Thursday, February 22, 2007

More Retail near North & Clybourn

Your Guides have read about a massive push of new development along Clybourn Avenue - this time moving south from North Avenue towards Division. (MAP)

New development along Clybourn and nearby streets such as Kingsbury and Dayton may make the shopping district comparable in square footage to some enclosed malls such as North brook Court or Westfield Fox Valley.

We look on in astonishment at the massive growth in the area. Generally we're supporters of development and the highest and best use for real estate. As we occasionally must actually DRIVE through this area, we're being very cautious in our anticipation of the new growth.

An interesting fact: Whole Foods, which barely opened its store along Clybourn two years ago is considering a move south onto Kingsbury, doubling the size of the store.

One sorely needed improvement: the conversion of the now-empty site of the former Expo Design Center which resembles an abandoned 6-story parking garage into a luxury auto dealer and service facility. Your guides were sceptical of the viability of the massive SoNo Development at North & Clybourn, but with the new development in the area, these new homes will be surrounded by vibrant shopping, restaurants and all kinds of professional offices.

Check back for progress updates, photos and traffic reports.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Costa Rica Real Estate

We couldn't resist looking at some Costa Rican real estate. The photo above is for a 50 bed hostel plus separate owners' house in Heredia. Heredia is a half-hour outside of the Costa Rican capital of San Jose. The climate around San Jose is more moderate - not so hot in the summer / rainy season. The property is listed for $349,000 (U.S. Dollars) which we think is quite reasonable.

We may not be long for Chicago...

Costa Rica "Oh-My-God" Bridge

We've been away

Regular readers may have noticed that we haven't posted in a little over a week. We left for vacation in Costa Rica on February 11 and returned on February 18. Fellow Chicagoans tell us our timing was perfect as we missed the sigle-digit temps and the blizzard conditions.

We highly recommend a vacation to Costa Rica and anyone planning such a trip should check out the website for The Real Costa Rica. The author, Tim, says

Here you will find the accurate answers to hundreds of questions about Costa Rica. The nice thing is that there are answers to questions you did not know to ask! It contains articles, statistics, photographs, movie clips, tables and charts, and above all, accurate information about Costa Rica. Many hundreds of hours have gone into developing this web site, and I (modestly) believe you will find no other complete source for 100% accurate information on Costa Rica.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Vacant Houses - Empty Promises for Sellers

Check out the story below about the growing ranks of vacant houses on the market these days. One Realtor quoted says almost half of his homes are currently vacant.

Your guides hadn't realized but at this moment, of our re-sale listings (not new construction) four out of six - 67% - of our listings are vacant with homeowners living elsewhere for various reasons.

From the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 8, 2007:

The pileup of vacant homes becomes a factor in market dynamics, putting more pressure on prices and, short-term, prolonging the slump.

"The longer homes for sale remain vacant, the more desperate on average become the sellers," said Anirban Basu, an economist who is chairman and chief executive of Sage Policy Group Inc. in Baltimore.

"The growing number of vacant homes means more sellers out there are ready to be realistic about the market to drop prices."

Economists predicting recovery later this year

Your guides are more optimistic about the Chicago Real Estate Market than the economists discussing the national real estate outlook quoted below.

In Chicago, we've seen the market absorb leftover un-sold inventory from 2006 rapidly during the last few weeks.

From the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 8, 2007:

ORLANDO -- As it struggles to absorb a glut of unsold homes, the housing industry can expect a recovery to emerge but not until later this year, three leading economists said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the road ahead may remain rocky.

"We have to run through those inventories [of unsold homes] to get price stabilization," said David Berson, vice president and chief economist for lender Fannie Mae, at the annual convention of home builders here.

"We have to get rid of these inventories. We need a period where sales run ahead of starts." And the industry will not quickly recover to levels of two years ago, he added.

"Overall, I expect another big drop in sales this year of about 7 percent," said Berson.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Where in Chicago is: Ravenswood?

This is the first post in what we hope to be a regular feature describing those popular neighborhoods that everyone seems to have heard of, but no one can accurately locate.

Today's feaure: Ravenswood

There actually is a street named Ravenswood that runs north-south at approximately 1800 West. It runs alongside the Metra train tracks in West Lakeview and pretty close to the Brown Line tracks from Roscoe up to around Wilson. Hence the old "Ravenswood Line" name as it used to be known.

The neighborhood really is only a few blocks wide - from Ashland on the east to Damen on the West. Just a couple blocks on either side of the train lines.

The most popularly identified part of Ravenswood is the south end, from Irving Park Road up to Montrose. Ravenswood really does reach all the way up to Foster, however.

Right along the Metra tracks there is a busy little commercial district featuring art studios, architecture salvage stores, loading docks and renovated loft condos.

Along Paulina and Hermitage, lots are oversized and streets are wide. Old vintage homes are being renovated or torn down to make way for new mini-mansions.

A cute business district features locally owned shops and restaurants.

On the north end of Ravenswood, along Lawrence, you'll find our in-city Sears store. This relic is a must-see and is right out of a time-warp. Original steel and glass display cases are set among chaotic aisles of merchandise under the buzz of ancient UV shop-lights. Ride the single-file escalators up and wander around the tools and appliances nestled cleverly next to the jewelry, children's clothes and shoes.

Two more neighborhoods directly west share the name Ravenswood. These include Ravenswood Gardens and Ravenswood Manor. They stretch westward from Ravenswood from Western Avenue to the River, and West of the River farther out to Kedzie. Since the (formerly known as) Ravenswood Line runs directly west through these neighborhoods, they're aptly named.

Ravenswood Manor and Gardens both enjoy a tranquil location along the north branch of the Chicago River, adorable parks and cute streets running on odd angles following the river.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Bank of America Survey: Chicago’s Healthy Spring Traffic Shapes Up

According to a Bank of America survey of Real Estate Agents in 50 metropolitan areas around the US, indications are that buyers are out shopping but not all indicators are positive. In the Chicago Market, the number of buyers met expectations and the trends indicate that price reductions are moderating and fewer incentives need to be offered.

Nationally, traffic improved for the 3rd straight month in January. Traffic met agents’ expectations for the first time since June 2005.

Price declines moderated – it seems sellers are waiting until later in Spring for the next round of price reductions.

The length of time to sell is still on the rise, however, and there is risk of rising inventory levels throughout the Spring. This causes concern because the additional inventory will cause pressure from competition on pricing, and time to sell will inevitably increase.

In Chicago, agents saw a clear increase in buyer activity (shopping) and offers. Locally, January was the first month buyer traffic met expectations since February 2006 and marks a very positive start to the 2007 selling season. Buyer confidence is buoyed by lower mortgage rates and signs of price stabilization. Agents are still noting, however, a gap between sellers’ expectations and those of buyers.

Fewer agents noted price declines in January, indicating stabilization. Further declines are still expected in order to clear out excess inventory, but the higher buyer traffic is expected to soften the decline.

Full Size Jewel Grocery Store slated for Near West Side

Finally - retailers moving in to serve residents in the booming Fulton Market District. Jewel's parent company plans to break ground on a new full-size grocery store at the corner of Kinzie Street and Des Plaines Avenue.

Though the size - at 65,000 square feet - is smaller than suburban-style groceries, it's considered large for this in-city location.

The Fulton River neighborhood has seen more than 1,500 townhouse, condominium and rental units built in the past five years. And nearly 3,000 more units are under construction or planned in the area, including a six-building, 2,400-unit development by Fifield Cos., and three buildings with a total of 210 units by RDM Development.

There are only two other grocery stores - both Dominicks stores - within a mile of this location, and residents complain that the area is uderserved.

One cool feature will be an enclosed walkway to the RDM Development buildings. The walkway could contain as much as another 9,000 square feet of small retail stores.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Sunday Quickies