Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Major Brokerages Close 2 Offices in Old Town

Your Windy City Guide reports that two leading brokerages recently closed offices in Old Town.

Sudler Sotheby’s office at 1650 N. Wells relocated most of those agents to its office at 919 N. Michigan and a few agents to space acquired from Century 21 Sussex & Reilly at 912 W. Armitage in Lincoln Park.

Baird & Warner's office at 1510 N. Wells is relocating those agents to the larger space near Diversey on Lincoln, or to the firm's Michigan Avenue address.

Median Price Down 15% From May '08 High

For April 2009, the median sales price of Chicago condos was down 15% from its all-time monthly high, recorded in May 2008.

That finding comes from statistics compiled using figures from Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), the region's multiple listing service.

According to the MRED data, the median sales price of condos sold in April 2009 was $280,000, compared to $329,000 in May 2008. From January 2003, the earliest month for which we have figures, the median price in April 2009 was up 28%, from $218,500.

At its May 2008 peak, the median price was up 51% from our January 2003 starting point.

The monthly medians are tracked and shown in the graph and the chart below. This information will be updated each month and available in Market Overview on

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Agents Hebson, DiVito Join Koenig & Strey

Colin Hebson and Rich DiVito, two of the top-producing agents in Chicago, have left @properties to join Koenig & Strey GMAC. Along with three agents from their team, the two agents will operate out of Koenig & Strey's Lincoln Park office.

Hebson and DiVito began working together in 2006, and have brokered more than 2,000 sales. In addition, they have consistently placed in the top 1 percent of Realtors® in Chicago.

Monday, May 25, 2009

New-Construction Update: 5/25/09

One Museum Park & One Museum Park West

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.

1211 S. Prairie, One Museum Park
63 of 289 available, 2-3 BR, $720K-$2.8M, Delivery now
Developed by Enterprise, Marketed by Coldwell Banker

1201 S. Prairie, One Museum Park West
87 of 298 available, 2-3 BR, $530K-$2.1M, Delivery Fall '09
Developed by Enterprise, Marketed by Coldwell Banker

1224 W. Van Buren, VB1224
57 of 189 available, 1-2 BR, $250K-$309K, Delivery now
Developed by New West, Marketed by @properties

155 N. Aberdeen, 155 N. Aberdeen
6 of 12 available, 2-3 BR, $550K-$900K, Delivery July
Developed by NA, Marketed by @properties

2520 S. Oakley, Oakley Pointe
5 of 21 available, 1-2 BR, $220K-$299K, Delivery now
Developed by NA, Marketed by Koenig & Strey

Previous New-Construction Updates

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fannie Mae Raises Costs of Condo Loans

Mortgage rates and house prices are down, but underwriting changes that took effect in April are throwing new hurdles in the way of borrowers, according to Ken Harney in the Washington Post.

For example: On all condominium loans, Fannie Mae now has an across-the-board three-quarters of a point, no matter how high the applicant's credit score. For a once-popular "interest-only" condo loan with a 20-percent down payment and a borrower credit score of 690, Fannie imposes the following ratcheted sequence of add-ons:

One-quarter of 1 percent as an "adverse market" fee; another 1.5 percent for the below-optimal credit score; three-quarters of a percent for the interest-only payment feature; and three-quarters of a percent because the property is a condo. The total comes to 3.25 percent extra, which can be paid upfront or rolled into the rate.

For the complete article, click here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

$8,000 Cash Available to First-Time Buyers

Ken Harney of the Washington Post reports:

The $8,000 federal tax credit for first-time home purchasers is about to morph into a ready-cash down payment source, thanks to a new federal policy change.

Buyers eligible for the credit who apply for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration may soon also be eligible for bridge loans or cash advances--up to $8,000--that they can use for the down payment, closing costs or other loan expenses pending receipt of their tax credit check from the IRS.

Under guidance drafted by the FHA, all lenders approved to do business with the agency will be authorized to provide bridge loans at closing--secured solely by the tax credit the borrower anticipates receiving from the IRS. State and local government agencies and nonprofit organizations approved by FHA will be allowed to offer either bridge loans or second mortgages secured by the house.

Though the $8,000 tax credit carries the name "first-time homebuyer," eligibility extends to anyone who hasn't owned a principal residence during the past three years. The credit amount from the IRS is the lesser of 10 percent of the purchase price of the dwelling or $8,000.

The federal $8,000 credit covers purchases closed by Nov. 30. Unless Congress extends the credit, it will disappear Dec. 1.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Koenig & Strey Closes 2 More Offices

Crain's Chicago Business reported yesterday that Koenig & Strey GMAC, one Chicago’s largest residential brokerages, has shuttered offices in the River North and Lincoln Park neighborhoods.

Both offices, at 750 N. Orleans and 1800 N. Clybourn, housed a combined total of roughly 230 employees, says Doug Ayers, president of the brokerage. Koenig has now closed three city offices this year, having earlier shut its branch in the Roscoe Village neighborhood.

Most employees from the River North and Lincoln Park offices, which closed last month, transferred to the company’s eight remaining branches in the city.

Baird & Warner and Sudler Sotheby’s International have also closed offices as home sales have plummeted three straight years and agent ranks are shrinking.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ARC: 42% of New Downtown Units Unsold

YoChicago reports today on the latest statistics from Appraisal Research Counselors (ARC), which monitors the downtown condo market:

Of the 5,389 downtown condos under construction and set for delivery between this year and 2011, just 3,139, or 58 percent, are currently under contract.

Almost 4,700 new homes will be completed in the downtown area this year, less than 2,000 of which, or 42 percent, remain unsold. At least 700 more homes will be finished in 2010 and 2011, 39 percent of which still are not under contract.

For more details, see this report from the Chicago Tribune.

Skweres To Manage Wolin-Levin High-Rises

Thomas A. Skweres has joined the management services team at Wolin-Levin, as managing director of its newly established High-Rise Division.

Tom previously served as an executive at Associa/Legum & Norman, The Habitat Company and Draper & Kramer.

Wolin-Levin manages more condos than any other property-management firm in Chicago. Its portfolio consists of 20,000 units in 50 properties with on-site management. The company has served Chicago for nearly 60 years and is now part of FirstService Residential, a publicly held, national company.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Two Developers Suing Buyers Who Walk Away

An article in Monday's Crain's Chicago Business reports that the percentage of new condo sales that are falling apart before closing has increased from 10% to 15% last spring, to more than 25% today.

As cancellations rise, two veteran Chicago developers, Enterprise Companies and Fogelson Properties, are suing home buyers who try to walk away.

According to Crain's, the joint-venture companies have taken the unprecedented step of filing lawsuits against about 100 home buyers who didn't close on contracts on condos in the Museum Park project. Some buyers can't get financing to close. Others walk away because they think the units are worth less than they agreed to pay.

The cases, some of which have been settled, generally seek recovery of earnest money deposits and half the cost of upgrades. Industry experts say such disputes usually are settled without litigation. The developers have won about half the cases already through settlements and court rulings, says one of their lawyers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Video: Lake Point Tower's Spectacular Views

To celebrate its 40th anniversary this fall, Lake Point Tower, a 70-story condo at 505 N. Lake Shore, between Grand and Illinois, a block west of Navy Pier, has created a four-minute video and a colorful brochure that feature spectacular lake and skyline views from its 720 units.

The only residential building east of Lake Shore Drive, Lake Point Tower was built in 1968 and converted to condos in 1988. Occupants have unobstructed, panoramic views of Lake Michigan and the city skyline. On a clear day, it is possible to see four states.

Dozens of photos of the building and its views can be found on Flickr. To visit the association's Web site, click here.

For an in-depth profile of the building, with floor plans, median sales price and ownership costs per square foot for each unit type, from studio to penthouse, click here.

To watch the video, which also showcases such amenities as indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center and a private 2.5-acre park with a duck pond, click arrow in center of image below.

Below: Views from typical corner unit, 1209, overlooking Navy Pier, and from typical center unit, 5305, looking northeast.

New-Construction Update: 5/18/09

Astoria Tower

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.

8 E. 9th, Astoria Tower
60 of 240 available, 1-2 BR, $230K-$1.5M, Delivery now
Developed by Provence Development, Marketed by Coldwell Banker

2411 W. Walton, Sanctuary
2 of 13 available, 2-3 BR, $410K-$440K, Delivery now
Developed by Romeo Kapudijawas, Marketed by Baird & Warner

416 W. Deming, Deming on the Green
17 of 23 available, 1-4 BR, $480K-$2.6M, Delivery 2010
Developed by Silverleaf, Marketed by Coldwell Banker

2741-2743 N. Sheffield, Rotunda
7 of 8 available, 2-4 BR, $440K-$690K, Delivery July
Developed by NA, Marketed by Rubloff

6 N. Michigan, 6 N. Michigan
40 of 104 available, 1-3+ BR, $320K-$5.5M, Delivery now
Developed by Six North Michigan, Marketed by @properties

Previous New-Construction Updates

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bob Darrow on Lincoln Park, Lakeview Markets

In the above video, @properties agent Bob Darrow offers keen insights into the real-estate markets in Lincoln Park and Lakeview.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ways To Protect Your Association's Funds

In today's Chicago Journal, Jim Stoller, president of The Building Group, which manages 80 properties, lists safeguards to prevent condo association funds from being misused. Among them:

* Pay attention immediately when monthly statements are not received or present an inaccurate record of cash flow. It usually means trouble.

* Research your management company. Talk to current and past clients. If possible, find out if accurate records are provided monthly. Also ask if funds were ever misappropriated or if there was evidence that the firm received kickbacks from vendors.

Some management firms engage in less-than-ethical dealings such as accepting “referral fees” (i.e., kickbacks) from vendors or pad the association’s charges with undisclosed, add-on fees. Many firms own related companies--from painters to maintenance to insurance agencies-- and use their services instead of seeking independent, competitive bids.

* Make sure your management company has a fidelity bond to insure client’s funds. Become a “named insured” and get a copy of the certificate.

* Read and decipher the financial statements every month. Is every check and wire transfer documented; are there any missing? Are the checks payable to known association vendors and for the appropriate amounts? Are bank statements included for every association account and are they reconciled with the financial statements?

* Make sure your funds are not co-mingled with other clients. Also avoid “master programs” in which your building is grouped with others, thereby making it easier for a management company to add undetected fees and harder for an association to trace its funds.

* Reserve accounts should be controlled by the board and require multiple signatures on their checks. Excess funds should be transferred out of management-controlled operating accounts when they reach previously set amounts.

* Audits by a third party CPA should be performed annually.

Best Neighborhood Info for Condo Buyers

The best source of information on communities and neighborhoods for condo buyers in Chicago is the collection of 77 Area Profiles at, "The Ultimate Condominium Resource."

Only on will you find the citywide rankings of all 77 community areas on such demographics as percentage of singles or professionals, median sales price, student-teacher ratios, and appreciation rates for one, three and five years.

For example, the Near North Side, No. 1 in condo sales, ranks third in college grads and professionals, fifth in median income and 71st in children under five. In appreciation (increase in median sales price) for the past one, three and five years, it ranks between 15th and 17th.

To access these profiles, which include maps that show the boundaries of neighborhoods within each area, visit Using a Quick Comparison Chart, you can generate side-by-side comparisons of any three areas. See sample profile below; see sample chart here. See interactive city maps with sales data for each of the 77 areas here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bargains: Metropolitan Tower at 17-34% Off

YoChicago reports:

Prices are falling at Metropolitan Tower, the converted Straus Building at 310 S. Michigan in the South Loop.

A new splash page on the development's Web site announces new "final closeout pricing" scheme for 11 finished units that will go into effect Saturday. Additionally, two units listed by the tower's Equity Marketing sales team were reduced in price yesterday.

Eight east-facing two- and three-bedroom homes are for sale through the developer at prices ranging from the $590s to the $640s, down from the $780s to $950s.

For details and prices of individual units, click here.

'Chicago Real Estate Experts' Launched

An innovative social-networking Web site called Chicago Real Estate Experts that will focus on sharing knowledge was launched today. Its purpose, according to Joe Zekas, one of its founders, is to connect home buyers and sellers with highly qualified, pre-screened local agents, appraisers, attorneys, inspectors and lenders.

Joe's firm, Data Based Ads, has more than 20 years experience working with real estate professionals through a variety of publications, including YoChicago and NewHomeNotebook.

Among its many features, Chicago Real Estate Experts will offer blogs, photos, video, public and private groups and discussion forums, local events calendars, news from a variety of sources, activity feeds and online real-time chat.

Membership in the site is open to everyone but, says Joe, "only a limited number of dues-paying professionals who meet our criteria are allowed to hold themselves out as experts. We require that they develop relationships with consumers by demonstrating and sharing their expertise rather than by directly soliciting them."

The objective criteria for agents include a minimum five years full-time experience and direct representation of a buyer or seller in at least 50 closed transactions. At least 20 of those transactions must be within the geographic area for which the person is applying to qualify as an expert.

Additional information is available at this site.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Video: Zillow's iPhone Real Estate Application

For a video demonstration of the exciting new Zillow iPhone Real Estate application, which allows users to check the prices and other data of homes and condos, as you walk by them, click here.

Watching it made me want to run out and buy my first iPhone and download the application free from the App Store.

Using GPS technology built into the iPhone, the application pinpoints where you are on a map and follows you as you move. Or, you can type in any address in another neighborhood.

Among the available data: Zestimates of 80 million homes, number of bedrooms, baths, square footage, the history of the condo's value and comparable sales of nearby homes. You can also see interior MLS photos of units on the market.

What happens when you point the phone toward a high-rise condo? Switch to List View.

Can't wait to make our content, including floor plans, available this way!

Update: My first experience with the app and a neighbor's iPhone was disappointing. Standing across the street from my 70-story high-rise, I found it difficult to locate my building on the map, and initially the AT&T connection was slow. Once I hit five bars on connection, when I moved the map, the load time was slow.

My advice: Try the application on a friend's iPhone before you race to the Apple Store. My hunch is that we're still a year or two away from realizing the fantastic potential of this app. Meanwhile, Zillow needs to continue to improve the accuracy of its data.

For a New York Times review of the Zillow app and a similar one by Trulia, available on phones other than the iPhone, click here.

Video: Chicago's Best Condo Search Engine

Only one search engine in Chicago allows you to search the entire inventory of unit types in 12,000 condos, most of them in downtown Chicago, including units not on the market.

It's Super Search at, the most-comprehensive condo database in Chicago.

Super Search allows you to check any combination of 100 preferences to create, for example, a list of all buildings within three blocks of the Red line that offer a 1BR/1BA unit, have a pool, deeded indoor parking, are FHA-approved and allow dogs. (The result: only one building, at 3660 N. Lake Shore Drive.)

The search results connect you to in-depth Building Profiles, which display up to 200 data fields, including the 2008 median sales price and ownership cost per square foot for each unit type, as well as photos and floor plans. By using Quick Comparison Chart, you can compare, side-by-side, any three unit types.

To see how Super Search works, watch this video. (After nine searches without registering, consumers may register with any participating agent for one year of free access to this
subscription-based resource.)

New-Construction Update: 5/11/09


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.

24 S. Morgan, Pure
NA of 67 available, 1-3 BR, $160K-$500K, Delivery now
Developed by Pure 67 LLC, Marketed by Prudential Preferred

1739-1745 N. Milwaukee, 1739-1745 N. Milwaukee
8 of 8 available, 2-4 BR, $440K-$520K+, Delivery August '09
Developed by Five Star, Marketed by Conlon Real Estate

2028 W. Division, 2028 W. Division
5 of 6 available, 3 BR, $590K-$780K, Delivery 2010
Developed and Marketed by Ranquist Development

4601-4617 N. Dover, Dover Court
11 of 60 available, 1 BR, $140K-$170K, Delivery now
Developed and Marketed by Bella Properties

600 N. Fairbanks, 600 N. Fairbanks
8 of 224 available, 2 BR, $840K-$1.19M, Delivery now
Developed and Marketed by Schatz Development

Previous New-Construction Updates

Friday, May 8, 2009

Best Source for Chicago Condo Market Data

For the most-comprehensive, reliable and up-to-date statistics on the Chicago condo market, visit Market Overview on, "The Ultimate Condominium Resource."

Updated the first week of every month, this overview provides year-to-date, year-over-year and month-over-month statistics from the official source: the database of Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED), the multiple listing service for Chicago and all of northern Illinois.

The data include median sales price, new listings, actives, closings, total dollar volume, average market time and supply.

Among the unique features of Market Overview are three interactive maps showing 2008 sales and median price in all 77 of Chicago's areas (neighborhoods).

The map below, for example, shows where each area ranked in sales and median price in 2008 and links users to an in-depth profile of each area. (To see how an area ranks, place your cursor over the area and look in the box at the lower left corner.)

Sample tables from the current Market Overview:

Year Over Year (April 2009 – April 2008)

CategoryApril 2009April 2008Change
% Condo Closings47%62%-24%
Median Sales Price$280,000$320,000-13%
Avg. Days on Market161123+31%
New Listings2,8254,464-37%
Supply12.4 months9.4 months+32%
Total sales volume$202 mil$441 mil-54%

Month Over Month (April 2009 – March 2009)

CategoryApril 2009March 2009Change
% Condo Closings47%47%+0%
Median Sales Price$280,000$280,000+0%
Avg. Days on Market161157+3%
New Listings2,8253,155-10%
Supply12.4 months12.7 months-2%
Total sales volume$202 mil$187 mil+8%

The widget below, updated each month, shows year-to-date statistics. (To display this widget on any Web site or blog, send your request for the code to

To receive a monthly update on Chicago's condo market by e-mail: Send your request to

Having Difficulty Paying Your Mortgage?

From Jennifer Ames, top-producing Coldwell Banker agent, on her Live & Play in Chicago blog:

If you are having difficulty paying your mortgage, you may be eligible for relief through the new federal Making Home Affordable (MHA) program. This service can aid qualified homeowners by helping them refinance to a new loan or by modifying their existing loan.

To qualify for MHA refinancing, you must:
* Have a loan that is owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
* Be current on your mortgage payments.
* Have a mortgage balance that does not exceed 105% of your home’s current value.

To qualify for MHA loan modification, you must:
* Use the home as your primary residence
* Owe no more than $729,750 on your first mortgage
* Have trouble paying your mortgage
* Have obtained your mortgage before January 1, 2009
* Have payments on your first mortgage that are more than 31% of your current gross income.

If you think you qualify for either program based on the above information and are interested in proceeding, visit the MHA website and then contact your loan officer. The MHA program ends on June 10, 2010.

For more details, see Jenny's original post here.

14,000 Condo Floor Plans Now Online, Free!

Looking for a floor plan of a Chicago condo?

Instantly access any of nearly 14,000 floor plans from the online collection assembled by, "The Ultimate Condominium Resource." The largest library of floor plans in Chicago, it includes new and existing condos, of all sizes and types, as well as tier-location guides, or floor plates, that show the location of various unit types on each floor. Sample floor plan below:

For free access to any of these 14,000 floor plans, enter the address or the name of the building in the widget below.

Bargains: 17-39% Off at 24 S. Morgan

YoChicago reports today that price reductions from 17 to 39 percent are now in effect for at least eight developer-owned units at Pure, 24 S. Morgan. Reduced prices range from the $160s for a 680-square-foot 1BR/1BA unit to just over $500,000 for a 2,000-square-foot 3BR/2.5BA unit.

Bargains: $49K-$85K Off at 600 N. Fairbanks

The eight remaining developer-owned units at 600 N. Fairbanks, located between Ohio and Ontario streets, are now available at discounts ranging from $49,000 to $85,000, according to a report today on YoChicago. Reduced prices range from roughly $840,000 for a 2BR/2BA unit to $1.2 million for a 2BR/2.5BA unit.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Guidelines for Buyers

Among the tips offered by reporter Mary Ellen Podmolik in today's Chicago Tribune is this one for condo buyers:

"Potential buyers need to be aware not only of additional loan fees instituted last month by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but they also need to find out about the financial health of the developer and the homeowners association. Shoppers need to learn whether units in the building are in pre-foreclosure or foreclosure because that could affect future home values and financing."

For the entire article, click here.

MRED: Dollars Down 59%, Units Drop 51%

According to figures released today by MRED, the regional MLS, year-to-date sales of Chicago condos are:
* Down 59% in total dollar volume, from $1.6 billion to $668 million
* Down 51% in units closed, from 4,128 to 2,012
* Down 11% in median sales price, to $281,000
* Up 24% in average market time, to 158 days.

Comparing April sales to March:
* Units closed were up 15%, from 563 to 645
* Dollar volume was up 8%, from $187 million to $202 million
* Median sales price was unchanged, at $280,000
* Average market time was up 3%, from 157 days to 161 days.

For details on month-over-month and year-over-year, click here.
For previous market reports, click here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is Your Management Co. Taking Kickbacks?

An article by David Roeder in today's Chicago Sun-Times examines the practice by some property-management companies of taking money from contractors they hire to work on condo buildings. Highlights:

"If you live in a high-rise condo, the chances are good the management company that runs it is getting paid by more than just your association. The managers also might be taking money from contractors they hire to work on your building.

"Call it a procurement fee, a kickback, or pay-to-play for the private sector. But it's a common practice coming under scrutiny. The Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, a community group whose members are mostly condo owners, has asked a committee to look at the practice and advise condo associations on how to address it. SOAR President Gail Spreen said the group is making no assumptions that anything illegal is going on, especially since some procurement fees are written into management contracts.

"But others are scornful. 'It's theft,' said Tim Sack, vice president of plumbing operations TMS Mechanical Inc. in McHenry, a firm that works at many downtown high-rises. 'To me, it's stealing from the people you are working for.' Sack said he turns down invitations to kick back part of the bill on each job. The money would secure his place on a management company's 'preferred vendor' list.

"Industry insiders said the payments often range from 10 percent to 15 percent.

"Either way, the principle might grate on members of condo boards who have to explain why monthly assessments are so high. If a contractor is dealing in kickbacks, shouldn't they instead just reduce the bill for the job?"

For the entire article, which includes responses from Sudler, Wolin-Levin and Draper & Kramer--and names two companies (Building Group and Habitat Co.) that sources say do not engage in the payments--click here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New-Construction Update: 5/4/09

Winnemac Terrace

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.

1216 W. Winnemac, Winnemac Terrace
4 of 6 available, 2-3 BR, $300K-$430K, Delivery now
Developed by NA, Marketed by @properties

5230 N. Kenmore, Provenance
17 of 20 available, 1-3 BR, $210K-$510K, Delivery now
Developed by Phenix Sun, Marketed by Rubloff

207 E. 31st, Signature Residences
7 of NA available, 1-3 BR, $150K-380K, Delivery now
Developed and Marketed by 31st & Indiana Development

2930 N. Sheridan, Twenty Nine Thirty Sheridan Tower
NA of 252 available, 1-2 BR, $210K-$340K, Delivery now
Developed by Kroupa Development, Marketed by @properties

3241 W. Palmer, Palmer
7 of 7 available, 3 BR, $290K-$390K, Delivery now
Developed by NA, Marketed by Architectural Investments

Previous New-Construction Updates