Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Restrictions on Rental Restrictions Proposed

Condo associations considering restrictions, or a ban, on rentals should act fast or they could soon find additional restrictions on their ability to restrict.

Making its way through the Illinois General Assembly, reports the Chicago Tribune, is HB-5189, a controversial pro-leasing piece of legislation. According to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Sandra Pihos (R-Glen Ellyn), the goal is to protect owners' rights to rent their units.

Supporters include affordable housing agencies, which buy condos and rent them at below-market rates to low-income clients. When rentals are banned, agencies can be forced to sell those units, shrinking the pool of affordable housing.

Associations restrict renters for several reasons: They are less likely than owners to follow rules and care for the property. They don't stay as long as owners; more move-ins and move-outs cause more damage. An owner-occupancy rate that is lower than normal reduces the value of all units and can make it more difficult and more expensive for buyers to obtain a mortgage and thus more difficult for owners to sell their units.

Restricting rentals can be time-consuming and expensive for associations because the declaration must be amended by a super-majority of owners.

Among the provisions being considered by the legislature are requiring future restrictions to allow at least 20 percent of the units to be rented and exempting current owners.

Pihos, who represents the 42nd district, can be reached by e-mail or by calling (217) 782-8037.

Monday, May 26, 2008

New-Construction Update: 5/26/08

At left, Chess Lofts, 320 E. 21st

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

To view Building Profile on ChicagoCondosOnline.com, 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 types that meet any combination of 100 preferences, click here.

222 E. Pearson, Pearson on the Park
25 of 219 units available to buy, 1-3 BR, $356 to $530K
Developed by Hawthorne, Sold by Jameson

320 E. 21st, Chess Lofts
49 of 119 units available, 1-2 BR, $210-260+
Developed/Sold by Garrison

3030 N. Broadway, Broadway 3030
53 of 53 units available, 1-3BR, $300-1.5M
Developed by JFJ, Sold by @properties

505 N. McClurg, ParkView
NA of 268 units available now, 1-3 BR, $380-1M
Developed/Sold by MCL

550 N. St. Clair, 550 St. Clair
35 of 111 units available now, 0-3 BR, $290-1.3M
Developed by Sutherland Pearsall, Sold by Weichert

Saturday, May 24, 2008

31 Foreclosed Units To Be Auctioned in June

If you're in the market to buy a condo and are waiting to buy at the bottom, you might want to start reading the legal notices in the classified section of your local newspaper.

As this photo of Eva Mendes suggests: Run, don't walk, to your nearest newsstand.

For example, the May 22 edition of Skyline, a neighborhood paper covering Lincoln Park, Old Town, River North and Gold Coast, carried legal notices on 31 downtown condos that will be auctioned to the highest bidders in June.

Five of the units being foreclosed are at 10 E. Ontario, two are at 222 N. Columbus and three are on prestigious North Lake Shore Drive. Here, listed by date of auction, are the units:

June 2: Unit 6D, 210 E. Pearson; Unit 1201, 421 W. Huron
June 3: Unit 14A, 1540 N. State; Unit 1145, 900 N. Kingsbury
June 6: 6206 N. Levitt
June 9: Unit 4002, 10 E. Ontario; Unit 3408, 405 N. Wabash
June 10: Unit 3106, 360 E. Randolph
June 12: Unit 544, 800 S. Wells; Unit 1604, 435 W. Erie; Unit 1106, 10 E. Ontario
June 13: Unit 4102, 10 E. Ontario
June 16: Unit 1711, 440 N. Wabash
June 17: Unit 3305, 1122 N. Clark; Unit 1815, 211 E. Ohio; Unit 5201, 474 N. Lake Shore; Unit 3009, 505 N. Lake Shore; Unit 701, 222 N. Columbus
June 20: Unit 1701, 1101 S. State
June 23: Unit 3504, 405 N. Wabash; Unit 606, 900 N. Lake Shore; Unit 2807, 222 N. Columbus; Unit 3502, 10 E. Ontario
June 24: Unit 1203, 535 N. Michigan; Unit 1206, 510 W. Erie; Unit E, 640 W. Fulton
June 25: Unit 11A, 73 E. Elm
June 26: Unit 3509, 10 E. Ontario; Unit 20D, 33 W. Delaware
June 30: Unit 3B, 1415 N. Dearborn; Unit 1903, 345 N. LaSalle

For details on most of these sales, contact The Judicial Sales Corp. at (312) 236-7253. If you've never been to a condo auction and don't understand the process, you might want to check with your Realtor or attorney first.

Here, from Rubloff's Debbie Maue, a top-producing agent with 19 years in the business, is some valuable context on buying at auction in today's market:

"Buying a foreclosure isn't that easy. First, individuals who do this as a profession have the inside scoop. Second, you are buying the place 'as is.' Often, the owner has trashed and pillaged the place and you don't know until you own it and have the keys.

"I bought a foreclosure. I did so before it went to sale. It was trashed. Most buyers think, Hey, I'm going to buy a foreclosure and get a great deal. It's like saying, 'Hey, I'm going to win the lottery.'

"Most people trying to get in on the foreclosure game are wasting their time. What buyers are not seeing is that, outside of foreclosures, right now they are getting incredible deals. Many places are priced at what they were three years ago, if not slightly lower. And, with amazing interest rates.

"That is another point about foreclosures: You have to have your financing in hand. Buyers think rates and prices are going to drop more. Doubtful. Chicago did not have the huge appreciation jump that Florida and Las Vegas did. Thus, there is not that margin to drop. Sellers are not going to lose their shirts on this. They are staying put until they get their price.

"Smart buyers understand that as the market turns, all their fellow buyers who have been sniffing around will be flooding the market and prices won't be so negotiable. Who knows, could we actually be looking at a sellers' market not too soon?"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

54 Downtown Parking Spaces Up for Auction

If the condo you buy at auction doesn't come with parking, consider this: In developer closeouts, 54 parking spaces at three Chicago condos will be auctioned off, 17 of them to be sold "absolute regardless of price," meaning no minimum bids. The spaces were previously priced at up to $42,000.

The spaces are at 210 S. Des Plaines (22), 1040 W. Adams (27, including 6 for motorcycles) and 2300 W. St. Paul (5).

Also on the block at 210 S. Des Plaines is a 2,500-square-foot commercial condo, with a minimum bid of $225,000.

The auction, conducted by Rick Levin & Associates, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, at Crowne Plaza, 733 W. Madison.

We're hoping that Mandy Moore (above) will be among those attending.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saluting: Coldwell Banker's Matt Garrison

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

He ‘Follows the Market’ to Fame and Fortune

Name: Matt Garrison. Brokerage: Coldwell Banker. Age: 32. Years as Agent: 6 . Transaction Rank: 4 (228 units). Dollar Volume Rank: 5 ($66 million). Condos (of all business): 90%. Source of statistics: MRED, Chicago condos closed in 2007.

After graduating from the University of Illinois, in Champaign, with a major in English Rhetoric in 1998, Matt Garrison landed a job selling transportation logistics to Fortune 500 companies.

Later, bitten by the entrepreneur bug, the Chicago native started an outdoor advertising and media company that sold ads on trucks to McDonald's and others.

When the dot-com technology bubble burst, Matt found himself working for the company that had bought his company. Though he retained part ownership, he wasn’t happy.

Matt considered his options. One was real estate. In 2001, he had bought a four-unit apartment building as an investment. Then a second one. Those investments had led him to get his license as an agent.

What appealed to him about real estate, he recalls, is that being an agent is “one of the purest forms of entrepreneurship. You are your own boss, you don’t have to report to investors and there’s no ceiling on your earnings.”

So in May 2002, with his business partner, Bob Kohler, Matt, 26 and single, left the company to apply his sales and marketing experience to residential real estate. Because he had no experience, Matt joined Coldwell Banker, primarily for its brand recognition.

To differentiate himself in an industry dominated by solo agents, Matt decided to create a sales team, The Matt Garrison Group. In the next 20 months, he hired nine agents.

A year later, in August 2003, Matt got his first big break. Impressed by seeing him in the office next door all the time, RDM Development named Matt the exclusive sales agent for The Venetian (left), an 88-unit condo at 222 W. Division in Old Town.

Matt put together brochures, advertising strategies and handled the listings. The project succeeded and, today, RDM accounts for 40 to 50% of Matt's business. At the end of 2003, Matt’s team had generated $27 million in organic resales.

In 2004, Realtor magazine named Matt one of its “30 Under 30” top agents. At year end, his 10 agents had generated $59 million in sales, which included the first RDM sales.

In 2005, Matt’s group generated $130 million in sales. The Wall Street Journal ranked him in the top 200 agents in the country. Matt began plans to add as many as 50 agents who would generate $1 billion in annual sales.

In 2006, he and his roughly 18 full-time agents sold 796 units, more than any of Coldwell Banker’s 132,000 agents in the world, and 8th in team sales volume, with $155 million.

In 2007, due, Matt says, to the cyclical nature of the industry, the group was down to 300+ units because 2006 had included a major conversion in the suburb Elk Grove Village. Total volume last year was nearly $200 million. Matt ranked fifth in new-construction Chicago condo volume, with $55 million.

In 2007, 60% of his business was new construction, including about 70% conversions. Roughly 90% of his business was condos.

Accounting for many of Matt’s sales in 2007 were two RDM projects: the conversion of 1400 N. Lake Shore from apartments to 398 condo units and the construction of Trio, a 209-unit condo at 650 W. Wayman.

At 1400 N. Lake Shore (left), Matt earned commissions on 82 of 300+ sides. Fifty of his 398 listings closed; he also represented 32 buyers of those 50 units, so he had 32 double bubbles, meaning he received both sides of the commission.

At Trio, he closed 49 of the 209 listings and represented 18 buyers.

Today, Matt’s group consists of 10 agents. The agents do most of the listing presentations and showings on the resale side. On the developer side, he does all presentations and showings. His partner, Bob Kohler, runs day-to-day operations.

Matt’s specialty is working with developers. He analyzes the market, finds the property, acquires it, helps design the initial plan, runs pro formas, finds the right developer, puts the deal together, then markets and sells it. He tells developers, “You’re hiring a marketing department, not just a broker.”

Matt attributes some of his success to this strategy: “Follow the market.” When the residential market weakens, he looks for opportunities in commercial. When the Chicago market slows, he seeks opportunities outside Chicago. When RDM wanted to build a project in Las Vegas, for example, Matt offered to take the lead.

Since 2003, The Matt Garrison Group has generated more than $500 million in residential sales, virtually all of it from condos in Chicago. Matt estimates that he personally generated 80% of those sales.

The group is currently engaged in the marketing of residential development projects valued at more than $500 million.

What is Matt Garrison’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 does he predict for the Chicago condo market?

In an interview in his office in the MB Financial building at 1200 N. Ashland not long ago, Matt answered those questions, and more. In his own words:

How does it feel to be a Top 10 Condo Superstar? It feels great! It’s a competitive market with a lot of very skilled agents. To rank highly is a tremendous honor.

What are your secrets to selling so many condos?

* Motivation: I am always motivated by finding the next deal, and the fear of losing it.

* Strengths: Connecting the dots; capturing opportunities before others do; creative, outside-the-box marketing.

* USP (Unique Selling Proposition): Finding the next deal for the developers instead of waiting for them to bring it to me.

* Sources of revenue: 70% from sellers; 30% buyers; 60% from new construction (developers), 40% resale.

* Role of Internet: Web site generates perhaps 10% of leads, but less than 10% of business. It serves primarily as a marketing tool for our listings.

What is your greatest weakness? I’m not out on the street working with clients as much as some of my competitors are, so I have to rely on my agents for feedback on the market.

How do you enjoy your personal time? That will change soon, as Lisa, my wife of two years, and I are expecting our first child any day.

What advice do you have for agents who want to become Superstars? Get help. Delegate. You need a business system. Invest money. With my second commission check, I hired an assistant.

What is the cost of being a Superstar? Working 70 to 80 hours a week cuts into your personal time.

What do you look for when hiring an agent? Experience, motivation, entrepreneur, likable, self-motivated. I’m not looking to stack agents. Once had 25; now have 10.

Why should buyer/seller work with you? My market knowledge, negotiating and pricing skills and willingness to invest in marketing.

Looking back on 2007:

* Most important decision: When the market died in the fall, we decided to go international. Working with Coldwell Bankers’ Global Referral System, I made trips to London and Dublin and we sold 32 units to overseas buyers. We are continuing that effort in 2008.

* Highest moment: Getting a great new project that I can’t talk about yet.

* Lowest moment: Losing a listing presentation on a major deal.

* Biggest mistake: Not foreseeing issues in capital markets (subprime) and not getting ahead of the curve with preemptive price flexibility.

Looking ahead in 2008:

* Market forecast: Unit sales will be down 30%. Appreciation will be flat. No one can predict a market bottom, but we’re close, so it’s a good time to buy. Long-term, I’m bullish on Chicago condos because of projected job growth, migration of boomers from the suburbs to downtown, not to mention the possibility of getting the 2016 Olympics.

* No. 1 goal: Adapting to market changes and staying ahead of the curve.

* How increase rank: I don’t anticipate increasing my rank in 2008, as we are working on new projects that have yet to come out of the ground and are spending a lot of time working on commercial deals in other asset classes.

* Biggest challenge: Market conditions.

What would you rather be? While I will continue to sell residential and do joint ventures with developers, we are moving into boutique real-estate investment banking, including raising capital, syndication and deal sourcing in a variety of asset classes.

Monday, May 19, 2008

New-Construction Update: 5/19/08

At left, 2140-52 W Devon

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

To view Building Profile on ChicagoCondosOnline.com, 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 types that meet any combination of 100 preferences, click here.

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
1358 W GreenleafGrove at Greenleaf8/44$180-230KNA
2124-30 N CaliforniaElement20/30$146-4507/09
2140-52 W Devon2140-52 W Devon 30%/NA$270+NA
4815 N KimballKimball Park12/24$189-230Now
9 W Erie9 W Erie42/60$280-600NA
SOURCES: YoChicago.com, developer sites, ChicagoCondosOnline.com

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Adventures With Aimee in Our Nation's Capital

To promote our concept of creating exclusive, customized condo Web sites and blogs for Multiple Listing Services in other major markets, we attended the midyear conference of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in Washington, D.C., this past week.

Above, outside The White House, our sales representative, Aimee Kirkconnell, who hails from Austin, Texas, beams her trademark smile, even though she was in pain from walking miles in high heels.

You can bet all eyes monitoring the security cameras were on Aimee. As this photo shows, the only thing keeping her from The White House is an iron fence. As a native Texan, Aimee couldn't be expected to be too impressed with the home of our President. Her first response on seeing it up close: "It's so small."

Collazo Marketing 'Green' Energy-Star Condos

Ready to "Go green"?

Art Collazo, one of Chicago's Top 10 condo agents, is betting his future, and his greenbacks, that many buyers will soon agree with him that the future of Chicago condos is green.

To demonstrate his commitment, the Koenig & Strey agent has teamed with George Sullivan of Eco Smart Building, a Chicago-based consultant, and Energy Star, a federal program, to create condos that are environmentally friendly and energy efficient.

Among other benefits, according to George, who is the largest Energy Star partner in the Midwest, green condos use less energy, which means lower heating and cooling bills. They use less water and natural resources, which means fewer pollutants are released into the environment, leaving its occupants healthier. They can also mean lower mortgage payments and taxes.

To exceed Energy Star guidelines by at least 50%, each of Art's condos will feature: a furnace that is 92% efficient, high-efficiency air conditioning, water-saving plumbing fixtures, argon-filled windows with U values of .35 or lower, and cabinetry wood and floors from environmentally responsible foresters. Optional will be counter tops from recycled glass and concrete.

To promote his program, Art recently launched ChicagoGreenCondo.com, a portal Web site that features only green condos, but not just those he is developing or marketing. One of the goals of the site is to help buyers distinguish between condos advertised as "eco-friendly" and those that are truly green and have been certified by a third party, such as Energy Star.

Four buildings are already being converted: Clybourn Green at 2403-9 W. Clybourn, Newport Green at 815-7 W. Newport, Wellington Green at 1344 W. Wellington, and Bell Green, at 1313 N. Bell. In the planning stages is Art's first new-construction green condo, Green Halsted at Ashland. It will have 24 or so units.

The first owner is already living in Clybourn Green. Seventeen of the 24 units there are still available. The other conversions will deliver in the next 100 days.

Rendering of Clybourn Green, 2403-9 W. Clybourn

The prices of the 41 units in Art's four green condo conversions range from $205,000 to $740,000, less than $300 per square foot. Art says comparable non-green condos sell for about 10 to 15% less per square foot, but cost more to maintain.

Based on national averages, utility costs for green condos are 70% less than for standard (non-green) condos (60 cents per square foot per month vs. $2). Studies show that the typical condo units leaks 73% of its heat, Art says. To be certified by Energy Star, a unit can leak no more than 6%.

In addition to tax and marketing benefits to developers, Energy Star construction offers a terrific financial benefit to buyers, Art says. By buying from a developer who has qualified for an Energy Efficient Mortgage by building an Energy Star Plus condo, buyers get underwriting credit for utilities and can thus qualify for a larger mortgage.

By participating in the city's Tax Smart program, buyers can also get a federal tax credit of up to $2,200 a year for 27 years. "That's equal to the annual tax deduction parents receive for a child," he notes.

According to Art, construction costs are from 10 to 20% higher. Most of those extra costs are passed along to the buyer. But savings from energy, mortgage payments and taxes can quickly recoup the extra upfront investment. Appraisals are generally 10 to 15% higher.

Art looks forward to the day he can take his children around and show them the green condos he has helped create and tell them how those buildings are making Chicago a better place, and their owners happier, more responsible citizens.

If, as in previous efforts, Art Collazo achieves colossal success, his competitors, no doubt, will be green with envy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New-Construction Update: 5/12/08

Mod, 1222-4 W Madison

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

To view Building Profile on ChicagoCondosOnline.com, 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 unit types that meet any combination of 100 preferences, click here.

AddressNameFor SalePriceDelivery
1222-4 W MadisonMod28/56$280-490K'09
1600 N HalstedAxis8/20$220-260NA
5427 N BroadwayB'way Village Lofts 10/24$230-253Fall
757 N Orleans757 Orleans @Chicago84/198$240-700NA
8 E HuronHuron38/47$1.1-4.7MNA
SOURCES: YoChicago.com, developer sites, ChicagoCondosOnline.com

Friday, May 9, 2008

Wall Street Journal Online Cites ChicagoCondosOnline.com

Imagine our surprise, and delight, Thursday, when we received a Google Alert that ChicagoCondosOnline.com, our Web site, was mentioned on Wall Street Journal Online (WSJ.com).

When we linked to the site, we saw this fascinating article, entitled "How to Find Foreign Buyers for U.S. Properties," by June Fletcher, in her column House Talk:

Q: Where can I find a real estate agent who focuses on selling U.S. properties -- specifically condos around Millennium Park in Chicago -- to foreign buyers? --Ellis Levin, Chicago

A: Your instinct to look overseas is a good one . . . . Urban real estate in major U.S. cities costs much less than it does in many other industrialized nations.

According to the Global Property Guide, an apartment in London costs $28,355 per square meter ($2,637 per square foot), and Paris $15,670 per square meter ($1,457 per square foot).

By comparison, according to Chicagocondosonline.com, the median sales price in 2007 for a Chicago condo was only $294 per square foot, which comes to $3,165 per square meter.

Our thanks to the Journal (and, probably, to Google). And to God, for allowing us to live in such luxury for so little in Chicago!

Penthouse W/Indoor Pool: Reduced to $5.5M

One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity.

If you're looking--even vicariously--for a bargain penthouse with indoor pool, both the resistance and the billiards varieties--and aren't we all?--check out the current post at CribChatter.com, a blog that cleverly bills itself as: "Flips, Foreclosures, McMansions, New Condos: The Dish on the Chicago Housing Market."

It's a "foreclosure opportunity," listed at $5.5 million, having originally sold for $3.7 million, in 2002, and resold for $6 million in July 2007, eight months before it went into pre-foreclosure.

The four-bedroom, 4.5-bath loft at 400 W. Ontario in River North has 6,700 square feet. So the asking price amounts to $821 per square foot. @properties has the listing. Hurry, only one left. Based on the figures in the above post from the Wall Street Journal, this condo would go for nearly $18 million in London.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

@properties Acquires Smith Office in Bucktown

@properties, Chicago's No. 1 condo brokerage, announced today that it has acquired residential brokerage firm J A Smith + Assoc. Inc., at 1959 W. Cortland.

Jan Smith, founder and managing broker of the four-agent firm, will join @properties as a broker associate. The office, at Cortland and Damen, will be expanded to provide space for up to 60 agents. The newly branded office, the firm's fifth location, will reopen in July.

The office will be overseen by Jeanine McShea, @properties’ vice president of sales and managing broker. “A new office in the heart of Bucktown is a natural progression for us to better serve our clients in Bucktown, Logan Square, Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village,” said Jeanine.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

You, Too, Thinking of Buying a 'Green' Condo?

If you're thinking of going "green" when buying your next condo, as Jennifer Lopez could be thinking in this photo, click over to ChicagoGreenCondo.com.

On that new Web site, you can find out about an innovative initiative by Art Collazo, one of Chicago's Top 10 condo agents, to put buyers into green (environmentally friendly, energy efficient) condos he's helping convert. More on Art's efforts soon.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Breaking News: Sales Rebound Stalls in April

A weak performance in April has stalled what appeared to be a rebound for sales of Chicago condos.

Based on sales closed on the Multiple Listing Service, now operated by Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), compared to the first four months of 2007, the number of city condos closed January 1 through April 30 is down 24%, median sales price is up 11% and total transaction dollar volume (on which commissions are based) is down 8%.

So, after being down just 4% in March, dollars generated by condo sales have returned to the same negative level, on a percentage basis, they were on February 29 (down 8%).

Now down 24%, units closed were down 36% at the end of January, 24% in February and 18% in March.

Bottom line: Year to date, Chicago condo sales are down 8%.

On the MLS, at least, there is still no sign of a surplus of inventory. Units listed to date are down 18%, year over year. Only 4% more units are for sale than in March. And average days on market are down 4%. Supply at the end of April is up just 3% over where it was a year earlier, at 9.4 months. (Supply of Miami condos is reported being at 61 months!)

For the numbers on which these percentages are based, see the City Condo Market widget in the right-hand column of this blog. For additional data, click the DETAILS button on that widget. (The ANALYSIS button links to this post.)

Asked to comment on the April statistics, Rubloff's Mario Greco, one of the city's Top 10-selling condo agents--who closes roughly one condo a day--offered these observations:

"What I've experienced so far in 2008 is not what the numbers are saying at all. I have seen an uptick in showings, contracts and closed sales across all price points--from $200,000 to north of $2 million.

"My inventory has shrunk and my market times have gotten smaller, compared to 2007. Other agents I've spoken to have been experiencing the same thing.

"What is happening," Mario explains, "is that new sellers are coming on the market at more realistic prices and selling quicker than the still-stubborn 2007 holdover sellers. That said, many 2007 sellers have adjusted their price to where it should have been in 2007 and the market time attached to their listing is causing people to buy the newer listing anyway."

Another Top 10 condo agent, Koenig & Strey's Art Collazo, offers similar insights on the current market, along with advice for both buyers and sellers:

"My biggest challenge today is responding to negative reports in the media," Art says. How does he respond? "By not letting them affect me."

Overly pessimistic coverage in the media sets up unrealistic expectations among buyers. Despite what the "comps" show, buyers think they can buy condos for much below market value, Art adds. (Comps are comparables, the documents agents prepare for sellers to show how the sold prices of similar units compare to the unit being placed on the market.)

"In this market," says Art, "the biggest mistake buyers make is focusing too much on getting the lowest price and too little on the comps. They need to focus more on the overall quality and value of the property itself.

"The biggest mistake sellers make," he added, "is not pricing their units in line with the current market. They, too, need to pay more attention to the comps."

Jim Merrion, Regional Director of RE/MAX Northern Illinois, adds this note on the increase in median sales price:

"While condo market activity pretty much mir- rors the direction of the overall housing market, there has been a remarkable burst of activity in condos priced at $700,000 or more this year. MRED reports sales of attached homes that cost $700,000 or more were up 67% in April, com- pared to the same month last year.

"For the first four months of the year," Jim adds, "sales in that price range were up 48% from the same period in 2007. That increase in activity at the top end of the market helps explain why the median sales price of all condos sold during the first four months of 2008 rose 11%."

Has our condo market bottomed? On unit sales, the jury is still out. What is encouraging--for agents and sellers, at least--is that the median sales price year to date ($320,000) is still 8% above the median for all of 2007 ($297,000). So any talk of lower overall condo prices in Chicago is misguided.

For another view of Chicago's condo market, see Dennis Rodkin's in-depth report and analysis on Chicago magazine's Web site.

New-Construction Update: 5/5/08

Every Monday, with help from our friends at YoChicago.com, we present vital data on condos under construction. (Unable to find an illustration of any of today's properties, we present a photo of the lovely, well-constructed actress Halle Barry.)

To view Building Profile on ChicagoCondosOnline.com, 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
3808-16 N SheffieldSheffield Condo LivingNA/31$190-370KNow
4810 N LavergneKennedy EstatesNA/22$320-420+NA
670 W WaymanTrio (Highrise) 50/100$240-1MEarly '09
775 W JacksonOdyssey Lofts27/60$270-620NA
922 N OakleyNine227/15$200-290NA
SOURCES: YoChicago.com, developer sites, ChicagoCondosOnline.com

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Saluting: Magellan's Leila Zammatta

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

Passion Propels Ex Flight Attendant To No. 2 Spot

Name: Leila Zammatta. Brokerage: Magellan Realty. Age: 42. Years as Agent: 9. Transaction Rank: 2 (490 units). Dollar Rank: 2 ($272 million). Resale Volume: $2.4 million. Condos (of total business): 100%. Source of Statistics: Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), Chicago condos closed in 2007.

Ranking No. 2 on our Top 10 list of Condo Superstars is Leila Zammatta, senior vice president of sales for Magellan Development Group, one of Chicago's leading developers, and president and managing broker of its subsidiary brokerage, Magellan Realty, which handles all of Magellan's sales and many of its resales. She is one of two females on our list.

Leila (Lay-la) ranked second in both transactions, with 490, and transaction dollar volume, with $272 million. Of her transactions, 278 were as listing agent, 212 as sales (buyer's) agent. All but six units she sold were new construction.

She generated the vast majority of her sales at two Magellan projects: Chandler (left) at 450 E. Waterside (216, or 78%, of her 278 listings) and Regatta (right) at 400-427 E. Waterside, both in the Lakeshore East development.

Of the sales credited on the MLS to Leila, half were generated by her personally working with buyers; the other half, she was involved with in a managing position.

Unlike No. 1-ranked Mike Holtorf, her counterpart at Equity Marketing, Leila does, indeed, earn commissions on her sales, says Dave Carlins, 46, president of Magellan Development.

In a recent interview in her spacious office in Lakeshore East's new sales center, Leila openly shared the story behind her success:

Born in Chicago and raised in Niles, Ill., she never liked school and never knew what she wanted to be. After graduating from high school, Leila attended Western Illinois University for one year, then dropped out. For one year, she sold cars. For the next three years, she sold drinks at bars in Chicago.

In 1989, Leila began "selling" the friendly skies of United, as a flight attendant. A decade later, in 1998, at 33, she got her real-estate license for personal use. She was making $30,000 a year and thought she would be flying forever; the license, she says, was just for fun.

Once she got her license, she found out that, to use it, you have to work for a broker. So she hung her license with The Habitat Company. When the managing broker left to form her own company, Urban Properties of Chicago, Leila left with her.

In 1997, Leila bought her first Chicago condo, at Park Newberry, 55 W. Delaware. It happened to be Magellan's first condo development. Leila was so excited about how much value she got for her money there that she ran around the city telling everyone to buy at Park Newberry and many did.

When Magellan announced its second condo, at 21 W. Chestnut, history repeated itself. Leila bought there and became the sales cheerleader for that building. Working part-time for Urban Properties, she sold more Magellan-developed condos than any other non-Magellan agent.

In 1999, Dave Carlins, son of Magellan's founder, Joel Carlins, asked Leila to help start a brokerage. What did Dave see in Leila? "She had a passion for her work unlike anyone else I had ever met," he recalls. "When someone is that driven, it is easy to figure out that she will be a success."

Together, Dave and Leila created Magellan Realty, which Leila ran, while continuing to fly with United. It wasn't until 2001, when, in the wake of 9/11, she accepted the airline's offer to take a five-year leave, that Leila took up real estate full time. "United's offer was the best thing that ever happened to me," she says. "It allowed me to focus on selling," at which she excelled.

Today, in addition to her development role, Leila oversees a sales staff of 16 at Magellan Realty.

Since 1999, Leila has registered more than $600 million in residential sales. From the Chicago Association of Realtors, she has received Platinum and Gold Awards as a top producer in Gold Coast, River North and West Loop areas.

Currently, she is concentrating on the New East Side, the neighborhood that encompasses Lakeshore East, the 28-acre, $4-billion, mixed-use development that has become Chicago's model urban village.

One key to her success, Leila says, is that she has always specialized in areas small enough so that she can serve as an expert. Other keys: a love and passion for what she does. What motivates her? "I'm a sales junkie," she confesses. "Selling makes me feel good. I try to sell [close] at least one condo a day."

So far in 2008, Leila is a bit behind her goal. In the first 121 days, she closed 109 units, at Chandler and 340 on the Park (340 E. Randolph). The units had a combined value of $99 million.

Not included in those numbers are contracts for 256 of the 264 units at Aqua (at right), another Magellan property in Lakeshore East. Those units, which she personally sold in 2007 and 2008, will begin closing toward the end of 2009.

Watch for Leila Zammatta in future Top 10 lists!