Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Haunted Chicago: The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum

Nestled within the University of Illinois at Chicago campus on Halsted Street is the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum. Hull House was constructed by Charles J. Hull at Halsted and Polk Streets in 1856 at a time when this was one of the most fashionable sections of the city. But after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, residents moved to classier neighborhoods farther north leaving Hull House behind. By the 1880's, the house was surrounded by factories and tenenments. The surrounding area became known in Chicago History as the Levee District - awash in vice.

Jane Addams was the priveleged daughter of a wealthy merchant. During a bout with depression, she spent a portion of her inheritance traveling in Europe. It would be in London, in the terrible slums of Whitechapel, that she would find her calling.

In the company of her college friend and traveling companion, Elle Starr Gates, Jane would spend time at Toynbee Hall, a settlement house for the poor. Here, young and affluent students lived and worked beside the poorest dregs of London, pushing for social reform and better standards of living. Jane was intrigued by the idea of it and after her return to Chicago, began making plans for such a place in the city. She soon discovered the run-down Halsted Street mansion and worse... the terrifying conditions in the Levee district to the west....

At the time when Jane Addams took over Hull House, several years had passed since the death of Mrs. Charles Hull, but this didn't prevent her from making her presence known. She had died of natural causes in a second-floor bedroom of the mansion and within a few months of her passing, her ghost was said to be haunting that particular room. Overnight guests began having their sleep disturbed by footsteps and what were described as "strange and unearthly noises".

Mrs. Hull's bedroom was first occupied by Jane Addams herself, who was awakened one night by loud footsteps in the otherwise empty room. After a few nights of this, she confided her story to Ellen, who also admitted to experiencing the same sounds. Jane later moved to another room.

But she would not be alone in noticing the unusual happenings. Helen Campbell, the author of the book PRISONERS OF POVERTY, reported seeing an apparition standing next to her bed (she took Jane up on the offer of staying in the "haunted room"). When she lit the gas jet, the figure vanished. The same peculiar sounds and figures were also observed by Mrs. Louise Bowen, a lifelong friend of Jane's, Jane and Mary Smith, and even Canon Barnett of Toynbee Hall, who visited the settlement house during the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

According to Jane Addams' book, TWENTY YEARS AT HULL HOUSE, earlier tenants of the house, which included the Little Sisters of the Poor and a second-hand furniture store, believed the upstairs of the house was haunted as well. They had always kept a bucket of water on the stairs, believing that the ghost was unable to cross over it.

Regardless, the ghost was always considered to be rather sad, but harmless, and residents and guests learned to live with its presence. Unfortunately, it was not the only "supernatural" legend connected to Hull House!

Continue reading at Weird Chicago...

During our night-time tour, your guides snapped this photograph. The expert ghost hunters at Weird Chicago assert that light-orbs such as the one above the fountain in the photo might even be ghostly apparitions. Or not. Depending on which guide from Ghost Hunters you believe.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Haunted Chicago - the site of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The unassuming yard next door to a senior citizens' apartment building located on North Clark Street in Lincoln Park is the spot of the gangland killing of seven men during a shootout between Al Capone's South Side Italian gang and Bugs Moran's North Side Irish & German gang.

For a city that is so filled with the history of crime, there has been little preservation of the landmarks that were once so important to the legend of the mob in Chicago. But most tragic, at least to crime buffs, was the destruction of the warehouse that was located at 2122 North Clark Street. It was here, on Valentine's Day 1929, that the most spectacular mob hit in gangland history took place.

The building was called the S-M-C Cartage Company and was a red, brick structure on Clark Street. The events that led to the massacre began on the morning of the 14th. A group of men had gathered at the warehouse that morning, set up by a Detroit gangster who told Moran that a truck was on its way to Chicago.

One of them was Johnny May, an ex-safecracker who had been hired by George "Bugs" Moran as an auto mechanic. He was working on a truck that morning, with his dog tied to the bumper, while six other men waited for the truck of hijacked whiskey to arrive. The men were Frank and Pete Gusenberg, who were supposed to meet Moran and pick up two empty trucks to drive to Detroit and pick up smuggled Canadian whiskey; James Clark, Moran's brother-in-law; Adam Heyer; Al Weinshank; and Reinhardt Schwimmer, a young optometrist who had befriended Moran and hung around the liquor warehouse just for the thrill of rubbing shoulders with gangsters.

Bugs Moran was already late for the morning meeting. He was due to arrive at 10:30 but didn't even leave for the rendezvous, in the company of Willie Marks and Ted Newberry, until several minutes after that.

Continue reading at Wierd and Haunted Chicago...

The tree that branches out at the trunk is the center of five trees in a row. That's the exact spot Bugs Moran's men met their deaths. Even today, people walking along the street at night have reported the sounds of screams and machine guns as they pass the site.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Preparing your HVAC System for Winter Living.

Your home is one of your greatest investments. Properly maintaining your home is paramount to preserving its maximum value. Properly maintaining your home will enhance its value and make it cheaper to run while you’re living in it. Also, lower operating costs also can make you home more saleable. After all, given the choice of two identical homes on the market, one with $150 per month utilities and one with $250 utilities, which as a buyer, would you choose?

One of the most common heating systems in Chicago is the central gas forced-air furnace. If you haven’t already, now is the time to undertake a few tasks to prepare your forced-air system for winter.

Taking these steps should help:

  • Save energy usage and costs.

  • Make your home more “livable” during the winter months.

  • Cause the systems in your home to last longer, thereby saving you maintenance and replacement costs.

It’s recommended that you replace your furnace filters every month. It has also been recommended that you use simple, inexpensive blue fiberglass filters - not the fancy (and expensive) high efficiency filters; they can actually restrict airflow in your furnace.

It is common for furnaces to have built in Aprilaire whole-house humidifiers. They should be used whenever the furnace is in operation. Adding humidity to the air in winter adds greatly to your comfort. The humidifier will also help maintain your wood floors and furniture.

Symptoms of not using your humidifier can include gaps forming between planks of your hardwood floors and shrinkage of wood furniture. Once your humidifier is properly working, it’s possible to cause your ‘dehydrated’ wood floors to restore themselves.

Every year you should open up the Aprilaire, clean it out and if necessary replace the filter panel. We find that soaking the filter panel in a solution of CLR and water for half a day will let us get away with 2 or more seasons without having to replace the filter. Please note that if a filter panel becomes clogged with lime or scale, it will overflow into the furnace and cause expensive damage to the furnace. So – clean or replace those water panel filters.

Turn on the water supply valve to the Aprilaire, move the flapper-valve on the air-supply pipe to the winter position (parallel to the pipe), and turn on the Aprilaire via the control panel which is next to your furnace thermostat.

The control panel settings for your Aprilaire are also important. Throughout the winter you must constantly adjust it based on the current outside air temperature. Right next to the dial for the Aprilaire controller is a chart that tells you where to set it for what temperature. Too much humidity causes the windows to sweat which can damage interior trim or harm double pane window thermo seals; too little and the floors begin to separate, your throat gets scratchy and it takes more energy to make you “feel” more warm and comfortable. Follow the instructions and keep it set properly.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Haunted Chicago - The A.L. Sausage Factory

Join us for a tour of some of Chicago's most haunted spots. Your guides took a tour with the experts from Weird Chicago Tours to get the low down on Chicago's scariest real estate.

The quiet neighborhood of West Lakeview used to be home to a small industrial enclave but today is a tranquil oasis of new construction homes and townhouses. These luxury lofts were completed in 1999. Before its conversion into trendy condos, the building was most recently the home of Regal Manufacturing, where they made furniture for bowling alleys and other sport facilities.

Most of the residents and area neighbors don't have a clue about the building's ghoulish history from the late 1800's...

After finding that his German sausages were well-liked in Chicago, Adolph Luetgert built a sausage plant at the southwest corner of Hermitage and Diversey Parkway in 1894. He was so taken with his own success that he also built a three-story frame house next door to the factory, which he shared with his wife Louisa.

Louisa Bicknese was an attractive young woman who was ten years younger than her husband. She was a former servant from the Fox River Valley who met her new husband by chance. He was immediately taken with her, entranced by her diminutive stature and tiny frame. She was less than five feet tall and looked almost child-like next to her burly husband. As a wedding gift, he gave her a unique, heavy gold ring. Inside of it, he had gotten her new initials inscribed, reading “L.L.”. Little did he know at the time that this ring would prove to be his undoing.

Read more at Weird Chicago...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

'Tis the season - Halloween Decorating

The previous topics have been a bit heavy so I desperately wanted to post on a light topic. And I heard on the news that this year, Halloween moved into first place for the holiday that Americans decorate the most for. Who knew?

Daley Plaza, downtown Chicago.

Owner occupied two-flat at Honore and Barry. If you look carefully, you'll see the windows lined with topical chotchke's in greater numbers than you can count. Every holiday is equally celebrated.

On Logan Boulevard just east of California. This house is a destination drive as the over-the-top decorating brings lookers from miles away.

On Damen at Barry near Hamlin Park. Note the careful application of TWO colors of fake spider webbing on the front bushes.

My own research on the latest sales figures

Yesterday's post was compiled from news items reported in various media outlets based on information provided by the National Association of Realtors and the Illinois Association of Realtors. I wanted to verify what has been happening in our local market areas.

The data in the graphs below are compiled from our Multiple Listing Service, looking at data in the City of Chicago, for property types 1 (single family homes) and 2 (condos and townhomes.)

The above graph shows pending sales - properties that have gone under contract but not yet closed. Comparing September 2005 to September 2007, the number of pending properties are down 40 percent.

This one shows properties that have sold and closed. The number of homes sold in September 2007 is down 45 percent from September 2005.

Look for graphs in the coming days examining the same data for popular neighborhoods.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Painful reality: Home sales in a slump with no end in sight

Today's headline that Neumann Homes is filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection is quite a shock. It can't be totally unexpected, however.

Neumann Homes is the fourth-largest home builder in northern Illinois, and the 59th largest in the U.S. On Monday, Neumann closed all of its sales, production and customer service offices and laid off most of its 600 employees. Neumann is developing 15 subdivisions in Illinois. The company is trying to arrange for the completion of homes already under construction and promised to refund earnest money deposits on homes not yet started.

Your guides could not have predicted this outcome for Neumann Homes, but it seemed inevitable that one, if not more, home builders would meet this unfortunate fate.

Recent statistics show that new home sales are down anywhere from 30% to 40% in different suburbs. In the city of Chicago, sales of existing homes fell 36% in August from a year ago, and the stats for September are equally dismal.

Residential sales for the third quarter, 2007, are down 34% from the year-ago period, according to Schaumburg-based Tracy Cross & Associates Inc. On a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis, sales totaled 15,296 units, down 40% from last year and their lowest level since 1994.

Though the downturn is deeper and longer than most observers expected, sales are so low that they can’t drop much further, Mr. Cross says. Only 77 of the 817 condo and townhome developments the firm tracks had eight or more sales during the quarter, and 327 either logged no sales at all or suffered a net loss of sales as buyers canceled their contracts.


Update on Thursday: Figures released by the National Association of Realtors show a 7 percent decline in the number of home sales from August to September in the midwest region. Slow sales have caused a 4 percent decline in prices in the same short period of time.

And from a study undertaken by the Illinois Association of Realtors and the University of Illinois:

Over the last three months, the Illinois housing market has witnessed an increasingly sharp decrease in sales compared to the same month a year ago, culminating on a drop of almost 23% for September 2007 sales compared to September 2006. For the Chicago metropolitan economy, the decreases have been even larger; the September decline was 27%. On a month to month basis, the declines are 27% for Illinois and 30% for Chicago.

I hadn't meant to post on this topic, but...

It seems Chicagoans are in the middle of a perfect storm of tax increases. I had not meant to post on this topic as the subject has been covered quite thoroughly in all our local media outlets. But a couple of items have caught my attention and I wish to bring them to yours.

Between the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the CTA, lawmakers and taxing bodies are looking for approximately $1.2-billion in new revenue.

Mayor Daley wants a $293-million in new taxes for Chicago. Of course, he can't be bothered to explain why other than to attack critics as being against Libraries.

Cook County cannot afford to maintain the new hospitals complex that it just finished building and has slashed community services in the last 18 months. County President Todd Stroger proposes $888-million in new taxes.

The Chicago Transit Authority can not function as a viable transit agency without funding from the State of Illinois. It never has. Mind you - no transit system in the world can function without subsidy. But the budget for the CTA in the State of Illinois' budget is zero. The budget deficit to make ends meet is $158-million.

Both Mayor Daley and County President Todd Stroger both proclaim that there is no more fat left in the system to be trimmed. No more waste can be eliminated. No more patronage contracts can be routed out to benefit taxpayers.


In Chicago, trash collectors still patrol the city's alleys with trucks manned by three man crews. Every single private collection firm in Chicagoland manages to collect trash with a trash truck manned by one guy. In Chicago, however, it seems that one man must drive and cannot get out of the truck, and two men are required to pick up the trash.

Also, tradesmen who work for the City have just been granted 10-year contract extensions guaranteeing a health, benefit, pension package that is the envy of anyone who works in the private sector, and the "prevailing wage" paid to counterparts in the private sector. Never mind that those employees in the private sector are not guaranteed a 40-hour work week and are not granted such generous insurance, pension and early retirement.

In Cook County, administrators discovered a loophole in the application process for Federal Funding for expansion and administration of vital resident services in the late 1990's. This loophole was exploited to fund the construction and expansion of the massive Cook County Hospital and community health services. The Federal Government took notice early in the New Millennium and closed the loophole. What had been a quarter-billion-dollar-a-year torrent of Federal cash has slowed to a trickle and is now nearly shut off.

Other than this massive boondoggle, Cook County government has actually been contracting. Over the past several years, the County has frozen hiring and retired or laid off nearly 1,200 employees.

Unfortunately, since it was clear that a tax increase would be required to maintain the new hospital and health service complex, County President Stroger figured he may as well restore all the slashed positions in the same maneuver.

It is clear that Cook County cannot afford to maintain the massive health complex. I only wish someone in the elected government would be willing to admit that the County is stretched way beyond its means and either privatize or otherwise abandon some of these enormous burdens.

Perhaps surprising to you, your guides support funding for the CTA. Any reader that has experienced the convenience of the Paris Metro, the London Tube, or even the gritty yet efficient New York Subway knows what a benefit to a city their transportation system is. In college urban planning classes, the CTA was studied as a model of an ideal transit system. The economic benefit to Chicago is so great that to ignore it could lead to a collapse of the business climate in Chicago. Politicians beware - killing the CTA by choking off funds to keep it running could cause a collapse of Chicago's economy.

Some thoughts:

A sizable chunk of Chicago's revenue comes from the City's real-estate-transfer tax. The tax is $7.50 per thousand - or $750 per $100,000 - on the sale price for each property sale in Chicago. One tax increase proposal is to double the transfer tax on real estate. Keep in mind that the transfer tax on a fairly typical $500,000 condo or townhouse would double from $3,750 to $7,500. Just in case there isn't enough of a chill on the city's housing market.

Did you know that there are still some states out there that do not have state income tax? You can give yourself a 5% to 10% pay raise by simply moving to one of these states. Like Texas. Or Washington.

Just in case your reaction to this fact is to blame tax-and-spend Democrats, Illinois' income tax was enacted by Republican Governor James Ogilvie in 1969. Republican Governor James Thompson raised the state income tax several times. Republican Jim Edgar was elected even though he favored making temporary tax raises permanent and his Democratic rival opposed it.

Elections for Cook County Board, the Mayor of Chicago and the Illinois Legislature all took place in 2006. As there are not elections for another several years, politicians are betting Illinoisans have a short memory.

They may be right: A recent study found that legislators who backed major tax hikes were returned to office 90 percent of the time. Those numbers suggest that Stroger, Daley, commissioners and aldermen can back tax measures with minimal political risk.

Is there any chance we can prove them wrong?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sunny and warm Saturday in October

We've posted before lamenting Chicago's un-seasonal weather. Usually to complain. But we're working on our third Indian Summer here in Chicago this weekend with sunny skies and temps in the mid-70's. Check out Chicagoans enjoying these last days of late-summer.

Julius Meinl at Southport and Addison

Southport Lanes at Southport and Roscoe

Wiggly Field - one of Chicago's most famous dog-friendly parks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A tale of two markets

There was an interesting discussion at the office today about the existence of two distinct markets. The first market is the market everyone is familiar with today. the market of depressed property value. The market of ever-increasing market times. The market of never-ending price-reductions.

The second market seems to be the golden market. Properties lucky enough to be in the golden market seem to be those that are perfect in every way. The perfect location. Perfect finishes. Perfect condition. Perfect decorating. Perfect presentation.

The perfect properties are the ones in good locations, of course, but you could say that about nearly any north-side property. But the perfect property is the one in the preferred tier; with the preferred view. Or the one that doesn't look out the back-side. The perfect properties are the ones that have been meticulously de-cluttered, perhaps even staged. The perfect properties are the ones that buyers walk through and don't see any issues.

Issues that used to be easily overcome are now quite challenging. There are so many properties available for buyers to choose from today that it is a simple matter to move on to a different property rather than having to deal with issues in a property that would have been good enough in the past.

We have experienced this phenomenon in action this year. Some of our inventory flew off the market in quick fashion, and some lingers with us after months upon months. From this experience, here are some tips for making sure your property comes across as perfect.

No burned out light bulbs. It seems odd to have to actually write this out in black and white, but we have a listing that has been on the market for 8 months and we just can't seem to get the owner to change the light bulb in the overhead light in front of the kids bedroom. It's in a hallway with a tall ceiling and it's a recessed light - so not such an easy task, but would have been much easier while the owners lived in the home before moving away with their ladder.

Pull the weeds in front. We had one listing that lingered on the market this year and the owners asked us over and over again for any tips and suggestions on how to prepare their home for more positive perception with buyers. Each time, we recommended taking some time to tending the front of the home; pulling weeds and picking up blowing trash. The owners kept the inside of their homes as clean as could be, but since they always came and went through the rear garage, never paid any attention to the front of the home. It did go under contract, but only after 7 months on the market.

Paint. In this market, today's price seems to be last years price minus five percent. On a $600,000 property, that's $30,000 less than we could have received at the beginning of this year. A professional paint job will probably cost between $2,500 and $4,500 for a home like this. But a fresh and contemporary paint scheme is the most reliably solid way to make a home feel like it's brand new and ready for move-in. Experiences with owners this year have ranged from walls that look splotchy from touching up with the wrong paint color, to stained ceilings from long-ago repaired roof leaks. Both of these items cost our owners months of market time.

Check out this Virtual Tour of a listing that went pending in Lakeview in 22 days. I would be surprised to learn that someone even lives here. It's so perfectly staged. A buyer is presented with a perfect home that appears to be ready for immediate occupance - and even more importantly - enjoyment.

Then look at this Virtual Tour of another condo in Lakeview in the same price range. These units are similar in size, in age, and in a similar type of building. But this home lays all its issues out on display for any prospective visitor. The television in front of the window and the giant rack of A/V equiptment tells prospects that the living room is too small for their stuff. The exercise equipment in the master bedroom causes the buyers to be confused as to the purpose of the room. It certainly doesn't lend to the feeling that the master suite is a sanctuary or retreat. Even the outside space comes across feeling cheap because of the out-of-character patio furniture squeezed awkwardly into the corner.

Even the most minor issue can send buyers looking elsewhere in today's market. Sellers, address all your decorating and maintenance issues immediately. Each delay seems to be compounding exponentially in our experience adding weeks and months onto your market time.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tour: Not frequently visited - the Calumet River Area

Your guides spent a few hours moving the boat from its harbor near Downtown Chicago to its winter storage location in the heart of the South Side of Chicago on the Calumet River. You won't find many real estate articles or photographic essays on the Calumet River area, but some of our photos are quite starkly artistic.

From the National Weather Service, Lake Michigan Forecast:


A bumpy ride.

The Calumet Harbor area and the Calumet River are tributaries serving heavy industry in most literal sense of the word. Steel mills, electricity generating plants, auto manufacturaing, barge traffic are the inhabitants of this stretch of the south side. Just south of the river, the modest homes of Hegewisch serve the factory workers. Homes in Hegewisch can be found from $89,900 to $450,000, although most homes top out around $250,000.

The Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge is an ancient vertical lift bridge that features the operator's shack on top of the bridge offering the additional benefit to the operator of being lifted 60 feet in the air every time the bridge moves.

It's a theme: concrete and gas.

Bypassing the entire region, you can see the Chicago Skyway towering above the river in the photo above. The Chicago Skyway Bridge is a 7.8-mile toll road built in 1958 to connect the Dan Ryan Expressway to the Indiana Tollway - because - of course - you do NOT want to drive through this neighborhood.

More Calumet River photos on FLICKR.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A brief walking tour of Lincoln Avenue

I was inspired to take a walk over to the Citizens State Bank of Chicago condo conversion today because driving by it yesterday, I saw some progress on the development. The living room windows of the corner units overlooking Lincoln Ave. and Melrose seem to be cantelievered out over the sidewalk. Lincoln Avenue could be pretty noisy at this location, but these rooms look pretty dramatic nonetheless.

As long as I was out walking the neighborhood, and my doctor told me to lose 15 pounds, I turned this excursion into a mini tour. Join us as we walk along Lincoln Avenue from Melrose - about 3300 north - up to Addison.

Brush up on your photography and browse photos for sale by local photographers at the Chicago Photography Center. Located at the corner of School Street and Lincoln, the shop is located in one of the neighborhood's first loft condo conversions. Condos inside feature original wood floors - uneven and creaky - and funky floor plans owing to the sliver shape of the building.

It's hard to see from the photo, but the Chicago Music Center is wall-to-wall guitars and amplifiers.

Dinkels Bakery - halfway between School and Roscoe - had been a neighborhood staple since 1922. Dinkel’s history reads like a storybook; the bakery was founded in 1922 by Joseph Dinkel, one of a long line of master bakers in his native Dinkelsbuhl in Bavaria. The European bent beats on in this Lakeview shop, as do the original recipes, including one for Dinkel’s famous stollen. The Old World formula includes a mix of toasted cashews, almonds, pineapple and golden raisins, all dipped in rum and brandy before baking. For a slightly different taste, try the cinnamon stollen. Strudels are another no-fail choice; choose from varieties like poppyseed, cherry cheese and almond and apricot.

Frasca is a new pizza place in the spot of an old tavern. Upscale brick oven pizzas, a great wine list and delicious appetizers are the highlights of this new neighborhood attraction.

Fernando's is one small step above a hole-in-the-wall, but offers quite yummy Mexican fare. Nothing adventurous here, but the standbys are all good. This place is swamped on weekend evenings - especially in the summer as nearby residents are out walking the neighborhood in search of good casual food.

The Pleasure Chest caused quite a commotion in the neighborhood when it relocated from a spot closer to Broadway a year ago. Nearby residents seemed to decry the nature of the boutique as not fitting in with the "Family-Friendly" atmosphere. From the photo - this establishment looks considerably less exciting than a bank drive-through. Or Fernando's mexican restaurant.

Across the street at Cornelia and Lincoln you'll find the Paulina Meat Market. We hear that gourmands drive for hours to purchase the finest cuts of meat from the Paulina Meat Market, and we're fortunate to be within walking distance. From their website:

Sigmund Lekan began sausage making and smoking meats in 1949 at the Paulina Market. Lincoln Avenue was Germantown Chicago then. Using recipes and traditions brought from European old world butcher shops, Paulina Market gained loyal, satisfied customers from the Lincoln Avenue neighborhood and beyond. As time passed, most of the small shops on the avenue closed their doors, while Paulina Market grew and remained steadfast to the highest standards of quality and freshness to this day.

Check out these locations on our FLICKR map.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Worldwide press invited to view sales office at Chicago Spire

From the Chicago Sun Times in an article on Friday, October 5:

And so the units in the Chicago Spire, the planned supertall condo tower designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, are going to be rather nice.

As members of the international media were shown last week in a tour of the Spire's impressive new 20,000-square-foot sales center in the NBC Tower, the 1,193 units are to feature 10-foot ceilings, lots of blond maple wood, herringbone-patterned floors and marble bathrooms.

What's your Starbucks Quotient?

From the Chicago Sun Times:

Want another way to figure out if your hood is hot? Count how many Starbucks -- the '07 community status symbol -- call your ZIP code home

There're five Starbucks per 10,000 residents in Streeterville. And about two Starbucks for every 10,000 residents in the Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast ZIP codes.

What does a hood's SBQ say about the people who live there?

Well, parts of town with the most Starbucks are home to rich, white families who take home more than $60,000 a year, according to people who keep track of those things.

Less sophisticated Starbucks researchers use the company's store locator to find out how many Starbucks you can find in a five-mile radius -- which some blogger in 2005 dubbed "Starbucks Density."

Back then, the greatest Starbucks Density in the world -- if you believe everything you read on a blog -- was found in London, which boasted 170 Starbucks locations in a five-mile radius.

It would make sense that people living in a high-SBQ neighborhood would feel important, but most folks don't take it that seriously.

In Lakeview (zip codes 60657 and 60613) I counted 10 Starbucks stores and a total of 29 within a 2 mile radius of zip code 60657.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Bank of America survey of Agents for September

In some neighborhoods in Chicago, Months Supply of Inventory (MSI) has already surpassed 10 months. The chart below is from B of A's nationwide survey.

Few lookers left in the market.

Traffic deteriorated further in September, falling short of nearly all agents’ expectations as our traffic index fell to 9.6 from 17.6 in August. 85% of agents said traffic was below expectations, 12% said it met expectations, and just 3% said it exceeded expectations. As one agent noted, “It’s another month, but the same problem: no one can get a loan and sellers want too much for their property, so buyers are back to sitting on the fence.” In addition, agents pointed out most potential buyers are also sellers and they can’t move because their homes continue to languish on the market. One agent said, “I had one open house where no one even showed up.”

Prices continue to fall, but buyers look for greater reductions.

Home prices fell again in September, as our price index was unchanged at 19.5 from 19.4 August (any reading below 50 indicates lower prices over the past 30 days). Despite the recent price declines, agents seemed to note a growing gap between buyer and seller expectations, with several making comments such as, “Sellers have unrealistic price expectations,” and, “buyers are looking for lower prices than sellers are willing to settle for.” Appraisers appear to be helping to jumpstart the negotiations, as agents say appraisals are coming in very low. “I had one house recently appraised at $400,000 just get reappraised for $370,000. Not surprisingly, inventories increased and time to sell lengthened in September, with our indices falling to 20.8 and 9.1, respectively, from 24.6 and 11.4 in August, short of a neutral 50.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mega auto-mall planned for North Ave. & Clybourn

Grossinger Auto Sales has filed a zoning application to build a five-dealership auto mall on the site of the former Expo Design Center located at 1500 North Dayton - just south of the intersection of North Ave., Halsted and Clybourn.

Residents of nearby Old Town had been concerned that the auto mall would be located on Wells Street at the site of the former Tower Oldsmobile. Alderwoman Vi Daley (43rd) considers the new site "more appropriate than Wells Street." Considering the residential and recreational nature of Wells Street today, your guides completely agree.

Though the Clybourn Corridor is home to a myriad of retail destinations, the auto mall site sits immediately next door to the new SoNo development currently under construction. Smithfield development is near groundbreaking on two towers of residential condominiums with 550 one, two and three bedroom units plus retail space on the ground floor.

Though your guides find the idea of living in a vibrant area with a variety of retail options nearby, the automobile-centric nature of this retail corridor makes us just a bit wary of living this/close to an auto-dealer, (an already existing) car wash, and the busy parking lots that serve the Sams, Best Buy, Circuit City, Crate & Barrel, etc.

Monday Mortgage Humor - a couple days late

From the Monday Mortgage Humor blog:

A loan officer died and went up to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates to present himself for admittance to Heaven.

Peter said, “You did a lot of good helping people get into homes and you donated lot to charity and worked on that Habitat house. But you told too many fibs to the underwriters and were unkind to your processor. We aren’t sure where you are going to fit. So we’ve decided to show you around both Heaven and Hell and see where you feel more comfortable.”

As they toured Heaven, the loan officer really liked the big mansions and the streets paved with gold, but the harp music got on his nerves.

Then when they showed him around Hell, he noticed everyone had their choice of playing golf or tennis, hanging out by the pool, smoking and drinking, or dancing and playing cards in the clubhouse.

He told St. Peter, “Oh, this is going to be hard! Can I sleep on it?” So he was allowed to think it over during the night.

The next morning they asked him for his decision. He quickly replied, “Oh please send me to Hell!”

So they opened up the doors to Hell, but the whole picture had changed! It was just like you have always heard with fire and brimstone! People were burning and being tortured and screaming! Oh it was so hot and horrible!

“Hey, that’s not what you showed me yesterday!” the loan officer cried.

St. Peter’s cold reply: “You should have locked-in yesterday!”

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More details released for Chicago Spire

From Crains Chicago Business

Prices at the Santiago Calatrava-designed twisting tower, which is to be the tallest building in the U.S. when it’s completed in 2011, will range from $750,000 to $40 million for the two-level penthouse in the tip of the 150-story skyscraper.

Price details as well as a look at the interiors were disclosed Wednesday to the media during a tour of the Spire’s lavish sales center on the 18th floor of the NBC Tower, which overlooks the building’s site at 400 N. Lake Shore Drive.

Progress on new homes along Honore at Wellington

I thought about posting on the subject of taxes today, but regular readers don't seem to be one bit interested. In case you want to read more about taxes, check out Mark Brown in the Sun Times or the Chicago Tribune.

In a far more interesting development, the architect who designed the house right on the corner of Wellington and Honore posted a billboard with the final design of the house. So, do you love it or hate it?

The three more modest (?) homes to the north are coming along nicely.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The second funniest man I know

I love Chicago. I love taking pictures. Therefore many of the posts here are pictures of Chicago. Many times I have resisted the temptation to post photos just because the photo is a good or interesting one. There are other blogs for that and this blog is about Chicago Real Estate.

But I made a new friend in Maine - a friend of a friend who has bought and sold many homes with your guides, and he is an avid photographer. He shared many tips and techniques on photography and I am grateful and humbled.

His photos are pretty good, too. So, if you're in the mood to take a stroll through the slightly twisted psyche of my new favorite photo-buddy, check out his FLICKR collections and his blog.