Monday, March 30, 2009

Calculator Compares Cost of Any Two Cities

Thinking of moving from one city to another? Or just curious to see how far your salary would go in another city?

To compare the overall costs of living in any two U.S. cities, use this calculator, available on

One example: If your salary in Chicago is $50,000, you'd have to make nearly $98,000 to live comparably in New York's Manhattan. Your housing costs would be 217% more.

New-Construction Update: 3/30/09

1600 Museum Park

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

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 types that meet any combination of 100 preferences, click here.

1629 S. Prairie, 1600 Museum Park
139 of 268 available, 1-3 BR, $280K-$710K, Delivery now
Developed by Enterprise, Marketed by Coldwell Banker

2849-2851 N. Ashland, Ashland Manor
5 of 5 available, 1-3 BR, $320K-$1.09M, Delivery now
Developed by NA, Marketed by Prudential Preferred

815 N. Ashland, 815 N. Ashland
3 of 6 available, 3 BR, $450K-$540K, Delivery now
Developed by NA, Marketed by North Clybourn Group

1820-1842 W. Irving Park, Eco North
16 of 16 available, 2 BR, $390K-$450K, Delivery now
Developed by JCJ Development, Marketed by Baird & Warner

1400 S. Michigan, Michigan Avenue Tower II
27 of 269 available, 1-2 BR, $250K-$480K, Delivery now
Developed by Russland Capital, Marketed by Frankel & Giles

Previous New-Construction Updates

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wanted: List of FHA-Approved Condos

Arlene Goltz, an agent at Prospect Equities, asked if our sister site,, lists all condos in Chicago that are FHA approved. It does now, but the list provided to us by the FHA is outdated and incomplete. For an Excel spreadsheet we created from that list, send an e-mail to

Arlene, who has researched the topic, pointed us to a search engine on the HUD Web site that generates a list of 1,500 FHA-approved condos in the metro area (only 404 of them in the city). She estimates that the HUD list contains no more than 10 percent of all those approved. We asked the FHA for a complete, updated list, but were referred back to the Web site.

Says Arlene: "FHA spot approval [of a unit in a building not already approved] requires 51% owner occupied, no litigation, no right of first refusal. The no-litigation is starting to crop up everywhere. It doesn’t matter if it's covered by insurance; FHA says no pending litigation."

Here's a link to an FHA Spot Loan Approval Checklist, from Guaranteed Rate. It also lists: "There are no special assessments pending."

Additional info can be found on a blog post by Peter Thompson, a mortgage lender in Downers Grove.

If you can add to this topic, please post your comment.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New-Construction Update: 3/23/09

The Silver District

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

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 types that meet any combination of 100 preferences, click here.

2800 W. North, The Silver District
20 of 20 available, 2 BR, $300K-$410K, Delivery now
Developed by DIM, Marketed by North Clybourn Group

451 W. Huron, 451 W. Huron
9 of 135 available, 2 BR, $390K-$590K, Delivery now
Developed by NA, Marketed by Coldwell Banker

1901 S. Calumet, Museum Park Place South
159 of 276 available, 1-3 BR, $290K-$600K, Delivery August
Developed and Marketed by Enterprise Companies

160 E. Illinois, Avenue East
9 of 133 available, 1-2 BR, $390K-$1.08M, Delivery now
Developed by RHA, Marketed by Equity Marketing

4720 N. Kimball, Kimball Station
59 of 59 available, 1-3 BR, $180K-$370K, Delivery now
Developed by Diversey LLC, Marketed by @properties

Previous New-Construction Updates

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fannie Adds Restrictions to Condo Loans

This won't help move condos--those being marketed by builders and those listed by homeowners. From "Fannie Tightens Its Conditions for Backing Condo Mortgages" in the Wall Street Journal:

Fannie Mae has added restrictions making it more difficult for developers to sell their units.
The government-backed mortgage-finance company stopped guaranteeing mortgages in condo buildings where fewer than 70% of the units have been sold, up from 51%.

In addition, the company won't back loans for sales in buildings where 15% of current owners are delinquent on association fees or where more than 10% of units are owned by a single-entity.
The new policy became effective March 1.

A blogger comments: Also, Fannie added an HO-6 insurance requirement on all condo purchases and refis. Basically a personal property insurance.

Friday, March 20, 2009

New Way To Buy or Sell at Auction

If you're a buyer looking for a bargain or a seller looking for a new option, consider this:

Three Chicago agents have created Chicago Home Auctions, which is selling individual units in existing condos. (Most auctions we know of focus on selling developer units in new construction, or on foreclosures.)

Currently scheduled for auction are one condo unit at 474 N. Lake Shore, which will be up for auction Sunday, March 22, and one at 310 S. Michigan, scheduled for auction Sunday, April 5.

According to Marta Kazmierczak, an agent with Sudler Sotheby's, bidding for unit 3507 at 474 N. Lake Shore will start at 50% of market value, or $165,000.

According to the company's Web site: "We’ve taken the benefits of the real estate and home auction industries, removed the drawbacks, and created a process that is easy to understand and works to benefit all involved in the home buying and selling process."

Among other things, that means no prequalification or cashiers checks are required to bid.

For details on the auction process, click here.

If there are similar efforts out there, let us know.

Additional Comment from Marta:

Yes, a new concept, one which we hope will bring motivation to potential buyers in a market with increasing inventory. This is a great way for buyers and sellers to come to a meeting of the minds, hopefully resulting in a quick and efficient transaction, without the traditional model of viewing multiple properties and submitting multiple offers.

Instead, it's an opportunity to procure a transaction of true market value. None of our properties is in financial jeopardy nor bank-issued short sales. Therefore, buyers do not need to be concerned about lengthy and complicated transactions. We've made it easy for both sides.

Of course, agents are welcome and compensation will be allocated to them as well.

Thumbprint To Be Required To Sell Your Home

Today's Sun-Times reports that Cook County homeowners will have to submit their right thumbprint to a notary public to sell their house under a state law that starts June 1.

The law is intended to deter housing fraud, which often involves forging a property owner's signature on a deed and selling the property illegally. Sellers also must provide valid photo identification. The thumbprints will not be public records.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

How To Research a Developer

The March 19 edition of Skyline, a Chicago Journal publication, offers valuable tips to those who want to learn about the developer of a new condo. Excerpts:

Developers like to set up separate business entities for each project, typically a limited-liability company. If you know the name of an LLC constructing something in your neighborhood - but you don't know the person's name, which happens all too often - you can find out by going to the Illinois Secretary of State's Web site at

Click on "Business Services/UCC online filings." Then click on "Corporate/LLC Search/Certificate of Good Standing." In the search box, enter any part of the LLC name with an asterisk. A link to the name you are looking for should come up on another screen, and clicking it will show you a basic name and address.

As Skyline notes, you can do many things once you have a name and address:

First, search the Cook County Circuit Court online court docket. Go to, click on "online case info," then "full electronic docket search." At the docket search screen, you can search by defendant name in all divisions of the circuit court. This can yield valuable information about your person's working history, and be sure to check every division. This site can also, by way of co-defendant, help you learn of other entity names with which your person is involved.

Finally, go to the Illinois State Board of Elections at Click on "contributions search." You can search by name, address and, yes, entity.

Use all of these options and you'll be amazed by how much information you can glean.

On YoChicago, owner Joe Zekas adds this valuable suggestion: "At any development you visit with more than six units, ask for a copy of the city-mandated Property Report. The ordinance pursuant to which the report is required mandates disclosure of the developers names."

Monday, March 16, 2009

How To Price Your Home

In another helpful post on her blog, Jennifer Ames, top-producing agent at Coldwell Banker, reveals how she helps clients set prices for their homes. Some excerpts:

The most effective strategy: price slightly below the market so your home is the “best in its class.”

When evaluating a home’s market value, we consider the following factors:

1. Availability and pricing of similar properties - Is the home unique or are there many like it for sale? If there are others for sale, how do they compare? What would it cost to get those homes to the same condition as yours, and vice versa?

2. Condition - Unless it is a unique property, buyers in today’s market will discount the value of a home that requires more than simple cosmetic work. On the other hand, a home that offers popular amenities and is tastefully decorated will stand out among the competition.

3. Utility of Floor Plan - When we value a property, we look at the utility of the floor plan. For example, a deck can be a plus, but less so if it is only accessible by walking through the master bedroom. Also, a kitchen with a large pantry would have more appeal than a kitchen with minimal storage.

4. Location - This used to be the single most critical criteria in evaluating home values, but as our city grew and neighborhood boundaries blurred with new development popping up all over, buyers were more willing to sacrifice location for value. Still, there are certain factors (like being near an El track, a bar or on a busy street) that will negatively impact market value. Likewise, certain locations still command a premium.

Among factors irrelevant to market value: How much you paid for the property. How much you spent improving it. How much you owe against it (mortgages and/or equity lines). The amount you hope or need to get from the sale.

For more excellent tips, including Jenny's explanations of why testing the waters with your price doesn’t work, visit her blog.

New-Construction Update: 3/16/09

2500 S. Halsted

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

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 types that meet any combination of 100 preferences, click here.

2500 S. Halsted, 2500 S. Halsted
8 of 8 available, 2 BR, $350K-$400K, Delivery April
Developed by Ron Vari, Marketed by Koenig & Strey

1344 W. Wellington, Wellington Green
4 of 4 available, 1-3 BR, $270K-$670K, Delivery now
Developed and Marketed by Enterprise Companies

550 St. Clair, 550 St. Clair
14 of 112 available, 0-3 BR, $210K-$880K, Delivery now
Developed by Sutherland Pearsall Development,
Marketed by Weichert Realtors First Chicago

123 S. Green, Emerald
34 of 212 available, 1-2 BR, $270K-$620K, Delivery now
Developed and Marketed by Senco Properties

1440 S. Wabash, Coliseum Park
19 of 39 available, 1-3 BR, $310K-$480K, Delivery now
Developed by Deva Development, Marketed by Koenig & Strey

Previous New-Construction Updates

Sunday, March 15, 2009

How Associations Can Help Owners Sell Units

In an article in Sunday's Chicago Tribune, Pamela Dittmer McKuen offers tips for associations to make it easier for owners to sell their units. Among them:

Remove the right of first refusal from your governing documents. That right allows the association to block a sale by matching a prospective buyer's offer. If it does, the Federal Housing Administration won't grant its popular low down-payment financing.

Get on the FHA list of approved associations, which will help speed transactions.

Loosen restrictions on renters and dogs.

Spiff up the common areas. If the building and grounds aren't attractive, many buyers won't even stop. Cheap fixes: plant flowers, pick up trash, replace burnt-out light bulbs, remove personal items from hallways.

Put your finances in order. Buyers want to see balanced budgets, healthy reserves and reasonable assessments. Other red flags: outstanding litigation and deferred maintenance.

Help sellers bring in prospects. Restrictions on open houses or for-sale signs reduce the flow of prospects. Lockbox bans limit the number of showings. Perhaps the doorman or onsite manager can hold a key, or there might be another place nearby to put the lockbox.

Streamline the amount of documentation and intensity of interviews.

Cozy up to neighborhood sales agents. They've got insider information and they communicate that with other agents. Invite agents to your meetings or parties, host a get-acquainted coffee hour, elect a resident agent to your board, self-publish a brochure that touts your good points or explains the bad ones.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Foreclosures Hard on Owners in Small Buildings

Before you buy a condo in a smaller building, you may want to read an article entitled "Condo Collapse" in the current edition of Skyline, a neighborhood newspaper. Written by Lauren Hansen, of Medill News Service, it describes the effects of foreclosures on those who live in condos with ten or fewer units. Some excerpts:

Brian Murphy is the go-to guy for apartment issues. Got a leaky pipe, squeaky door or a rodent ruining your day? Murphy's your man.

Every day he faces a barrage of complaints from fellow residents. Murphy has grown weary of the constant phone calls and knocks at the door.

Murphy is not the manager of an apartment building, nor is he a landlord. He is simply a condo owner doing whatever he can to keep his 10-unit Rogers Park building afloat.

In the past two years, Murphy's building has suffered two unit foreclosures. This means, among other things, a loss of $10,000 in assessment fees that help pay to maintain the building. To keep money flowing, Murphy brought renters into the newly vacant units.

With only 10 units, the building's small size complicates matters because fewer owners are available to cover costs. With expensive maintenance repairs coming up and the need to rehab foreclosed apartments for new renters, Murphy said they were just breaking even.

"We are in such a fragile state," he said. "Now, having two foreclosures - it's devastating."

Unfortunately, Murphy's experience is not unique.

Filings for condo foreclosures throughout Chicago more than doubled in the past two years, according to numbers released by the Woodstock Institute, a company that tracks community development. They rose from 1,670 in 2007 to 3,991 in 2008.

The increases in North Side neighborhoods are staggering: Lincoln Square had a 400-percent increase while Rogers Park and West Ridge had a more than 250-percent increase in foreclosured condo units.

Traditionally, many condo buildings in Chicago have prohibited renters, but at this point, they may prefer renters to vacant units. To prevent a foreclosure, a developer will try to find anyone to occupy vacant units, often renting units to anyone who wants to live in them.

So what's a condo-owner to do?

"Unit owners need to get training as landlords," said Brian White, executive director of the Lakeside Community Development Corporation. A comprehensive housing organization, Lakeside is funded by the city to provide condo-specific services, such as landlord and management training.

More condo units will be turned into rentals to prevent foreclosure, said White. Whether they like it or not, owners who are left in the building will find themselves operating as landlords of vacant units.

"Owners need to get training as landlords and become good landlords," he said. "The end result is to create a whole new stock of rental housing. There is a huge inventory going into foreclosure.

"For at least another year or two, condos will make up a disproportionate share of the foreclosures. The associations need to be more proactive."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

February Sales Volume Drops Another 10%

Comparing February sales of Chicago condos to January sales:
* Dollar volume was down another 10%, to $130 million
* Median sales price declined by 7%, to $278,000
* Units closed dropped by another 3%, to 384.

Those figures are from a report prepared for by Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), the regional MLS for northern Illinois.

The month-over-month report also shows a:
* 19% increase in new listings (some of which is seasonal)
* 7% increase in active listings (on March 1 compared to Feb. 1)
* 4% increase in average market time.
As of March 1, there were 12,073 units on the market.

Because we have not generated our monthly reports since July 2008, we are summarizing the recent data below:

Sales of Chicago Condos on the MLS (MRED)

2/09$130M384$278K2,60012,100158 days
1/09$144M395$299K2,20011,300152 days
12/08$213M646$290K1,10011,000134 days
11/08$171M526$279K1,40012,400131 days
10/08$275M783$305K1,60012,900137 days
9/08$352M1,020$302K1,80013,300134 days
8/08$461M1,255$309K1,60013,400129 days
7/08$488M1,357$313K1,80013,800124 days
6/08$524M1,423$320K1,90014,100122 days
5/08$538M1,350$329K2,00013,900124 days
4/08$463M1,208$320K2,20014,000124 days
3/08$509M1,361$310K2,10013,600136 days
2/08$353M828$310K2,10013,100117 days
1/08$296M731$315K2,10012,500125 days

*The numbers of active units are rounded to the nearest 100 and are for the first day of the next month. The actives in the February report are the number for sale on March 1, for example. Also rounded off are total dollar volume (Vol.), median sales price (MSP) and new listings (New). Actual figures are used for units closed (Closed) and average market time (AMT).

We'll provide year-over-year, and year-to-date, statistics as soon as they are available, and update our Condo Market widget (above, right).

For our post on sales for all of 2008, showing unit sales down 30%, volume down 27%, but median price up 5%, click here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

At Auction, 45 Vetro Units Sell at 27% Discount

A weekend auction of 45 units in Vetro condo in the South Loop resulted in sales of 45 units in the 232-unit building. The average price was $258 per square foot, or 73% of the average pre-auction asking price of $353 a foot, according to an article by Thomas A. Corfman in Crain's.

The Vetro auction gave a jump-start to the 31-story tower at 611 S. Wells, completed in late 2007, where sales had been stalled as in the rest of the market.

Typically, auction prices on similar projects are in the mid-60% range of pre-auction prices. For Vetro, the minimum auction prices were 61% of the asking prices. About 60 units remain unsold, but were not offered at auction.

UPDATE (3/16/09): For details on post-auction prices, which reflect discounts ranging from 19 to 25%, see this post on

New-Construction Update: 3/9/09

The Greenmoore

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

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 types that meet any combination of 100 preferences, click here.

6955 N. Greenview, Greenmoore
10 of 12 available, 2-4 BR, $330K-$600K, Delivery April
Developed by MC&J Building, Marketed by Camelot Realty

1000 W. 15th, University Commons
6 of 824 available, 2 BR, $270K-$260K, Delivery now
Developed and Marketed by Enterprise Companies

1800 W. Grace, Lofts at 1800
NA of 91 available, 1-3 BR, $260K-$750K, Delivery summer
Developed and Marketed by The Kopley Group

1307 W. Wrightwood, Wrightwood Crossing
16 of 19 available, 2-5 BR, $490K-$1.75M, Delivery early 2010
Developed and Marketed by G. Corp Development

1610 W. Fullerton, Lincoln Park Lofts
24 of 39 available, 1-2 BR, $150K-$290K, Delivery now
Developed by WMC Development IV, Marketed by Jameson

Previous New-Construction Updates

Monday, March 2, 2009

New-Construction Update: 3/2/09

The Ritz-Carlton Residences

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

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 types that meet any combination of 100 preferences, click here.

664 N. Michigan, The Ritz-Carlton Residences
52 of 86 available, 1-4 BR, $1.9M-$13M, Delivery 2010
Developed and Marketed by Prism Development

100-110 S. Sangamon, Sangamon Street Condos
5 of 19 available, 3-4 BR, $560K-1.39M, Delivery NA
Developed by NA, Marketed by Century 21 SGR

2408 W. Rice, Lumiere
6 of 12 available, 2-3 BR, $390K-$530K, Delivery 2009
Developed by DevMax, Marketed by @properties

2001 W. Race, 2001 W. Race
6 of 6 available, 2-3 BR, $480K-$640K, Delivery late spring
Developed and Marketed by NA

1727 S. Indiana, Prairie District Lofts
NA of 116 available, 1-3 BR, $220K-$510K, Delivery now
Developed by Kargil, Marketed by Frankel & Giles

Previous New-Construction Updates

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bargains: Save $47,450 at Lexington Park

Savings of up to $30,000 are available on some units in Lexington Park, a 35-story new-construction condo in the South Loop, according to the developer, Chieftain Construction.

The high-rise, at Michigan Avenue and Cermak Road, features 297 residential units and 36 loft units. With the limited-time savings, tower residences range from $209,900 to $721,900, lofts range from $199,900 to $349,900, and parking spaces, at 50% off, are $17,450.

For details, call 312-842-2202 or visit