Monday, March 31, 2008

City of Chicago sticks it to Real Estate Buyers & Sellers one day early

Your trusty guides have several closings scheduled for today; one day before the dreaded increase in the Real Estate Transfer Tax is supposed to take effect.  To no avail.  The City of Chicago and local Title Companies have conspired against forward thinking buyers and sellers of property trying to beat the deadline.

The City of Chicago requires that you PURCHASE your stamps by the end of business TODAY.  Even if you close this afternoon, then dash down to the City Clerk's office and get it the line that stretches out the building, the bureaucrats have vowed that the office will not stay open one moment late to accommodate the rush.

Might it make sense that if you close today, and then head to the Clerk's office with your HUD-1 showing that you closed on your property on March 31, that you would be covered? 

Of course not.

And, if your Title Company actually were to send an associate down to the Clerk's office with a bunch of closing paperwork, the City Clerk will only sell the Transfer Stamps for three transactions.  If you have more than three transactions, you must leave the window and start over again at the end of the line.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Happy Bangladesh Day!

I can't believe I didn't get you a card!

On Devon Avenue in West Rogers Park today (Saturday, March 29, 2008.)

Of course we should close Devon Avenue - the main thoroughfare through this entire neighborhood as well as the only way to get to my open house from the east.


Yes, the Scottish bagpipes are a bit odd, no?

Happy Bangledesh Day 004

Happy Bangledesh Day 001

Friday, March 28, 2008

Construction to start on new Dominick's & condo's on Broadway this summer

Your guides have finally heard that the construction will begin this summer on the new Dominick's grocery store located at the now-vacant parcel at 3030 North Broadway.  You'll recall that this parcel was the site of the former grocery store which burned down in 2004.

The project is a five-story building with 45,000-square foot Dominick's grocery store at street level and topped off by 53 condominium units.   Commercial space also includes a National City Bank.

Phase one construction is expected to begin this summer.  Residential units are being marketed by @properties.  Dominick's is expected to open in fourth quarter 2009 and the residential units ready for occupancy 90 to 120 days later.

Real Estate Terminology: Mary Umberger Syndrome

The syndrome whereby buyers show up at your property during the week regurgitating something they read in Mary Umberger's column in the Chicago Tribune on Sunday.  Frequently this syndrome manifests itself with the clutching of the oversized Sunday Tribune tucked innocently under an arm, or with ink-smudged fingers leaving prints all over your appliances.

Confirmation of this syndrome can be achieved by simply reading Mary's column and comparing it to what you hear in these situations.

Buyers show up at your development open house asking for tons of upgrades (or even a CAR!) because they read that:

An unscientific sampling of marketing materials finds a number of arresting, exclamation-point laden promotions. Many continue to offer tens of thousands of dollars in goodies or price reductions. And if you have your heart set on a big-screen TV -- or even a car -- such opportunities still exist.

Buyers turn in a low offer on your listing because over the weekend they read that:

A trio of economists told the nation's beleaguered home builders Wednesday that housing probably will continue its slide through much of 2008, until a painful but necessary drop in new- and existing-home prices -- 15 percent or more in some parts of the country -- helps find a turning point.

Thanks to Greg Braun from the law firm of McCormick Braun Friman, LLC, for the idea for this post and continuing series.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Warren Park in Rogers Park

Warren Park in West Ridge/West Rogers Park

With nearly 90 acres of parkland, Warren Park is the North Region’s largest park featuring a number of special attractions for every season of the year. In April, a state-of-the-art skate park and six station baseball batting cages open to the public. The 80-by-80 foot skate park, situated to the north of the fieldhouse, contains the same equipment used by pros, including quarter pipes, pyramid combinations, street spines, launches, grind rails and fun boxes. Admission fee is $2 and is intended for skateboarders and in-line skaters only. Step up to the plate and test your batting skills at the batting cages. At the nine-station cage, choose from a variety of speeds that range from 40 to 70 mph and select either baseball or softball (12-inch) styles of play. The batting cages cost $1 for 15 pitches. Weathering permitting, the cages are open April - September. The hours of operation are Monday, Closed; Tuesday - Friday, 4 - 8 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, 11 am - 5pm. Bring your own bat.

Fitness enthusiasts can hop onto a paved path that winds throughout the park for walking, jogging or biking. Golf-lovers head to the Robert A. Black nine-hole golf course and golf putting practice area located on the northeast end of the park. Warren also boasts a racquetball court open for play on weekdays, 10 am - 7 pm for $6 per person.

In the winter months, Warren Park boasts an outdoor ice rink for skating, as well as a sled hill for all ages. This winter, the ice rink will operate (weather permitting) until March 16, 2008.

Warren Park’s programming ranges from aerobics to unique West African drum classes. For youth and teens, the park has strong after-school program (Park Kids), baseball, basketball and soccer programs. The site is also home to the North Region’s administrative offices.


Warren Park was created in the 1970s, born of both conflict and cooperation. The controversy began in 1965 when real estate developers purchased the former Edgewater Golf Club. Shortly thereafter, a coalition of community groups started a campaign to save the land as open space. Despite the strong community objection, however, the site was re-zoned to allow development of high-rise apartments and a large shopping center.

The State of Illinois forcefully intervened in 1970, acquiring a portion of the property to create the first-ever state park within the boundaries of Chicago. Plans to develop the remaining acreage continued, and community opposition stayed strong. In 1972, the Chicago Park District determined to purchase this land. The state transferred its property to the park district in 1975. By that time, the park had been named in honor of Laurence C. Warren (---), an attorney and leading community activist who helped save the open space as parkland. In 1980, Warren Park's nine-hole golf course was officially dedicated in honor of Robert A. Black (---), Chief Engineer to the Chicago Park District for more than thirty years.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Open House on the weekend of March 29 & 30.

Saturday, March 29

The Warren Corner Condominiums - West Rogers Park/West-Ridge

Open Saturday from Noon to 2:00

2034 West Arthur, 6504 North Seeley. Corner of Arthur at Seeley.

Brand new development - 20 condominiums in a vintage re-hab. Gorgeous fits and finishes for an unbelievable price.  One bedrooms from $135,000.  Two beds, one bath from $155,000 and two beds, two baths from $215,000

Sunday, March 30

3450 N. Ashland, #3-N

Open Sunday from Noon to 2:00

Two bedroom, two bath condo located in West Lakeview near Whole Foods, the CTA Brown Line and Roscoe Village.  Nearly new, stylish decor and garage parking included. 

List Price: $418,000 

The Warren Corner Condominiums - West Rogers Park/West Ridge

Open Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00.

The Greystone on Fairfield - 942 N. Fairfield

Open Sunday from 2:00 to 4:00

Sumptuously finished condominiums with loads of upgrades.  All bathrooms are marble - most with Jacuzzi tubs.  Crown molding, recessed lighting, wood floors, high ceilings are just some of the gorgeous details available in these homes.

In Lakeview, condo project switched to apartments

The Lakeview Collection Lofts located at the corner of Belmont, Ashland and Lincoln Avenue has just been switched to apartments from condominiums.


Crain's Chicago Business has just reported that Centrum Properties has decided to build luxury apartments instead of condos in the Lofts at Lakeview Collection, a proposed $100-million mixed-used development.

The development will now include 130 apartments and 90,000 square feet of retail space.  The plan for the re-development of this corner had been anticipated in order to begin the transformation of the corner that currently features some pretty bad examples of 1960's and 1970's architecture including the 2-story LaSalle Bank/Bank of America building sitting on the corner now.

Real Estate Transfer Tax Imposed Upon Seller

Effective April 1st, the Chicago Real Estate Transfer Tax increase of $3.00 will be imposed upon the seller.

Previous posts...

The Debate.
Sticking it to homeowners.
Feeling the pain.
The first pass.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Roof Deck at 942 Fairfield - the Fairfield Greystone

I normally don't blatantly plug listings here on the blog.  The sidebar slideshow does a good job for me.  But I was over at the Greystone on Fairfield at just the right time to snap some amazing sunset skyline shots from the roof deck.  They're too nice not to publish.

942 Fairfield Deck 005 (Large)

942 Fairfield Deck 006 (Large)

942 Fairfield Deck 008 (Large)

942 Fairfield Deck 011 (Large)

If you would like to live in a cool condo with a killer roof deck like this one, check out the development website at and come see the property. 

Statewide February Home Sales Perk Up from January

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Home sales activity improved slightly from January as Illinois REALTORS gear up for the spring market. According to the Illinois Association of REALTORS latest report, total home sales (which include single-family and condominiums) were up 15.1 percent in February 2008 to 6,832 sales compared to January 2008 sales of 5,938; sales were down 22.9 percent from February 2007 totals of 8,860. The Illinois median price in February was $181,265, down 5.6 percent from $192,000 in February 2007. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half sold for less.

“REALTORS are seeing some signs of the spring market with increased activity and interest from potential buyers. If people have good credit, their finances in order, and are looking for a home for the long haul, they should get in the market with confidence,” said REALTOR Kay Wirth, president of the Illinois Association of REALTORS. “Conditions in many local markets are good and present opportunities for first-time and move-up buyers.”

In the city of Chicago condominium sales fared comparatively well in February with 1,047 units sold, down just 9.7 percent from the same month last year with 1,160 units sold. The condo median price in the city of Chicago was up 10.5 percent to $314,900 from February 2007.

“In the city of Chicago condominium transactions continue to lead our sales activity,” said David Hanna, president-elect of the Chicago Association of REALTORS. “The 10.5 percent increase in the median price for February shows buyers are finding great value in the city. We see this increase as further proof of the resilience of the Chicago marketplace, and expect the smart buyer here to prosper from taking advantage of historical low interest rates and abundant inventory to find their next home.”

The monthly average commitment rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage for the North Central region was 5.99 percent in February 2008, up 0.26 points from the 5.73 average rate the previous month, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Last year in February it averaged 6.25 percent.

“There are pockets in the state that are already seeing an early uptick in sales activity,” says Wirth, a broker with Re/Max Unlimited Northwest in Crystal Lake. “McLean County which covers the Bloomington-Normal area saw sales up 14.4 percent and the median price up 1.3 percent to $153,000. Sales activity in Macon County (Decatur) was up 2.7 percent, and in the Metro East county of Madison sales surged 6.3 percent in February compared to a year ago.”

The Chicagoland Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA) logged 4,310 total home sales in February 2008, down 26.9 percent from 5,894 home sales in the same month of 2007. The median home sale price for the Chicagoland PMSA was $240,230 in February 2008, up 0.1 percent from $240,000 in February 2007. The Chicagoland PMSA, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, includes the counties of Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will.

“Illinois is certainly revealing, through both jobs growth and state revenue collections, that it is bucking the national trend in the first quarter of the year,” said Dr. Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory (REAL) of the University of Illinois. “The spillover of the economic forces into the real estate market is evident in the slowing in the decline in housing sales and recovery of median prices to levels that approach those observed in the first quarter of 2007.”

According to a recent report from the National Association of REALTORS, chief economist Lawrence Yun said: “Subprime loans and other risky mortgage products have virtually disappeared from the marketplace, and over the past five months, this has been reflected in soft but fairly stable home sales.” Sales and price information is generated from a survey of Multiple Listing Service sales reported by 35 participating Illinois REALTOR local boards and associations.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Edgewater Residents still leery of lakefront path

Lake Shore Drive at Hollywood, Chicago

There are a number of cool things about the map above.  And before I get to the point of the article that I set out to write about, I really must give a rave review to a couple of products that I discovered over the weekend.

1. This blog post (and the one on Lincoln Park) were written in Windows Live Writer.  This desktop publishing tool seems to blend the best of a desktop application with the easy-access of an online writing tool like Google Documents.  The interface is elegant and graceful, offers tons of tools, and publishes to almost any online host effortlessly.  Windows Live Writer went out and fetched all the settings from my Blogger account and seamlessly writes my posts in the same style and formatting as my blog.  I'm amazed.

2. Windows Live Writer allows me to insert photos with gorgeous effects, tables, video from YouTube and other sources as well as the amazing Windows Live Map you see above.  Check it out closely:  it's draggable; it's clickable; it's totally interactive.  It's not just a simple screen capture from Windows Live or Google Earth.

Alright, back to the topic at hand:

The Friends of the Park recently tried to revive the discussion with Edgewater residents about what they thought of extending the lakefront path north of Hollywood Avenue in front of the lakefront high rises that are east of Sheridan Road from Hollywood up to Loyola University.

Extending Lincoln Park north of Hollywood is not a new idea.  About three-dozen high rises between Hollywood and Loyola are built right up against the lake.  Past proposals including a shoreline protection study in 1987 have called for expanding the shore east of these private buildings.  Six years ago, Mayor Daley called for lakefront paths to be stretched north to run all the way to Evanston (Chicago's closest suburb to the north.) 

None of the proposals have ever materialized.  Residents in the fancy high rises and a few from Rogers Park (the most northern neighborhood in Chicago) opposed efforts expanding the shore.  They fought attempts to build marinas and helped pass an advisory referendum opposing an extension of North Lake Shore Drive.

But with the Centennial Anniversary of Daniel Burnham's 1909 plan approaching, Friends of the Parks set out to re-visit ways to complete public access to the City's lakefront.  Four of the city's 30 miles of shoreline remain in private hands despite Burnham's vision of a public lakeshore stretching from Indiana to Winnetka (north of Evanston.)  The group soon found that the idea remains a hard sell.

Mind you, folks living WEST of Sheridan Road seemed excited about greater access to the lake.  The president of an association representing 33 buildings along Sheridan Road supported the idea of extending the lakefront path.

But several residents in high rises EAST of Sheridan Road say they weren't consulted.  They say they were not aware that Friends of the Parks was developing ideas for a park extension until it was too lake to offer input.

They also worry about privacy and security issues should public park space be constructed right behind their buildings.  They fear clogged traffic on Sheridan Road will become even worse.

Your guide hopes that continued efforts in the coming years results in the opening of the lakefront along this stretch of Sheridan Road.  One of the complaints of Sheridan Road residents was that the sidewalk alongside Sheridan Road is already congested with pedestrians and bicyclists.  Residents have forced local police to vigilantly patrol this stretch for bike riders on the sidewalks.  But Sheridan Road is so narrow that any bicyclist brave enough to ride in traffic along Sheridan Road surely takes their life into their hands as they dodge turning cars, CTA buses and delivery trucks.  In reality, the creation of the lakefront path would alleviate much of the sidewalk congestion in this area and make both areas safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tour: Lincoln Park Zoo in Winter (really Spring)

I helped out some clients today with renting out their investment condo, and since they brought the whole family in from the suburbs, and the condo is located near the Lincoln Park Zoo, I couldn't resist dragging the family over to the new Children's Park inside the Zoo.

LP Zoo March 009

The new Tree Canopy Climbing Adventure can be found just south of the Sea Lion pool inside the main gate to the zoo.  This thing is amazing.  Where were play parks like this when I was a kid? 

LP Zoo March 008

The multi-level environment is filled with exhibits featuring animals found in jungle canopy trees. 

LP Zoo March 006

Outside, other animals seemed to be making do in the early Spring snow. 

LP Zoo March 001

Yeah, this guy doesn't look like he's anticipating the warmer weather any time soon.

LP Zoo March 004

These two look like they took care of the Easter Bunny.

LP Zoo March 014

Friday, March 21, 2008

Diversions - things to do in Chicago this weekend

Ordinarily on the first weekend of Spring, we'd be suggesting all sorts of fun outdoor activities. Not so much this weekend. Here are a couple of indoor diversions that caught our eye for this weekend:

Blue Ribbon Glee Club
10:00 PM on Friday night
The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., in Bucktown.
Tickets $8

This choir of 20-somethings and 30-somthings is not your average choir. The group fills its sets with punk and indie rock standards from bands such as the Clash, Sleater-Kinney and T-Rex. Definitely worth a listen to hear some of these punk hits performed a capella.

The Nylons
8:00 PM on Saturday night
Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main Street in St. Charles (ouch!)
Tickets $29 to $75.

This takes your guides back to the late 1980's on a cross country road trip belting out a capella (not intentionally a theme this weekend) old standards and hits sung by this quartet. With a history spanning 27 years, the group has seen many changes, but two things remain the same: original member Claude Morrison and the uniquely arranged, completely catching hits.

What a difference a day makes

Happy first full day of Spring.

Sometimes I hate Chicago.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wednesday in West Lakeview: the calm before the storm

What a nice & beautiful Spring day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why the economic slump hangover seems to be lasting longer than expected

I am finally coming to the realization that it's going to be harder to get the economy out of its slump than I had predicted last year and would have liked. The problem seems to be runaway government spending combined with putting off paying for it.

Two crazy scenarios that wouln't have been imaginable under another administration include (1) the prolonged war but with its cost financed rather than being paid for now, and (2) the economic stimulus package paid for by borrowing against future earnings.

Just like in a big company, the outlook for profitability is dampened by borrowing because eventually, all this debt is going to have to be paid off. The US wants to finance the current war and the stimulus package by borrowing. But what it's willing to pay for the privelege keeps dropping. Each time the Fed drops interest rates, bond prices also fall. What we're doing, in effect, is asking foreign governments and foreign companies to lend us money, but we aren't paying decent interest rates for the privelege. So there isn't much interest. This has the unintended effect of making our money worthless. Witness the tumbling of the US Dollar against most other currencies - especially the Euro and Asian currencies.

Which makes it that much harder to pay for the war and the stimulus package because our currency keeps falling in value.

So, even though Americans are the most productive workers in the world, our profitability is perceived to be hampered by the fact that we have to pay off our existing debt, nearly $1-trillion in war debt, and another $200-billion for the stimulus package.

These drags on our potential profitiability are what's keeping the economy from rebounding as quickly as it could. Because with our low unemployment and record productivity, if we could just get out from underneath the mountain of debt, the economy should be able to bounce back robustly.

We promise to return to more real estate related posting as well as light-hearted Chicago diversions as quickly as possible, and hope you'll forgive this particular sober economic analysis.

Twelve stories of Chicago's IBM Building sold to hotel developer

The owner of the IBM Building at 330 North Wabash has sold the 2nd through 14th stories of the building to a hotel developer who plans to convert the office space into luxury hotel rooms. The sale price is reported to be $46-million, but renovation costing over $100-million more. The hotel is expected to offer 335 rooms, with the standard guest room offering 525 square feet, large by Chicago standards. The hotel also will offer suites, some as large as 2,350 square feet.

The historic building was designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1972. The building has floor-to-ceiling windows, in the classic manner of a Mies van der Rohe design, and no interior columns, which simplifies modification of the space. Just steps from Michigan Avenue the new hotel faces stiff competition from the new Trump Tower Hotel located just across the street. Look for room rates in excess of $500 a night and up.

Work should begin on the space immediately and the hotel could be open in 2010. Located along the Chicago River, it might be possible to check into the hotel by boat. The hotel will offer 17,000 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant, lobby bar, fitness center and indoor pool.

Photograph by J. Crocker

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Open House on Saturday, March 22.

Saturday, March 22

The Buena Flats Condominiums:

This open house cancelled

Just finished the hardwood floors in the remaining unit and we can't walk on them until next week!

4022 - 4024 North Clarendon
Chicago, IL, 60613
Three beds from $279,900

Link to Fortune Magazine article on Real Estate Prices

Real estate: Buy, sell, or hold?

That's the question homeowners are asking in the midst of the worst real estate slump in decades. Our exclusive calculations can help you figure out what your house will be worth in coming years.

Too good of an article to miss. Very long. Will digest and comment later. But the news is gloomy. However, the premise of the article - the thing that anchors the whole theory - is that the ratio of Rents to Purchase Prices is out of whack. A but of a stretch, in my opinion.

Fed cuts rates by 3/4 of a point

The Federal Reserve slashed its federal funds rate, an overnight bank lending rate, three-quarters of a percentage point Tuesday, to 2.25% in the central bank's continued effort to restore confidence in the economy and battered financial markets. It is the sixth cut in the past six months and comes at a time when the Fed is trying to keep the economy from slipping into recession - although many think it's already entered one.

In an interesting article in Fortune Magazine (March 3, 2008) written by Stanley Bing, the author wonders what would happen if interest rates were lowered all the way to zero.

In the past, it's been my opinion that noting else could be done. Using the example of pushing a string, there is simply no more the government can do in order to stimulate spending. Heck, if money is free but there are still no takers, what can you do?

Mr. Bing proposes negative interest rates - a proposition I find quite interesting. In effect, the government pays you to take money. It's not as bizarre as you think. Take the soon to be distributed economic stimulus checks that should start arriving in Americans' mail boxes in May. In effect, the US Government is giving away free money. Under the negative interest rate scenario, rather than sending $600 to every tax paying American, the government would instead subsidize interest rates to banks. Banks could offer to lend money, with a 2% extra cash bonus. But the government would pay the banks 4% - a 2% return - in order to subsidize the borrowing.

Under this plan, only the most credit-worthy borrowers would be able to take advantage of the plan. People who did not need the money would not automatically receive it. The best part about this plan, it might actually cost less than sending every US tax payer $600. For example: If I was a borrower in need, and took advantage of a stimulus package loan of $5,000 and agreed to pay it back in two years, the 4% subsidy from the US Government would only be $400. If the loan was subsidized for 3 years, the cost would be $600, and if the government agreed to a 4 year term, the cost would climb to $800. Not everyone would be able to borrow $5,000, though. Some might borrow more, but most - less.

Of course, the downside is that we could run out of money. But, as the author suggests, we just print more. Don't we?

Tomorrow: Why it's becoming painfully obvious that we're in this recession for the long haul.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Extreme negotiating tactics on Chicago Homes in today's Chicago Trib

Today's front page Real Estate section in the Chicago Tribune featured an article titled "Buyer Vs. Seller" about the eternal struggle between buyers and sellers during negotiation to buy or sell property.

One small paragraph - easily glossed over - mentioned the universally distasteful strategy of buyers negotiating on several homes at once - pitting sellers against each other. This strategy is particularly hardcore and almost always considered the worst in down and dirty negotiating tactics.

Mind you, negotiating on multiple properties is completely legal and is quite effective. But at the end of the process, there will almost certainly be hard feelings and a trail of brutalized sellers across town.

The point of negotiating on multiple properties at the same time is to extract the best price possible from a seller, and then use that best price to hammer on another seller on a different property to reveal his best price. Or perhaps even more. Frequently, it's possible to get a seller to reveal what he believed was his or her bottom line in short order, and then extract just a little more.

If you're on the receiving end of such tactics, there are a few techniques you can use to minimize your exposure to the tactic, but still have a shot in the negotiations. This post is all about protecting yourself when involved in negotiating with a buyer using this technique.

In our market, it's customary for a buyer to submit an offer on a property either himself or through his Realtor in writing on a standard contract form provided by the local Association of Realtors. But then, as negotiations go back and forth with different prices and terms, frequently the parties convey their counteroffers verbally. Either through their Realtor, or directly, depending on whether the house is listed with a Realtor or For Saly By Owner.

If you discover that a buyer interested in your property is bidding on multiple properties, you should employ a couple of distinct strategies.

First, as long as the potential buyer is still negotiating on other houses at the same time as yours, you cannot reveal what your bottom line price is. It's even better to not reveal a figure even close to your bottom line figure. In this instance, you will only negotiate a token amount off your asking price - even if it's something ridiculous like $500 off. The reasons are two fold: You don't want to provide the ammunition that this buyer is going to use to hammer away at another seller. Although at this point, this doesn't have anything to do with you, it will protect you in the next round of negotiations. When your buyer feels that he has extracted what he feels is the best price possible from the other seller, he'll come back to you to see if you'll beat it. At this time, you'll be able to decide if you care to make a better counteroffer, or if the amount is already too low, tell the buyer "No Thanks." Either way, you or your potential rival won't have given as much away.

Second, always require that your potential buyer submit his counteroffers in writing. This way, your adversary can't take your best number and tell you he's "thinking about it" - which means he's using this new low counteroffer to negotiate against another seller. If, by chance, this buyer submits a counteroffer to you that you find acceptable - in writing - all you have to do is sign it. The worst situation would be to reveal to this adversary that you would agree to his latest price or terms, but not have them in writing. At this point, you can pretty much say goodbye to this buyer as he'll be trying to extract a few hundred bucks more from the other seller in your neighborhood.

Keep in mind that these tactics are extremely advanced. The downside could be severe to the buyer. Most Realtors advise their buyers not to submit multiple bids as the slight possibility exists that they would wind up under contract on multiple properties. Though the likelihood that this might happen diminishes the more ridiculously low the offer price, this simply means that the buyer's Realtor will be wasting his time chasing multiple contracts all over town. You're not likely to encounter these tactics from a buyer working with a Realtor. But you'd be well advised to get the assistance of your Realtor or your lawyer if you're the seller in this situation.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Series: Getting started with Chicago Investment Property. Part 4

Part 4 – Move-in Day.

Once the unit is prepped and ready for move-in, several things should occur before you hand over the keys.

If any forms are left to be signed, get them signed before you hand over the keys.

If any balance remains to be paid – get it now, before you waste time on any inspection. Once you hand over the keys, you sole recourse is eviction if any balance remains unpaid. Eviction is expensive.

Walk through the unit with the renter with camera and move-in inspection sheet in hand and note the condition of the unit. Have the renter fill out the inspection sheet in their own had writing and accept the condition of the unit. Put in writing anything you agree to fix and if you don’t want to fix something, put that in writing also. They don’t get the keys until you are both on the same sheet of music.

Take pictures of every room, every wall, every floor, every cabinet, every window, every door, everything. Media storage is cheap, take pictures of everything. You do this on the day of move-in because your camera will encode the picture with a date stamp. This could protect you down the road.

This sounds simple, but…verify the keys work – have the renter test them in front of you.

Once all paperwork is signed, all monies paid, the inspection is complete and acknowledged by signature of everyone, you can now hand over the keys. Now you should get out of there before you get roped into helping move boxes.

Sometimes the lease will say that it starts on the first but your tenants will want to move in a few days early if the unit is vacant to take advantage of a weekend. No problem, but they do have to pay prorated rent for the days they have possession. No pay, no move in early.

The renters now have assumed possession of the unit. Their rights, and your responsibilities, have just changed dramatically. That is why we made sure we took care of everything and got paid before handing over the keys.

Guide to articles

Part 1: Identifying potential property
Part 2: Marketing
Part 3: Taking an application and lease
Part 4: Move in day

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Diversions - things to to this weekend in Chicago

Some of my favorite suggestions for things to do in and around Chicago this weekend. A bit offbeat...

TRAN - The Atari Musical

Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays : 8 p.m. (ends March 22) Price $15

The Spot in Uptown, 4437 N. Broadway

A gender-bending, multimedia musical satire of the 1982 Disney film "Tron" (one of the first movies to extensively use computer generated images) features '80s music, video game intrigue and characters who attempt to discover where the sexual freedom of the '70s went. Yeah, I know, this only really works for children of the '80's.

The Purr-fect martini contest at the Kitt Katt Club

3700 N. Halsted St.

Think you mix the best 'tini? Prove it by sending us your own "purrfect" recipe now for the chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas, and see your martini grace Kit Kat's menu for one year.

53rd Annual Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade

Saturday at Noon, starting at Balbo (7th) and Columbus (east of Michigan Ave.)

Not as rowdy as last week's South Side Irish Parade, the St. Pat's celebration kicks off with the traditional dyeing of the Chicago River at its junction with Michigan Avenue (10:45 a.m.) and continues with this hugely popular parade. See floats, Irish step dancers, bands, clowns, Clydesdale horses and more.

Open Houses the weekend of March 15 & 16

The Warren Corner Condominiums

New development in West Ridge / West Rogers Park hosts its first open house this weekend. Twenty 1 & 2 bedrooms priced from $135,000 finished with the most luxurious amenities.

2034 West Arthur & 6504 North Seeley, near Warren Park.
Open Saturday from 2:00 to 4:00.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chicago City Council debates shifting Transfer Tax burden to Sellers

Today the Chicago City Council takes up the debate on the dreaded Real Estate Transfer Tax today. The debate today is about shifting the burden of the additional $3.00 per $1,000 of the tax (the increase passed last month) from the buyer to the seller in a real estate transaction.

You'll recall from a previous post that the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance raising the City Transfer Tax from $7.50 per $1,000 to $10.50 per $1,000 of the sales price of property in Chicago. The tax increase takes effect on April 1 of this year. The increase in this tax will make up the projected $100-million shortfall in the CTA budget not covered by the sales tax increase.

In a related note, I learned that CARPAC - the Chicago Association of Realtors Political Action Committee - has withdrawn its support and financial assistance for any and all Chicago Aldermen & Alderwomen who voted to increase the Transfer Tax. Normally I am at odds with the Realtors' Political Action Committees, but on this issue, I say "Right On."

I hear through the grapevine that there were only six bold and brave Aldermen and Alderwomen who thought that the transfer tax on Real Estate was an awful idea and voted against the tax. The short list of those Aldermen:

Bob Fioretti (2nd)
Sandi Jackson (7th)
Sharon Dixon (24th)
Rey Colon (35th)
Brian Doherty (41st)
Bernard Stone (50th)

Chicago Transit Authority invites riders to become Mystery Shoppers

Riders of the CTA can volunteer to report on their experiences riding the CTA and receive a $2 fare card by registering for the program and sending in a report.

The Mystery Shopping Program provides our customers with the opportunity to evaluate the quality of service provided by the CTA. With your help, the CTA will have a detailed understanding of our customer experience, allowing us to identify service issues that require immediate action and use customer feedback to make informed business decisions.

Your role as a mystery shopper is to gather information and make observations that can help us serve you better. The mystery shopping activity will evaluate the five core values of our operation:


Customers that are interested in participating can register by sending an email to or by calling 1-888-YOUR-CTA.

Chicago Air and Water show announces Friday Night performance

The City of Chicago just announced a new evening performance for the Chicago Air and Water show. Originally scheduled for August 16 and 17, there will be an evening performance of the air show on Friday night, August 15. Very cool addition.

The Chicago Air & Water Show is the largest two-day spectator event in the United States and the longest ongoing show of its kind in North America. Highlighting the show each year is one of the US military's high speed, precision jet teams, featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds in 2007 and an array of other military aircraft and hardware.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Daylight savings starts today

This is probably old news to you at this point. But I am cooling my jets outside a listing I am supposed to show at 11 am. Of course the buyers forgot to set their clocks an hour ahead and slept through their appointment.

I take some comfort in the fact that these weren't my clients, which is usually the case. It's quite amazing that every single year, someone sleeps through a showing appointment. For me, it's usually one of my sellers who isn't expecting me for open house for another hour, or one of my buyers missing our first showings. Of course this train wrecks the whole day.

Why don't I learn and simply schedule this day off?

By the way, SIRIUS satellite radio channel Spectrum is really jamming this early Sunday morning.

Bored. 30 minutes late.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Diversions - The South Side Irish Parade on Sunday

Kicking off at Noon on Sunday, March 9, at 103rd and Western is the 30th annual South Side Irish Parade and all its related festivities. PLEASE NOTE that this date is one week earlier than usual due to the fact that Sunday, March 16, 2008 is Palm Sunday.

The official website here.

The Wikipedia entry here. This is worth a look just to read the lyrics to the Chicago South Side Irish Song.

Oh, and be careful. The Chicago Police Department says they will be arresting anyone drinking in public and that the fine is $500. This I have to see! In the photo above, that's $4,000!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bad Real Estate Photos - a continuing series

More photos from the Titanic...

Series: Getting started with Chicago Investment Property. Part 3

Taking an application and lease

Personally, when I take a lease application, I require all the paperwork, and all the money, paid up front.

There are several musts when someone rents your apartment:

1. They fill out a credit application – completely (no blanks).

2. They pay a credit check fee. Check with your credit reporting bureau to see what this fee is. Have the tenant pay the credit check fee in a separate check either to you or to your credit bureau depending on your arrangement. No, you will not take a credit report from someplace else. These are too easily faked.

3. They fill out the lease.

4. They pay the first month’s rent. This must be a separate check.

5. They pay the security deposit. This must be a separate check. In Chicago, the law requires it be a separate check.

6. You must give a receipt for every check you receive. Some receipt books have check boxes so one page serves as a receipt for all three. Some receipt books do not and you’ll have to write three separate receipts. In Chicago, the law requires that the security deposit receipt contains: 1) description of the dwelling unit (property address), 2) the amount received, 3) the date received, 4) the name of the person who received the deposit and, 5) the signature of the person who received the deposit. Big troubles to those who don’t follow this simple rule.

Some possible exceptions:

You might let the tenant pay their rent on the day they move in. Personally, I would not. I want their checks to have plenty of time to clear. If a tenant is scheduled to move into my apartment sooner than one week from application, then I require certified funds.

This should go without saying: do NOT fall for a Cragslist style scam whereby you receive a certified check in the mail, and the tenant tells you he made a mistake and that you should cash his check and return the overage by mail. You can kiss your bank account goodbye if this happens.

Other things to consider:

If your rental is a condo, does the building have move-in/move-out fees or deposits? Find out and make sure that the renter knows it is their cost to absorb. Get this info and inform them upfront at the application stage or it could cause some bad animosity later.

Lease Terms
Get the appropriate lease for your unit type. You will want to look for one of these:
@ Standard Chicago Apartment Lease
@ Chicago Apartment Lease – Furnished
@ Condominium Lease – or a standard lease that contains language appropriate to condominiums

You can get the Standard Chicago Apartment Lease at Tanenbaum Hardware on Belmont. The others, we may have.

The Standard Chicago Apartment Lease is the easiest to use (but not appropriate for condominiums) because it covers all the legal stuff required in Chicago.

If you don’t use the Standard Chicago Apartment Lease, you must add a rider that contains the following information:
@ The Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance applies to the lease. Tenant acknowledges receiving a copy of the summary of the ordinance.
@ Tenant acknowledges receiving a copy of the rules and regulations of your building, or of the condominium building the unit is located within.
@ The interest rate paid on the security deposit.
@ Rent is due on the First of the month. It shall be considered late if not received on the first. Even though late fees cannot be collected until after the 5th.
@ The late fee: The monthly rent shall be automatically increased $10, plus 5% of the amount by which the monthly rent exceeds $500, as additional rent, if received by Lessor after the 5th of the month for which it is due.
@ Tenant acknowledges receiving a Lead Disclosure statement and the pamphlet “Protect your Family from Lead in your Home.”
@ Tenant acknowledges receiving a Heating Cost Disclosure – or a statement that the heat is included in the rent and therefore a Heating Cost Disclosure is not provided.

Additional Resources:
Lead paint disclosure:
Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance:

Guide to articles

Part 1: Identifying potential property
Part 2: Marketing
Part 3: Taking an application and lease
Part 4: Move in day

Diversions - things to to this weekend in Chicago

Bodyslam! The Rise and Fall of CAWC
Fridays at 10 pm
The Annoyance Theatre - 4830 N. Broadway
Tickets $15

A comedic epic in which two innocent brothers struggle against sinister promoters, steroid use and emerging egos when they join the world of professional wrestling. Expect original songs, a Battle Royale and an onstage ring.

Around the Coyote Gallery - Bucktown
March 7 : 6 p.m.
March 8 : 12 p.m.
March 9 : 12 p.m.
1935-1/2 W. North Ave.

A three-day showcase of works by more than 50 artists includes lectures, tours and readings. Each day includes an art sale. Unlike in past years, this year's show highlights artists handpicked by gallery staff.

Friday, March 7
6 p.m.: Opening reception with refreshements
7:30 p.m.: Guided building tour with ATC board member Paul Klein

Saturday, March 8
6 p.m.: Opening celebration for "On Naji al-Ali," an exhibition of work by cartoonist Naji al-Ali, Emily Jacir and Tarek al-Ghoussein
7 p.m.: A panel discussion explores the political implications of "On Naji al-Ali"

Sunday, March 9
3 p.m. Chicago playwright David Alex showcases a scene from his new work, followed by a discussion

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Chicago Sun Times reports developer can't be found

On March 5, the Chicago Sun Times reported on the apparent abandonment of the development called Motor Row located at 2300 S. Michigan Ave., in the South Loop neighborhood. Opinions seem to be varied as to whether the developer, Andrius Augunas, left the country in an attempt to abandon the development or over legitimate immigration issues.

His immigration status is unknown. In 2006, Augunas sued the Department of Homeland Security on behalf of himself and his family, saying it hadn't acted on their applications for permanent residency. The case was later settled.

Motor Row was planned as a 91-unit project on a historic stretch of South Michigan. Fitzgerald, of the firm Fitzgerald Associates Architects, said he stopped working on the project months ago when he wasn't being paid.

In addition to Motor Row, Augunas was the devloper for a 205 unit high rise at 2100 South Indiana, simlply known as the 2100 Condos. It appears that all construction activity at the 2100 Condos has also been halted.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sam Zell agrees with us. Real estate prices already hit bottom

In an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, Sam Zell said he sees a recovery in the U.S. housing market this Spring.

"I think starts have already pretty much bottomed out," Zell said. "I think the housing market this spring will begin its recovery phase."

Your guides have already posted on the recovery underway in Chicago. It's welcome news to hear from another source who has more to offer than the familiar refrain of doom and gloom.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Open Houses the weekend of March 8 & 9

The Greystone on Fairfield - open Sunday from 11 am to 1 pm.
942 North Fairfield
Six luxurious condominiums ready for move-in.
2 bedroom condominiums from $275,000
2 & 3 bedroom duplexes from $325,000

Buena Flats - open Sunday ***UPDATE *** CANCELED ***

We sold all the finished units here this week and there's nothing left to show. We will resume open houses here in Late March.

4022-4024 North Clarendon
Vintage floor plans with modern amenities
Three bedrooms from $279,000

3450 North Ashland, #3N - Open Sunday from 1:00 to 3:00.
Two bed, two bath condo with approx. 1,000 s.f.
List price: $418,000
Garage parking included

Moving sale at the same time. Come take a look at all the cool furniture and electronics for sale. Owner relocating overseas and everything must go. View the items and download a price list at

Time to take down the Christmas Poinsettia? Doctor's office on March 4

Monday, March 3, 2008

Chicago Condos: Unit sales down 24%, median price up 12%

Below is the monthly market report for city condos, for February. Statistics obtained from the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois and compiled into this handy report by our friends at Chicago Condos Online.

Year-to-date, units closed are down 24%. (In January, they were down 36%, so the market is picking up significantly.) With median sales price up 12%, total sales volume is down by only 8%.

Comparing February '08 to February '07, units sold are down 13%. Median sales price is up 13%.

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day!

Casimir Pulaski Day is a holiday observed in Illinois on the first Monday of every March to commemorate Casimir Pulaski, a Revolutionary War cavalry officer born March 4, 1747 in Poland as Kazimierz Pułaski. He was a Polish soldier. He is known for his contributions to the US military at the time by training its soldiers and cavalry. The day is celebrated mainly in areas that have large Polish populations. This is a separate holiday from the federal holiday, General Pulaski Memorial Day, which commemorates Pulaski's death at the Siege of Savannah on October 11, 1779.

Illinois enacted a law on June 20, 1977 to celebrate the birthday of Casimir Pulaski and held the first official Pulaski Day celebrations in 1978. The bill was introduced by Senator Leroy W. Lemke (D)- Chicago. Chicago celebrates Pulaski Day on the first Monday in March with an annual parade. Cook County government (which includes Chicago) and the Chicago Public Library also close on this holiday. The holiday is also observed in Wisconsin public schools, celebrated March 4th, as outlined in state statute 118.02 (although this is not universally observed). Indiana also marks the day as a commemorative day by governor's proclamation (IC 1-1-12.5), although it is not a state holiday.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

Spoke too soon yesterday. Cook County contemplating further tax hikes.

I know, it's like beating a dead horse. I think I didn't read deeply enough into the proposals for new revenue being proposed by the Cook County Board. Here's another proposal being contemplated.

An increase from $20 per month to $40 per month in the tax on monthly parking leases. Yes, for you out-of-town readers, just the tax on our monthly parking costs $20 a month - and soon perhaps $40 per month. I think that should send the highest rental parking rates pretty close to $350 per month in the loop.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cook County Board comes through - for bloated bureaucracy

Your guides previously reported on the potential sales tax increase being contemplated by the Cook County Board. In order to fill a $283-million hole in the budget, board members voted to increase the sales tax in Cook County by 1% making the full sales tax in Chicago 10.25%.

Even staunch tax opponent, County Commissioner Larry Suffredin voted to go along with the increase. Even today, Larry Suffredin's campaign website contains the quote "At this point, I see no need for any increase in taxes. I am opposed to a sales tax because it is regressive and adversely affects the poorest members of the community."

Well said, Commissioner. Too bad you didn't mean it.

Commissioner Suffredin reported that he went along with the tax increase in return for a concession from Board President Todd Stroger. Namely, President Stroger agreed to relinquish control of the Cook County Hospital system to a newly created independent board.

The problem as I see it is that we've just agreed to the creation of another bureaucratic fiefdom completely separate from the Cook County Board. I cannot imagine a concept more diametrically opposed to the reduction and streamlining of county bureaucracy. And the new board is scheduled to automatically be dissolved in two years. At that time, the county health system will revert right back to the current board.

In his campaign materials for his run for State's Attorney, he says "As a reformer, I stood up to Todd Stroger's tax increases." Well, now we can all conclude that in reality, he is an enabler of Todd Stroger's tax increases.

Shall we recap?

  • 1/4 of 1% sales tax increase to fund the CTA Pension bailout.
  • A 40% increase in the real estate transfer tax to finish the CTA bailout.
  • A 1% increase in the sales tax to fill a hole in the county budget.
Anything else? Mayor? Governor?