Thursday, July 29, 2010

Amazing New Sheridan Park Conversion-4529 N. Malden

This property will be hitting the market on Monday but here is a preview of what is to come. Located at 4529 N. Malden, this property has been painstakingly restored to its beautiful splendor by its long term owners over the past several years. Massive single level floor plans offer generous room sizes and walls of windows on all four sides. The units are filled with original, restored woodwork including original oak floors, birch and mahagony details, doors and wainscoting. Plus all new bones including plumbing, electrical, roof  and heat and air conditioning. The kitchens and baths are also new.

If you are looking for something special, you should check these out. Pricing will be $489,000 for the first floor and $525,000 for the second floor which is a bit larger and has an extra room. Both units will include two secured outdoor parking spaces and large decks as well.

For more information or to schedule a showing, call Andy Gersten at 312.368.3280.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sunday Featured Open Houses for July 25th

If you haven't had a chance to hear dotdotdot you have a chance to get to know a bit more about the band by listening to Chicago’s Q101 on Sunday, August 1st at 9pm to hear Chris Payne on local101 talk about the band and talk with Adam from the band about the land of Dot.

Before that if you are out and about where they played last, (Roscoe Village) there are 2 great open houses this weekend. Both are close to each other (3 blocks or less than a 1/4 mile). The first is 1833 W School St between Ravenswood and Damen - open 11-1pm Sunday ($1.3 million) and the next is 1818 W Henderson one block north as the crow flies ($1.435 million). This is open from 1-3 on Sunday, July 25th. Both are similar - relatively new construction (School is 11 years old and Henderson is brand new.

Both feature big living spaces 4-5 bedrooms. One with a yard and the other with 3 decks including a roof deck. Hardwood, great up-to-date kitchens. It would be great to have you see both and let me know how you think they compare. Is the newer "smart house" worth $135,000 more that the other? Do you prefer a yard or a decks and skyline roof views?

And , since you are so close drive just north to 4325 N. Ravenswood and check out Architectural Artifacts - there is great parking and 4 floors of monument to Chicago's architecture - preserved from wonderful old homes and buildings - stained glass, furniture, architectural exterior and interior details. Here is an exterior artifact from the Chicago Theater.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chicago street fests offer a great opportunity...and it's not over yet!!!

I have lived in Chicago for almost 25 years and this is the first year I have made it a point to experience as many street fests as possible. I usually hit one or two each summer but this year has proven to be more exciting. It is a fantastic opportunity to try out local eateries, visit area shops and expose yourself to some unbelievable music by small local bands. It is truly a treat and not an all day event.

A few weeks ago I was at the Roscoe Village Burger Fest and although the burgers were as good as a streetfest burger can get, I was introduced to a fantastic local band called Liquid Soul. They are 2000 Grammy Award winners and have been hovering under the radar ever since. You get the jazzy brass sounds of the sax and trumpet with the high-energy rocky, dance beat. Plus unreal vocal percussion of "Boy Elroy" It has to be seen to be believed. They were unique, original and quite entertaining and not terribly crowded. They are not easy to find in the city but if you see them on a fest list, check them out!!! I think Evanston is their next stop before the summer ends.

At the same festival I heard dotdotdot who are also a local favorite who offer a handful of originals plus fun cover music: a rock sound with a dance beat and tons of energy. They are all over the city with gigs practically every weekend, including this coming weekend at the Taste Of Lincoln Avenue (at Fullerton). They are on at 3:45 on Sunday if you want to check them out. They also have a couple of the members from Cat Fight.

Last weekend was another terrific street fair in River North. There I heard another new local band that is my favorite of the summer so far called Mathien and they also offered incredible original music that I would not be surprised gets some radio play in the future. Merging calm, funky soul, rock, and a strong hip-hop aesthetic, singer-songwriter Chris Mathien (MAY-thee-in) conveys the passion of reggae and soul vocal stylings, the free experimentation of Parliament-Funkadelic Rock, while incorporating the unconventional hip-hop attitudes of A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots...

They can been seen next at the Bash on Wabash (between 13th and 14th). Mathien goes on between 6:00 and  6:30 on Sunday, September 5th. If you are in the south loop area, definitely check them out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Financing your real estate purchase

So you are looking to purchase property. Maybe you have done it before – so this will be a refresher or maybe this is your first time or possible the first time in the “jumbo” loan category. I thought it might be helpful to cover some basic information and some of the differences between loan type and lender.

Loan Rates:

Rates are wonderfully low right now and this has made home ownership – along with a softer market - incredibly affordable.

Rates will vary depending on the loan type, (e.g. fixed, adjustable…) the demand for that particular type of loan, length or term of loan (e.g. 15 year, 30 year…), your credit worthiness (typically your credit score), loan to value ratio (i.e. what is the % of the loan you are putting as a down payment) and more recently the credit worthiness of the building where your property is located (assuming a condo/co-op).

Type of Loan

A conventional loan is a loan that is less than $417,000. A Jumbo is for any loan amount over $417,000 and it usually comes with a higher rate (bigger value, bigger risk for the lender and therefore they charge more). $417,000 is very low for many pricier areas of Chicagoland and there is an active effort on the part of the real estate community to get this bar raised so that loans above $417,000 can get more reasonable rates of interest.

Let’s do some quick comparisons using the bottom of the range of available rates for each loan in Chicago based on

The 15 year costs more monthly but builds equity faster with a lower interest and a quicker repayment of the principle - saves over the long haul

The Jumbo charges more so if you could add to your down payment to get below the $417,000 you could save 10% monthly and over the life of the loan.

Loan choices should be made with the help of a professional lender. Give me a call and I will make some suggestions about folks that can help you find just the right loan for your particular needs.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Loop Living

So you are exploring the loop and tracking down the movie trailers looking for Optimus Prime or even a glimpse of Kevin James (Ron Howard is also filming a new comedy in the city) and you wonder, should I live down here in the loop. Maybe walking to work every day with my Starbucks in hand would be the way to live. Maybe working 14 hour days and having a horrible commute out to wherever is not the best lifestyle for me. People generally don't think of the Loop as residential but there are some great properties that you can take a look at this weekend to see if the high-rise life might be a good choice fort you. So after chasing the film making, take a break and go see my favorite pick for the weekend. 235 W. Van Buren unit 4610 will be open from noon on Sunday until 5pm. This is a new development and the unit is a duplex penthouse - the main floor boasts a premium kitchen, living room/dining room and a small bedroom and upstairs there is a large master suite with a separate large den. The spectacular part of this home is the outside space - 3 individual spaces and one is a 1400 sq ft terrace. Imagine the gala event you could host with spectacular views of the skyline. The property is offered at just over $1 million. Maybe you can see the entire set of Transformers 3 from the terrace.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Transformers on location in Chicago...

In talking about neighborhoods, there are a couple that will be experiencing something a bit unusual over the next couple of weeks. The new Transformers movie will be on location around River North and downtown and they are making quite a scene. Last weekend they had the streets torn up at Jackson and Lasalle and again at Franklin and Washington in the loop. It literally looked like an earthquake hit.

It walking by the sites, they had "transformed" these locations completely. Huge boulders, upturned sidewalks...but if you looked closely, what appeared to be giant stones were merely sets of foam and wood. Unbelievably real...except when two people on the set gracefully lifted one off the ground to relocate it.

If you want to catch a glipse of some real fun action, check out the Chicago Tribune map which outlines where they will be and when and what will be happening.

This weekend will be big explosions, parachuters and a lot more action, mostly taking place around Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive. On Friday, July 16th beginning at 8pm, Michigan Avenue will be closed between Wacker and Ontario with big effects and stunts mostly taking place on Saturday and Sunday.

Also on Saturday the 17th, skydivers will be in the area so be prepared for street closures several blocks in either direction from the Trump Tower. Hotel 71 is the set for several scenes from the 19th-21st and the old Jewelers' Building will see the cast and crew for several days from the 24th-27th and possibly longer. I also heard that a few cars will be driven off the parking garage at Marina City into the river which would be pretty amazing to see.

So if you are heading to the area for a different reason, be prepared for a show. If you are heading there to catch a glimpse of the filming, be prepared for a long is the movies you know.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Recovery,recovery, where for art though?

Every Monday we are talking about the economy or housing market with a particular eye on Chicago. There is a great deal of talk on the recovery. A few weeks ago I quoted the Chief Economist from Freddie Mac when he asserted there will be a slow recovery with no double dip. Right now there are all kinds of mix signs. John Tuccillo, President, JTA, LLC (John is an economist, consultant and one of the foremost real estate and housing finance economists in the United States.) said that mixed signs – some still down (jobs) but others showing a turn around (the Dow (every other day )) are an indication of having hit the bottom and starting the hard work of recovery.

Each day I am asked “how is the market in Chicago…which neighborhood will recover first." Of course, no one has a crystal ball and no one can be certain. But today and for the next few Mondays I would like to pose a few thoughts on neighborhood recovery and I WELCOME debate and discussion. And if you have any specific questions you would like to address – post them and I will try to get some answers.

One theory of recovery is it starts with the wealthiest markets (Near North/Gold Coast). The logic behind this is that prices would have dropped enough to draw buyers from surrounding markets.

So the data to support this would be Near North would have dropped in average price, driving growing sales, the beginning of lower inventory and a recovering price and the surrounding area (Lincoln Park) would not be seeing price recovery.

Looking back 2 years and 4 points in time (Dec 08, June 09, Dec 09, June 10) here are the facts:

• The Near North has done a rollercoaster with strong average price in Dec 08 but a build up of inventory to 2 years. Average price dropped then from $648K to $450 (oops) but has rebounded in the last year AND managed to see inventory drop (average sold price is now $529 with a year of inventory. Hard to tell what drove it but to cut inventory in half – even if you allow for expired/cancelled listings – would take a inflow of buyers from other parts of the city

• Lincoln Park on the other hand saw the same drop in average price but hasn’t rebounded at all in price (price down 40% Dec 08 to June 09 but only up 2% since then. Inventory hit low levels (7.6 months in June 09 but has settled back to one year this June.

What do you think? What is your recovery theory? What neighborhood would you like to buy or sell in and would you like some solid information on the market?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spotlight on North Center

Part of the reason we love Chicago - in the midst of a big city, there are micro neighborhoods and they host festivals/events for one reason or another all throughout the summer. Two fun neighborhood events in North Center are pretty close to each other yet in distinctly different neighborhoods and they might be worth a visit.

The first is Ben Fest.

St. Ben’s parish and school at Irving Park and Bell Avenue host this very family oriented festival featuring rides for the kids and music for all. St Ben’s neighborhood is a small (8 square block area) with the parish at the center. The church was built over 100 years ago by former parishioners of St Mathias (Lincoln Square) who, in horse and buggy days, found the 1 ½ mile ride to church on Sunday too long. The neighborhood now attracts many homeowners because of the architecture, old brick single family homes and two/three flats on tree lined streets, and the school system – both public (Bell Elementary) and private. The festival starts tonight (Friday evening) and runs all day and into the night on Saturday.

Next, just 8 blocks south is the start of the tenth annual 2010 Roscoe Village Garden Walk and it is free!

You can pick up walk guides at 2058 W. Roscoe. Exhibiting gardens will be on public display from 12:00 noon until 6:00 pm on Sunday, July 11. What you will also notice as you walk around Roscoe Village is the variety of home styles and how different this neighborhood is from St Bens just to the north. And yet they are both very livable city neighborhoods. In Roscoe Village, my favorite homes are the clapboard, porched, welcome your neighbor type, single family homes. Just follow the guide to the gardens, look for balloons and notice the homes along the way.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Looking for Parking...check this out

Are you tired of looking for parking on the street. Are you considering purchasing a condo that does not have parking included? If so, there is a great new web site that is strictly related to parking options in Chicago. 

The website is called Parking Spotter and allows you to select a neighborhood or specific location and it shows you all of the parking options along with the costs and a map. Many of the spaces are monthly rentals but there are also links to garages for event parking. The great thing about this site is that it allows sellers or owners of these parking spaces to post them for free. So if you are considering a property that does not have parking included, don't may find what you need here.

If you have been considering purchasing a condo in Chicago and don't want to purchase the parking spot, you may want to consider properties that don't have parking included. Often these units are beautiful and spacious in vintage style buildings that were originally built before parking was a true need as it is today.

I have also added Parking Spotter to my resource category on the right side of my blog.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Spotlight on Lincoln Park

Where to begin? Our city architects created the most wonderful feature of the neighborhood by making sure the actual park of Lincoln Park stayed a park. Bike paths, trees, lakefront, and beaches – no other city has such a livable reputation and that is largely due to the lakefront.

Stepping back from the water front though and you discover a neighborhood 3000 blogs could not completely cover. So I will just touch on a few favorites: Food and Music.

My foodie friend just had dinner at Alinea (1723 N Halsted St). In addition to being possibly the most expensive meal she has ever enjoyed ($600 for two) it was, in her words, the most interesting and a true foodie experience. Alinea is all about presentation. There are two tasting menus – a 15 course and a 22 course. They had the 15 course. One course was created as the centerpiece by the diners themselves from a selection of ingredients and then became one of the courses. This course looks like it is looking back at you. And the horizontal ribbon is made from an applesauce gelatin. Each course comes with instructions on how to eat the course – how to mix the flavors just right, how every element of the whole was made. A party of four sitting next to them had flown in from California just for the experience of this restaurant.

Chicago Blues is alive all along Halsted between Fullerton and Diversey. And the music clubs are wonderful. Check out Kingston Mines as a local favorite. But right across the street is my favorite music venue, The Guitar Center. This is no ordinary music store. They encourage you to try, touch and play every instrument. Musicians and wanna be musicians alike can spend hours there. Each room is dedicated to a particular type of instrument – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, percussion, piano/electric keyboards etc. Just three days ago, Robert Plant (of Led Zepplin) strolled in off the street to pick up his guitar from repair, packed it into his backpack and walked out of the store like an average guy not the guitar legend he is. Angus Young of AC/DC was trying out guitars 8 feet from a young boy who was trying an ACDC riff on an electric guitar. Would have been cool to go give the boy a few tips from the master….

Lincoln Park runs from North Ave to Fullerton and from Clybourn East to the Lake. Many micro neighborhoods make up the whole. Many people looking for homes are trying to figure out which neighborhood to jump into and when is the right time to get a great value in this coveted neighborhood. Over the years 2005 to 2009 (the peak of the market to the trough) Lincoln Park actually retained much of its price value but slowed down in unit sales and those sold took longer to sell. There are properties here that you can find that provide value – but most of the reason to jump into Lincoln Park now is not driven by soft prices but by low interest rates. A home at the same price in 2005 and 2009 would cost 19% less in monthly payments at today’s 5% range than 2005 7% range. Said another way an income of 19% less today would qualify you for that home. In fact affordability is the best it has been since 1971. So if you want to check out this desirable neighborhood, contact me.