agents, consumers and others to get key market information, not only by neighborhood (census area), but by unit type, within each of the 21 neighborhoods included in the report.

For example, if you click Streeterville/Gold Coast on the map, then select Condos and 1 BR, 1BA, you will see this chart:

Condos: BR: 1, BA 1200520062007
Average Sale Price$290,362$287,388 (-1.0%)$291,143 (1.3%)
Average Market Time605789
Total Units171813391105

The report includes both detached (single-family) and attached (condo and townhome) units and is based on information collected from Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED).

Above the chart is the following description of Near North Side:

Neighborhoods within Near North Side: Cabrini Green, Dearborn Parkway, Gold Coast, Goose Island, Magnificent Mile, Near North Side, Old Town, River North, River West, State Parkway, Streeterville

Zip codes within Near North Side: 60610, 60611, 60622

The Near North Side, which includes the Gold Coast, River North, Streeterville and parts of Old Town, continued to show strength in 2007.

Detached home sales posted an average price increase of 10.6 percent following a near 19-percent jump in 2006. Average market time fell prodigiously from 326 days in 2006 to 223 in 2007; however, that still places the Near North Side last among the 21 areas in the market report–no surprise given the average sales price . . . .

Near North condo and townhome prices also have seen a steady progression with average sales prices increasing 6.5 percent in 2007 after a 4 percent up-tick in ‘06. Not surprisingly, the average sales price of $536,105 sets the bar in the city for attached housing. Average market time was up 3 weeks to 115 days, which still places the Gold Coast within the top 50 percent of areas surveyed in terms of market efficiency.

Long-term, look for the average price to continue to rise as a new super-luxury category, which includes Trump International Hotel and Tower and The Chicago Spire, takes shape.

To view the full report and see how the tool works, visit

Saluting: Equity Marketing's Mike Holtorf

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

Chicago's Top Condo Agent Earns Zero Commissions

Name: Mike Holtorf. Brokerage: Equity Marketing Services. Age: 36. Years as Agent: NA. Transaction Rank: 1 (681 units). Dollar Rank: 1 ($324 million). Resale Volume: $152,500. Condos (as % of business): 100. Source of Statistics: Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), Chicago condos closed in 2007.

Ranking No. 1 on our Top 10 list of Condo Superstars is Mike Holtorf, controller of Equity Marketing Services. Mike ranked first in both transactions, with 681, and dollar volume, with $324 million. He was listing agent for 440 of those transactions, sales (buyer's) agent for 241 of his own listings.

So far in 2008, Mike is on pace to exceed his stellar 2007 performance. As of April 20, he had closed 367 transactions: 222 as listing agent, 145 as sales agent. His total transaction volume so far in 2008: $166 million.

Perhaps because he is too busy, or just prefers flying under the radar, Mike did not respond to requests for an interview. We promised you a look behind the numbers of all our Superstars, so we'll do the best we can with what we have.

The key to his success appears to be that he is in the right place (a fast-growing marketing firm headed by Herb Emmerman) with the right credential (a broker's license) at the right time (as the company closes units in several major developments). Those factors alone appear to account for his success as a listing agent.

Accounting for Mike's success as a buyer's agent are those same factors, plus one more: a great team of agents whose sales are all credited to Mike, the managing broker and broker of record. As controller who also oversees Equity's information and technology systems, Mike does not actually sell condos and receives no commissions on top of his salary. For this information, we are grateful to La Shawn Edwards, Mike's executive assistant.

The numbers on the multiple listing service (now operated by MRED, Midwest Real Estate Data) reveal that the vast majority of Mike's transactions, both as listing and sales agent, came from three projects Equity is marketing: the company's own conversion of North Pier at 474 N. Lake Shore and two new developments, The Columbian at 1160 S. Michigan (developed by The Davis Group) and Avenue East at 160 E. Illinois (developed by Residential Homes of America).

From Equity's Web site, we learned this: While attending DePaul University, Mike worked in the banking industry. He received B.S. degrees in accounting and finance from DePaul in 1994 and joined Equity the next year.

According to Equity, he is a licensed real-estate broker, a certified management accountant and a licensed commercial pilot, who enjoys flying his Grumman Tiger. He and his wife and two children live in Batavia.

Founded in 1979, Equity closed 100 condos valued at $40 million in 2005 and 184 units valued at $65 million in 2006. From 2000 to 2004, MLS statistics indicate that it closed fewer than 50 units a year.

'Will You Bid $77,000 for This 2-Bedroom?'

Want to buy a condo for perhaps two-thirds of its appraised value?

Three Chicago condos are among 17 properties to be sold at auction by the Cook County Public Administrator's office, representing owners who died without a will. The auction will be held at 10 a.m., Wednesday, April 30, in Room 569 of the County Building at 118 N. Clark.

The condo units going on the block are:

• 2747 W. Pratt, 1W. This two-bedroom is appraised at $115,000; opening bid $76,667. Open house was 1 to 3 p.m., Sunday, April 27.

607 W. Wrightwood, 310. One-bedroom appraised at $160,000; opening bid $106,667. Viewing: 1 to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 26.

6101 N. Sheridan, 36-A. Three-bedroom appraised at $415,000; opening bid $276,667. Monthly assessment: $856. Viewing: 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, April 26.

For details, call the real-estate department of the Public Administrator's office at (312) 603-0100 or visit There, you can sign up to receive notifications of future auctions.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New-Construction Update: 4/21/08

600 N Lake Shore
Every Monday, we present vital data on condos under construction or conversion. If you have a new development to report on a new development, e-mail

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

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
1400 S MichiganMichigan Ave. Tower II27/268$310-580KFall '08
1624 W DivisionVisionNA/33$440-59010/09
200 N Dearborn200 N Dearborn150/309$230-560+NA
3021 W CarrollCarroll St. Lofts63/63$150-200+NA
600 N Lake Shore600 N Lake Shore86/400$400+1/09
6425 W TouhyEdgebrook Pointe11/18$270-340+NA
675-93 N PeoriaMarquette RowNA/45$340-490+June
733 W WavelandWaveland Place NA/13$390+NA
828 W GracePark View East7/140$255-370NA
150 W RooseveltLofts at Roosevelt171/324$300-650'09
SOURCES:, developer sites

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tougher To Get, Refinance, Condo Mortgage

"Because of underwriting changes by giant investors Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, plus new restrictions by private-mortgage insurers, getting a loan on a condo or refinancing one you own could prove tougher than you imagined."

That's the warning from Kenneth Harney, a nationally syndicated columnist specializing in real estate.

The major effect is on those who need private-mortgage insurance. Buyers who put down at least 20% are less likely to be affected by the changes.

For details, see the article in Sunday's Chicago Tribune.


On April 17, Freddie Mac reached an agreement with Wells Fargo, Citibank, Washington Mutual and JPMorgan Chase to purchase mortgages up to $730,000 in some areas. Assuming that Chicago is among those areas and that condos are included (we're checking), here's what this means for you:

Traditionally, homes loans above $417,000 were considered jumbo, and were not backed by government-sponsored programs, including Freddie Mac. This resulted in these types of loans being much harder to get in today’s market, and when they were available, it was generally at a higher interest rate.

The April 17 agreement means those looking to purchase new homes or refinance existing mortgages on the higher end should be able to do so with greater ease.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Display MLS Condo Statistics on Your Site

Would you like to keep visitors to your Web site up to date on Chicago's condo market? If so, simply click Get Widget on the City Condo Market report in the right-hand column of this blog. (Scroll up.)

When your e-mail arrives, we will send you the code that will enable you to display the report on your site. The widget is updated automatically every month from statistics generated from the MLS database operated by Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED).

Additional widgets will be available soon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Media Watch: Crain's 'Chicken Little' Coverage

On page 4 of its April 7 edition, Crain's Chicago Business published a five-paragraph item under this bold, three-column headline:


Glutted? Really? How do you define "glutted" (excessively oversupplied, perhaps)? And on which statistics, from which sources, do you base that highly subjective characterization?

Not about to spring back? Ever? Really? Is the sky falling, too? Will it ever stop falling? Will Crain's, which is sounding a lot like Chicken Little, ever stop its negative take on the condo market? Ever?

Forgive the tone of our questions. Crain's is a popular and highly respected, Chicago-based business weekly in tabloid format. I love to read it, primarily for the lively writing and local coverage. But its April 7 article is just one of several gloom-and-doom reports on condos it has published in recent months.

Like the absurd and unsupported headline, the article itself is misleading and harmful. (Crain's doesn't provide a way to link to its article online, so you'll have to trust our report.) Crain's quotes a prominent local money manager, Dan Cardell, president of Wayne Hummer Asset Management, as predicting that the Chicago "area" condo market will "probably" drop "another" 15% in price because "there's tons of supply."

It's difficult to respond to, and judge, Crain's and Cardell's assertions because neither documented them. But we'll do our best.

First, let's set the record straight for the city condo market, arguably the most important segment of the Chicago "area," however defined, and the focus of this blog.

Will prices of Chicago condos drop "another" 15%? No, because they haven't dropped the first 15%. In fact, they haven't dropped at all. Indeed, as we have reported, the median sales price (MSP) of city condos closed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) was UP 7% in 2007, compared to 2006. And, to the surprise of many, as of March 31, the MSP is UP 11% year to date.

In dramatic contrast to cities throughout the country, the median price of Chicago condos is still going up.

Is there a glut of condos in the city? As reported here, as of March 31, there were only 2% more active city condo listings on the MLS than on the same date a year ago. Certainly no evidence of a glut there.

Based on units sold in 2007, there was a nine-month supply of city condos on March 31, but that's only 6% more than on the same day last year.

The best (worst) case that might be made for a condo glut in the city is that the current nine-month supply compares to what is generally considered, nationwide, a "normal" (balanced) supply of six months. One might argue that nine months is 50% higher than "normal," which could be considered a glut. But you'd have to understand those numbers, and how they are calculated, better than we do, to make that case. If anyone wants to make that case, we'll publish it.

Our point is not that Crain's was incorrect in its use of "glutted," but that neither Crain's nor its source (Cardell) supported that claim with evidence. So we don't know if it is justified or not.

Will the Chicago condo market ever spring back? As reported here, unit sales in the city have already rebounded in each of the first three months (from being down 36% in January to down 24% in February to down 18% in March). Most importantly, dollar sales volume is down only four percent. In the city, at least, the rebound is already underway. No one knows if we've hit bottom, but evidence is mounting that we may have.

What about the Chicago "area" condo market? In an e-mail, Cardell says he was referring to Chicagoland, which neither he, nor Crain's, nor any source we consulted clearly defines. So, using the MLS database, we generated statistics for the eight-county metropolitan area. It encompasses the counties of Cook, Lake, McHenry, DeKalb, Kane, Du Page, Kendall and Will. The vast majority (85%) of condo sales in that metro area are in Cook County.

In those eight counties, the median sales price of condos closed on the MLS in 2007 was UP 9% over 2006. On April 13, the median price for year-to-date 2008 is UP 8%, to $258,000. So much for falling prices (and a falling sky)!

Granted, the number of units sold in those eight counties has declined significantly. Unit sales were down 13% in 2007 and, year to date, are 28% below sales during the same period last year. That doesn't necessarily mean there's a glut. If the metro area is like the city, many owners have kept their condos off the market. Developers, of course, don't have that luxury. Many of them probably feel like the sky is falling.

Using the MLS, we were unable to generate comparable area statistics on supply in 2007 vs. 2006. If you know how, or have another reliable source on the supply of condos in the eight-county area, let us know. We do know from the MLS that the average market time in the metro area is currently 133 days vs. 137 for the city. That doesn't prove Cardell's claim of "tons of supply," either.

What is Dan Cardell's evidence that prices have declined? In an e-mail to us, Cardell explained that he meant average, rather than median, price and added:

"I did not make any comment [in his conversation with Crain's] on how far the market has fallen so far. In fact, my impression is that it has held up quite well relative to other markets. This is exactly my point--the Chicago [area] market is 15% overvalued (based on academic research which compares disposable income, business activity, employment, etc., to housing values).

"I am forecasting a 15% drop in prices from here," his e-mail continued. "It is precisely because the market has held up so well in the face of so many negatives (restricted credit, oversupply, buyer reluctance, disappearance of investors) that I feel comfortable with my forecast. As with any forecast of the future, only time will tell."

Yet, here is how Crain's quoted Cardell: "A lot of people feel that in the spring, things are going to pick up. When they realize that's not happening, I think we'll see the next leg down. The condo market probably has about another 15% to go down (in prices)." [The phrase in parentheses is Crain's; the italic emphasis is ours.]

How can we have a "next" leg down and "another" decline in prices, when prices are up? Either Crain's misquoted Cardell or he's changing his tune. Either way, the reader is misled. And Cardell's key point, which could be valid--only time will tell--is lost in misstatements.

In an e-mail to us after reading this post, Cardell now claims he was referring only to new construction when he told Crain's "there's tons of supply." If so, this is not the first time Crain's has said "condo market" when it really meant new-construction condo market. In the city, new construction, including conversions, is less than half the total condo market.

In fairness to Crain's, the headline and article were published under this heading: My Take: A Conversation With Money Manager Dan Cardell. To careful readers, that indicated that the item was not a news article, reported by Crain's, but an opinion column. (Although the by-line of the interviewer, Crain's Bruce Blythe, did appear at the bottom.)

But how many thousands read the headline and thought, The condo market really does suck; it's even worse than I thought; I'd better lower my price or lower my offer, then turned the page without reading the article?

There goes consumer confidence down another notch, putting even more downward pressure on condo prices and on the local economy. And, for that, Crain's, on behalf of everyone involved in the condo market, we urge you (and other local media) to drop your irresponsible, Chicken Little approach to covering our city's condo market.

Even in a guest opinion column, you can require that assertions be supported with specific evidence from reliable sources. Columnists are entitled to their opinions, but not to their facts.

If we receive one, we will gladly publish a response from the article's author, Crain's Assistant Managing Editor Bruce Blythe, and would welcome his defense of Crain's recent record of covering condos. [By e-mail, Blythe has declined our invitation.]

To let Dan Cardell and Bruce Blythe know how you feel, click on their names and e-mail them. To let us, and our readers, know, click Comments below.

Illustration by Walt Disney

Monday, April 14, 2008

New-Construction Update: 4/14/08

Library Tower, 518 S State
Every Monday, we present vital data on condos under construc-tion or conversion. If you have a new development to report on a new development, e-mail Ric14

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

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
110 W SuperiorSuperior 110NA/58$528K-1.6MJune
1122 W GranvilleGranvilleNA/160$250Now
171 W PolkPrinters Corner22/88$285-487Now
611 S WellsVetro116/232$199-1.1MNow
1329 W N ShoreNorth Shore Manor3/31$229Now
200 E OhioSaint ClairNA/253$300K-3M6/10
310 S MichiganMetropolitan TowerNA/242$300-900+Now
3905 N WesternCityscape NA/42$394-619NA
714 W DivisionParkSide, Old TownNA/800$270-840June
518 S PlymouthLibrary TowerNA/184$372-885May
SOURCES: Chicago Agent, developer sites

Monday, April 7, 2008

Breaking News: 2 Regional MLSs Merge

"We are proud to announce that the Consolidation and Acquisition Agreement between MLSNI and MAP has been signed. The new company has been named: Midwest Real Estate Data, LLC (MRED)."

Except for that brief mention on its new Web site,, we have seen no reports on the long-awaited merger of the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI) and MAP MLS.

The closing took place on Friday, according to a company source. We'll bring you details as they are announced.

Update: According to Ginger Downs, CEO of the Chicago Association of Realtors, MRED will be led by the following: Bud Fogel, CEO; William E. White, interim president; and Brad Tertell, general manager.

Sun-Times Spotlights Good News About Condos

On the front page of Sunday's edition (left), the Chicago Sun-Times spotlights "Good News!" about the Chicago housing market, including condos.

In the article, reporter Sandra Guy paraphrases the lead paragraph from our report on this blog last Wednesday (see below) that dollars generated from Chicago condo sales are down only 4%, comparing the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2007. She also notes that the median sales price of city condos is up, in sharp contrast to the decline in prices in many other major markets.

Sandra also quotes two brokers whose analyses of the market were featured on this blog in March (@properties' Mike Golden) and April (Dave Hanna, managing partner of Prudential SourceOne Realty).

The article is illustrated by a valuable map that shows the change in median sales price of condos in all 77 census areas in Chicago.

We've been critical of the local media for overly negative characterization of the current city condo market, so we'd like to compliment the Sun-Times for giving a more balanced view and for spotlighting the good news on the front page of its Sunday edition.

In our coverage, we never want to be guilty of glossing over problems in the market and don't expect the rest of the media to do so. What we expect, from ourselves and other media, are these traits: authority (using and citing the best available sources of data), accuracy, context, fairness and balance.

To hold us accountable, simply click Comments at the bottom of any post and your comment will be posted for others to see.

New-Construction Update: 4/7/08

At left, Shoemaker Lofts
3963 W Belmont

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

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

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
10 E DelawareTen East DelawareNA/121$550K-$2.6M9/09
2702-20 N LehmannLehmann Court16/36$525-800NA
2738 W ArmitageArmitage SquareNA/50$300Now
3140 N SheffieldVicNA/51$450-925Now
3963 W BelmontShoemaker Lofts43/175$180-490Now
47 Cottage GroveShops/Lofts at 47167/167$150-5604/09
5133 N WinthropWinthrop Terrace6/21$166-271Now
5430 N Sheridan5430 N Sheridan NA/48$310-450Now
5440 N SheridanBluewater 5440NA/191$170K-1M12/09
7722-34 N AshlandTerrace ViewNA/25$155-290May
SOURCES: Chicago Agent, developer sites

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Sales Rebound in March; Now Down Only 4%

Dollars generated from sales of Chicago condos, down 8% year to date at the end of February, were down just 4% by the end of March. Those percentages are based on total transaction dollar volume of city condos closed on the Multiple Listing Service, January 1 through March 31.

In simple terms, comparing the first quarter of 2008 to the first quarter of 2007, no matter what you read elsewhere about the condo market having "tanked" or whatever: The city's condo market is down 4% year to date. Four percent.

Although the number of units sold in the first three months of 2008 is down 18% compared to the same three-month period in 2007, that is a significant improvement over the 24% decrease at the end of February, and 36% at the end of January.

Those decreasing percentages indicate a rebound in the market. Whether they provide evidence that a bottom has been reached, it is too early to tell.

More good news (for sellers and agents): For the first three months of 2008, median sales price is up 11% compared to the first three months of 2007. Average market time is down 3%.

The reluctance of owners to put their units on the market is reflected in this figure: the number of units listed during March 2008 was 16% less than the number added in March 2007. Active listings on March 31 were actually down 2% compared to March 31, 2007.

When asked to comment, Prudential SourceOne's Dave Hanna said: "Smart buyers are finding good values in the condominium market. We see several factors at work in these numbers. Developers are providing attractive incentives to move their product. Consumers continue to be drawn to new construction by pricing, design and finishes. The upper end of this market segment is holding its own and Realtors who do their homework are finding affordable choices at all price points for their clients. We still see long-term challenges to the overall market in the unsettled financing climate."

For the numbers from which the above percentages are calculated, see the chart in the right-hand column of this blog. (Scroll up.) For details on month-over-month and year-over-year changes, go to Market Overview at

Is the city condo market rebounding from its bottom? To express your opinion, click Comments below.