Monthly Archives: October 2012

10 Steps to Secure Your Home or Apartment for Showings

So your landlord or an agent has called to say that she needs to show your home.

For owners this should come as no surprise. If your house is on the market, showings will happen and your agent will probably request that you absent yourself while they occur.

For renters, showings may be a surprise as they can happen at any time of year. You don’t have to be moving out. A showing in the middle of your lease does not necessarily mean that your apartment building is for sale! Your landlord may be trying to get a better insurance rate or refinance the property. Both of these tasks could require access to your apartment. You should grant it provided that your landlord gives you proper advance notice.

Regardless of who is coming to view your apartment, though, you can be certain of one thing – strangers will be entering your living quarters and you may not be able to be home when it happens. Whether it’s a new prospective renter, an appraiser or a Realtor, you’ll want to take precautions to make sure that you’ve safeguarded your belongings. After all, your landlord’s insurance won’t cover the items if they go missing or get damaged.

Google currently shows over 36 million results for the phrase “robbed during an open house.”

Here are ten things you can do to make sure your stuff stays safe when your home has an encounter with stranger danger.

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Tales from the Field

Happy Halloween week, dear Piggies! As I will be up to my eyeballs in community organizing on Wednesday, today is our very special Halloween installment of StrawStickStone, featuring horror stories either from my personal experience or related to me first-hand from coworkers.

These are all safe for work, but not necessarily all safe for lunchtime. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Paper Outline

Gladys was 84 years old and in ill health. In the most recent days she had gone from able-bodied to hospitalized to hospice. Her daughter came in from out of state to handle her mother’s affairs. She obtained Gladys’ keys and written power of attorney to pick up some items from the apartment. We sent a staffer along with her.

They tried the front door and it would not open. So they went around back to try and gain access through the kitchen. The kitchen door opened only wide enough to allow them access one at a time. Beyond, they found accumulated the past 30 years of Gladys’ life in stacks and piles. No surface was spared. The kitchen surfaces were loaded from counter-top to ceiling with canned goods, some dating back several decades with faded labels. Papers were stacked three to four layers deep against the walls, on chairs, table-tops and any other flat surface.

The bathroom showed that she’d been taking sponge baths for some time, as the tub was piled high with dusty old clothing and yellowed newspapers.

“Oh,” said the daughter, “this is what she meant by ‘Now you’re going to find out, I’m sorry.'”

Even in the bedroom there was no flat surface remaining. It was April and the steam heated apartment was frigid, as every radiator was surrounded by piles of debris.

Where did she sleep? They wondered.

They finally spotted the only possible option. Gladys’ ground floor apartment had two steps descending from the entry level down to foundation level. Everywhere else in the apartment only allowed small walkways for a human to pass through. On the stairs was a larger opening, maybe two and a half feet wide, of empty space surrounded by paperback books.

Surrounded by her hoarded items, Gladys had been sleeping on the stairs.

She died within the month. The daughter, pulled away from her job and her home downstate, spent the next three months removing all of the debris from the apartment to six separate storage lockers.

The apartment itself had been unattended for decades. The staff needed another two months to get it fully updated into a condition where any modern tenant would see fit to rent it. The 1970’s era refrigerator had failed, likely leading to Gladys’ final illness, but she had been too embarrassed to report the problem lest someone see the condition of her apartment.

Landlords, even when you get to the point where you have hundreds or thousands of apartments in your inventory, always remember to visit each apartment and take photos of its condition at least once a year.

Squish

One of my employers had picked up a rental property by the river – an overcrowded, hulking mess of a courtyard building with in some cases up to six adults sharing a tiny studio apartment. In addition to the massive human population, it also came with a complete set of the big six pests: rodents, ants, roaches, fleas, pigeons and gangbangers. (This was before the bedbug resurgence of 2009.)

It took the staff nearly three years to bring the many problems under control. First went the pigeons due to some creative netting and spiking of all exterior flat surfaces. Sealing the entire foundation slowly brought the roaches under control, along with massive applications of Maxthon and switching to a “no dogs” policy. Tenants in overcrowded apartments were slowly phased out, their apartments renovated and rerented. By the fourth year, the apartments were starting to look pretty good but the prices still hadn’t completely rebounded due to the building’s longstanding history of trouble.

It was July. A pot-smoking student had just been evicted from his 2nd floor studio for non-payment. As often happens in these situations, the mice that had been living off of his sloppy housekeeping fled to the next nearest source of food – the upstairs neighbor and her cats’ food bowl. By this point we had established a zero tolerance policy for rodents at that location, so when the unhappy new host to the mice called in to request an exterminator she got more poison bait boxes than she could really handle. She also filed to break her lease at the same time, with good reason.

Now, I know that this next bit will not say nice things about my morals, but I will offer this apology: I was representing the landlord in this situation, and an agent owes obedience to their client. In property management, if the boss says you’re supposed to show an apartment, you show it, regardless of condition. So off I went to show this girl’s apartment. I had warned her beforehand, but the morning of the showing I got a text from her. “Careful in the kitchen,” it said, “had to run out early.”

It was an L-shaped studio, so I couldn’t see into the kitchen until we were on the verge of entering it. It was a very pretty kitchen. Maple cabinets, dishwasher, granite countertops. And a nice big fat dead mouse in the middle of the hardwood kitchen floor. Knowing that there might be some surprises lurking about I had been walking ahead of the prospie and tried to position myself so that she wouldn’t see the mouse. While continuing my spiel, I tried to nudge it up against the wall with my foot.

It didn’t work so well.

It wasn’t nearly this cute, I promise.

For the next 5 minutes, I stood very very still from the waist down and made a valiant effort to hide the fact that I’d just missed my target and now had a mouse corpse stuck to the bottom of my shoe.

It was to my amazement and probably yours as well that the prospie decided on the spot that she wanted to complete an application to rent the apartment. I set her up with a blank application and made an excuse that I needed to check something on the back porch. One trip outside and some frantic stomping about later, I was down one mouse and up one renter.

Moral of the story? Before renting an apartment always take a quick look at the agent’s feet, and remember that while Realtors are bound to disclose any physical defects in the property, leasing agents are not always bound by or trained in to the same code of ethics.

The Invader

It was a Thursday evening in November. Cold and rainy. I was meeting a prospective renter at a building close to Wrigley Field to show a 2nd floor vacant 1 bedroom. It was about 7pm and I’d been on the job for over 10 hours.

The apartment had been empty for several months, as the prior tenant had left it in poor condition. Our workers had cleaned it out and left it empty. Even so it had been nearly three weeks since I’d had a request to show it. The landlord had set a very high price for a small apartment, and it showed in the low demand.

The first clue should have been that the door was locked. Normally that landlord left vacant apartments unlocked so that agents could come and go easily. The second clue should have been the strong odor of cigarette smoke. Or that the bathroom light was on. All of these things could have been written off due to a worker being in there recently, though, so I pressed onwards into the showing.

When I opened the bedroom door and turned the lights on things started to get creepy. Against the wall was a sleeping bag. Next to it was a half-empty bottle of whiskey, a full pop bottle of spent cigarettes, and the DVD case for an X-rated movie. The apartment had acquired a squatter. Fortunately the prospie was more amused than frightened, so we moved on to check out the kitchen.

We had been in the kitchen for maybe four minutes when I realized that the back door was cracked slightly open. I realized that gate downstairs was auto-locking. The squatter, if he had left the apartment, was still on the grounds. In one of the more frightening moments of my life, I opened the back door long enough to hook the screen door shut, then closed and locked the back door. We left the apartment pretty much immediately after, pausing only to take photos of the debris in the bedroom and lock the front door. I felt kind of bad locking the guy out in the cold, but I also spent a few minutes after I’d left the showing sitting in my car and shaking.

It took the staff about three weeks to finally get the squatter removed from the property on a permanent basis. They had to invoke the police to cart him off to a more secure place of residence before he got the picture.

Cuddly Chaser: The Black Cat

I had a showing at a top floor apartment that was still under construction. The workers had been in there for the past week or so, ripping out the kitchen.

The project foreman informed me that the key was on top of the doorframe. I am too short to reach the top of the door frame, but my prospie was tall enough to get it for me.

It didn’t work.

The workers had locked all three locksets instead of just the one that could be opened with the single key. I ran downstairs, ran around, tried the back door… nope. Called the foreman. He came over (at 9pm!) to give me the back door key. Finally got into the apartment. It was half an hour after the showing was supposed to start. My prospie was obscenely patient.

The apartment was a shambles, of course, as construction sites are wont to be. I was drenched from running around in the rain, out of breath from doing 3 flights of stairs about six times, and totally worn out as it was the end of an 8 hour string of showings without lunch. I did as thorough a tour as I could, considering it was a 500 sq ft 1 bed. Living room, living room closet, kitchen, bedroom, bedroom closet, kitten.

“Meow?” I say. “I’m hungry and scared and I’ve been trapped in this closet for days and did I mention that I’m hungry?” screams the small black kitten, in kitten of course.

I had run past the signs in the lobby multiple times. Lost black cat, red collar with bell, answers to Arlo. Reward offered. In front of me was a black cat, red collar with bell, not answering to anything as it was screaming its head off out of hunger and fright. With half a bar of battery left on the cell phone I asked the prospie to please hold for a few minutes more, and scrambled back downstairs to call the tenant from the sign. Voicemail. I started back up stairs and notice shoes outside the door of the tenant’s apartment. I knocked.

A groggy voice answered. I reply, “It’s (my name) from (my company). I found your cat. Bring a towel, he’s really scared.”

The very happy tenant scampered upstairs with me, collected Arlo and took him back for food. He had been missing since the weekend, so at least four days. He had entered the empty apartment when the door was unlocked, and somehow got shut in the closet. The workers wouldn’t have heard him meowing over the radio and the construction noise.

By this point the prospie had checked out the bathroom on their own, asked me for an application, and we ended the showing. I had to have the him pause while I locked up so that we could restore the keys to the top of the doorframe.

So there you have it, folks. Three creepy stories, and one black cat who got very lucky indeed.

Happy Halloween!

All the Single Renters!

From the cover of “Living Alone and Loving It” by Barbara Feldon. I haven’t read the book but I liked looking at the pictures.

Does the size of rentals shift in the Chicago off-season from larger units to smaller ones? Most of my rental clientele in the wintertime are singles and smaller groups. Even Snopes, that bastion of truth, verifies that January is the worst month of the year for breakups. With all of those newly single people getting forced out of their homes, I wondered if they would have any statistical impact on the traditional winter slowdown in the rental market.

Going into the research for today I was pretty much certain that I’d more small units available in the winter than I would larger units. As it turns out, from a supply point of view I was very wrong. However, in terms of demand my anecdotal evidence was proven to be pretty accurate. Single renters drive the off-season rental market in Chicago. It probably doesn’t make you feel any better to know that your heartache is serving to line the pocket of a landlord. But if it’s any consolation, at least now you know you’re not alone, and you can plan accordingly!

Seasonal Supply

The paramount dogma of economic theory is that of supply & demand. If a market is truly balanced you’ll see supply and demand rise and fall in sync with each other. My original hypothesis going into this was that the market for smaller units wouldn’t see as substantial of a drop-off in the winter as would be seen in the market for larger units. I started by looking at the supply.

Below is a chart showing the number of small (studios & 1 bedroom) apartments that came on the market as compared with the number of larger (2-3 bedroom) apartments on a month by month basis reaching back 3 years. If my hypothesis was correct, the two lines on the following chart would be vastly different in the winter months. You’d see the blue line get much higher than the red line in the winter every year.

Obviously, I was wrong at least on the supply side. The landlords who are listing their properties in the MLS are definitely aware that there’s a seasonal slow-down in late autumn. However, if there’s more single people than families looking for apartments in the wintertime, the trend hasn’t affected the inventory of available apartments. Small or large, the number of units on the market is consistent even if it varies wildly by season.

Note: there are actually a lot more 2-3 bedroom units in the MLS at any given point than there are studios & 1 bedrooms. I’ve normed the data to make the chart easier to comprehend. My methods are explained in the methodology section below.

Seasonal Demand

So, I was wrong on the supply side. And I’m into the science so I’m OK with being wrong. But it did make me wonder if my anecdotal evidence of seeing more singles looking for apartments would bear out on the larger scale. I went back and did some more digging to figure out the comparative demand for those apartments.

Demand via MLS statistics is a little more difficult to gauge. The best metric I can think of for figuring it out is how long each listing spent on the market. High demand means short market times. So I pulled the average market times per month using the same size breakdown – studios & 1 bedroom apartments for the single folks and 2-3 bedroom apartments for the families & larger groups.

You have to read the next chart a little bit backwards. The lower the line, the higher the demand. In this case, if my hypothesis was correct, we’d see substantially lower market times in the winter for the smaller apartments (the blue line) than we would for the bigger ones (the red line).

… and I was right. Look at the huge gaps between the lines towards the later part of each year. Science or not, I feel much better now.

The demand for studios and 1 bedrooms does weaken in the off-season, but nowhere near as badly as the demand for 2-3 bedrooms. We can also see depicted here the overall increasing demand as the market times get shorter and shorter over time. But the wintertime difference is pretty shocking. In fact, it looks like last winter the single folks snapped up their apartments before the landlord lost a full month of rent, while their bigger cousins sat empty for nearly 2 months on average. For a landlord looking to maximize cash flow, that could make a big difference in your business model in regards to lease break policies and structuring of lease expiration dates.

The Surprise: Small Apartment to Large Apartment ratio is very consistent!

The most surprising little factoid to emerge from this research is bundled up in the norming of the numbers for the first chart above. I knew there would be more big units than small units in the MLS. Realtors work on commission, they will spend more time pursuing the bigger, more expensive listings. What amazed me, though, was how consistent the gap was between the bigger and smaller units over the past three years.

On average there were 1.61 times more 2-3 bedroom apartments coming on the market in the MLS in a given month than there were studios & 1 bedroom apartments. The standard deviation on that was just 0.17, or 10%, across the entire 3 years of data that I pulled. This means that if you’re working with a Realtor to find an apartment at any point in the year, you’re between 3.2 and 4.8 times more likely to find a big place to share with a roommate or two than you are looking alone. If you really just want a studio or a 1 bed – especially a high end one – you can certainly still try work with a Realtor but be prepared to make up your mind quickly.

Methodology

To calculate the available supply, I pulled the number of apartments that came to market in the MLS for each month going back to October of 2009. I counted the studios & 1 bedroom units available separately from the 2 and 3 bedroom units in order to determine what might be within reach of a single renter as opposed to a family.

Calculating demand was a lot more labor-intensive. I had to download all of the rented units in 3000 unit chunks, as that’s the maximum I can export from the MLS in one shot. I then used Excel’s subtotaling functions to get the average market times for all the units rented each month.

Questions? Comments? Fire away! I’ll be back Monday with something a little spooky.

Judging the Judges (2012 Election Special)

I hope that all of you already have one of these. If not, go get one today!

So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year you’re aware that we’ve got an election coming up. In fact, early voting started Monday, so get out and do it, y’all. I’m not here to tell you who to vote for. Instead, I’m here to call your attention to the fact that there’s other stuff on the ballot for Chicago voters that may catch them by surprise.

If you’re a landlord or renter you have a couple of choices to make that may be more important than your presidential vote. One involves power – the electrical kind – and the other involves the people downtown at the courthouse who preside over eviction lawsuits.

A Little Early Morning Opacity

I tend to vote early in the day before it gets crowded. This year I’ll have to remember to drink some coffee before I head out, as I’m going to be confronted with some pretty opaque questions on page one of the ballot before I even get to choosing between Mr. Obama (D), Mr. Romney (R), Mr. Johnson (L) and Ms. Stein (G) and assorted candidates for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. I’m also going to have to go earlier than normal, as I’d bet most voters are going to be scratching their heads as they try to untangle these four massive questions and the lines could be longer than normal. (more…)

So You Want to Change Your Apartment’s Paint Colors.

PS if you think this looks good, you may want to skip this article. (via uglyhousephotos.com)

Do you want to change the colors of your apartment? I encounter a lot of renters who do.  Standard issue “Landlord White” is a pretty boring and sterile color. Many renters these days are coming back from being homeowners, while others have grown up watching HGTV decorating shows and want to assert their own style in their living space.

Some landlords, especially the larger management firms, may allow you to pick from a palette of soft, neutral colors when you move in. Others just go with the “any color you like as long as it’s white” route. Either way, if your tastes run towards bold colors you’re probably not going to find much love in the apartment market. White paint is cheap and gives apartments a nice, clean look, so it’s become the industry standard for new apartments. Unfortunately, landlords learn quickly that tenants love to use funky colors but vanish when it’s time to put them back to normal. It may be difficult to find a landlord who’s willing to cooperate with you in achieving your decorating ideas.

Even so, if you want to try and change the colors, here’s the route to take: (more…)

Porker’s Index III

It’s been a while since I did a Porker’s Index and they’re always fun.

Since I’ve got foreclosures on my mind lately let’s start with…

… not quite what I had in mind.

The Shadow Market

“Shadow market” in terms of home sales refers to incomplete short sales, pending foreclosures, and homeowners who are at least 3 months behind on their mortgage payments.

Unemployment in Chicago
August 2010: 11.4%
August 2012: 10.3%[1]

Mortgages over 90 days past due in Chicago
August 2010: 10.4%
August 2012: 10.2%[2]

Amazing how little has changed over the past two…

Months’ Inventory of Distressed Property, Chicago Metro Region
August 2010: 30.2
August 2012: 19.4[3]

Wait… what?

Moving right along, one of the main problems with distressed properties (short sales, foreclosures, and delinquent mortgages) is people spending too much on their mortgage payments.

Mortgage Overspending (more…)

  1. [1]Bureau of Labor
  2. [2]CoreLogic
  3. [3]CoreLogic

Cows and Landlord Business Models

Hello. I’d like to talk to you about your business strategy as a landlord. Also, moo.

So there’s two main ways to make money from rentals, and one backup method that can be added to either one as flavor. They require slightly different business models to achieve, although they can always be combined. However, it’s important when getting involved in investment property that you design a long-term strategy and stick with it.

To get a good idea of what I mean here, I want you to take a minute and think about cows. There’s three reasons why you could keep a cow. One is as a milk source – keep the cow alive and keep milking it for as long as you can. It’s a long lifespan with a decent but not bountiful reward. Another is as a beef source – fatten it up and then eat it. This is a short lifespan but, if you’ll pardon the pun, a more meaty payoff at the end. Or you could keep cows because livestock owners get some pretty sweet government tax incentives for working in agriculture.

As a landlord starting out you’re faced with a similar choice. One goal is high cash flow – that is, consistent income that exceeds your expenses on a regular basis. This is your milk cow. Another focuses on rapidly building equity in the property and recouping the money when you sell it. This is like your beef cow. A third is using the property as a tax shelter and saving money by deducting losses & depreciation from your income tax returns.

The Cash Flow Route

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The Return of Operation Porchlight

We interrupt this blog to bring you some breaking news.

So guys, remember when I posted a couple of weeks ago about my idea to pair up apartment residents with empty houses on Halloween? Well it turns out that some of my friends thought it was a cool idea, so there’s now a website for the project which I might have whipped up over this weekend instead of writing a real blog post.

Operation Porchlight

The new online headquarters for the campaign can be found at OperationPorchlight.com, or Facebook (facebook.com/operationporchlight) & Twitter (@Porchlight_Chi).

We’d like to get about 20 volunteers to adopt up to 10 porches for a few hours on Halloween night. If you’re interested in helping us out, either as an adopter, a housing scout, or in any other way, please let me know. I’d love to get some press attention on this dry run so that we can be on a firm footing for 2013.

9 Experts Every Home Buyer Should Have On Their Team – Part II

Real Estate wasn’t the first industry to require a 9-person team.

On Wednesday I covered the first five experts that most buyers will need to have lined up before they start looking for a home. They were the credit counselor, the lender, the Realtor, the wingman and the handyman. Between those five you should be able to get from day one of your search to a signed contract to purchase a home. However, it’s a long way from a signed contract to the day you move in, and there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Let’s look at who’s involved in the second half of your purchase.

6. Attorney

Once you sign a purchase contract, your Realtor can’t touch it anymore. Unless your Realtor is also a licensed attorney, they are not allowed to write legal documentation or provide you with legal advice. Therefore, once you and the seller sign on the dotted line it’s all in the hands of your lawyer and your lender. Your Realtor may be able to nudge them along in order to meet certain deadlines, but he/she cannot take any direct action from that point forward.

Your attorney is your lifeline if things go south once you’re under contract. They will be the ones to help you terminate the deal if something is discovered in the inspection or in the condo documentation that you don’t want to deal with. They’ll review the agreement and look for any weird clauses. Postal workers and meter readers generally have the right to walk on your land, but some homes allow other people to cross their borders. Your attorney will make sure nobody else has a claim to the property and notify you as to who has a right to enter your property after you buy it.

7. Inspector

You don’t have to have your home inspected before you buy it. Personally, unless you’re planning on tearing the property down and rebuilding, I really recommend that you get an inspection. Housing inspectors can alert you to appliances that are about to fail, structural issues that could cost you a lot of money, and identify signs of pest infestations. They are also able to alert you to potential fire hazards and environmental issues that could endanger you and your family.

Even – or, I should say especially – in the case of an “as-is” purchase where the seller will not do anything to resolve issues with the property, it’s still important to know what you will need to pay to repair early on in the game.

8. Insurance Agent

If you’re buying a single family in Chicago you will need to provide proof of a homeowner’s insurance policy in order to close. If you’re buying any type of property with a loan you will need to have insurance. If you’re planning to escrow your property tax payments instead of paying them direct to the county twice a year, your lender may require you to escrow your insurance payments too.

Buyers considering properties in multiple neighborhoods may want to consult with an insurance agent before you make an offer. Some policies may be affected quite drastically by such elements as the age and construction material of the property, its proximity to a fire station, and the crime rates in the immediate vicinity. If you’re buying at the top end of your monthly budget, the cost of your insurance premiums is definitely a valid concern.

Either way, once you’re under contract you don’t want to forget that you need to purchase insurance before you get to the closing table, and provide proof of purchase to your lender.

9. Movers

I have seen any number of high end buyers spend months fussing and fuming over their choice of home, and then hire any old moving company off of Craigslist to handle their furniture. Your movers will determine if your first day in your new home is a pleasant or miserable. Take some time to shop around. If you’re moving into a condo building make sure that you check on the building’s moving policies. Do they require entry through the rear? Is there a service elevator? Do they allow weekend moves? How about time of day, do you have to reserve an elevator? Can you move in after 5pm? Will your movers have to carry your stuff up the stairs? Outdoors? Where can they park the truck? Is there an alley?

You definitely want to find movers who are insured, experienced, and familiar with Chicago. I’ve seen moves delayed when drivers didn’t realize how low the CTA and Metra bridges are on the north side. I’ve seen movers get frustrated with trying to get sofas up a stairwell and abandon them halfway up. I have also seen a truly effective team that cleared 3/4 of a two bedroom apartment while I was showing it. Buyers who’ve just purchased a new home are usually not in a position to pick up a whole bunch of new furniture as well. Make sure your crew can handle your stuff properly.

The Economic Implications

This belongs here because I say it does.

I would be remiss to not end this two-article essay with a little social commentary. As many as 9 people may need to lend their expertise in order to get you into your new house. I didn’t even touch on some of the high end specialists like interior designers and feng shui consultants. Many of the experts who work in these fields are independent contractors or entrepreneurs. Couple this with all of the people who are assisting the seller – agents, attorneys, staging experts, photographers and more – and you begin to see why the housing market and the economy are so tightly linked.

Regardless of how your politics fall, the single most important way you can affect the economy is to get involved in the housing market. Even a small purchase helps to boost the smallest business owners in a way that very few other purchases can do. The only other two things you can do to cause an equally large effect on so many incomes are to get married or have a child – I have to say, homeownership has the lowest entry cost and the easiest exit strategy of the three options.

Did I miss someone? Do you think I went overboard with my team recommendations? Let me know if the comments. I’ll be back on Monday with a return to investigating eviction statistics in Chicago.

9 Experts Every Home Buyer Should Have On Their Team – Part I

Real Estate wasn’t the first industry to require a 9-person team.

First time buyers tend to focus entirely on their choice of Realtor when it comes to choosing the associates that you’ll work with over the course of the purchase and moving process. It’s their general hope that a Realtor will be sufficiently well-connected to hook them up with all the other experts that they will need to get the job done right. This is potentially true.

However, no Realtor can know every expert in every area, and very few can know precisely what issues will arise during the course of your particular search. While your Realtor may be able to make some very solid recommendations for these 10 roles, your personality type and learning style may demand someone outside of their sphere. As is always the case here at StrawStickStone, I recommend doing some research on your own to find the team members that are best at making you feel comfortable with the process.

1. Credit Counselor.

If you’re like most of the renters out there, your credit is not in the best condition. You’ll need a credit score in the high 600 range to even be considered for a loan, and in the low to mid 700’s to get a prime interest rate. According to Andrew Ross, the NYU professor who recently wrote the controversial “Are Student Loans Immoral” for Newsweek’s DailyBeast.com, 41% of the college class of 2005 is already delinquent or in default on their student loans. These former students are now in their late 20’s, what used to be prime position for becoming first time buyers. They will need help.

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Breaking a Lease in Chicago

When You’ve Gotta Go…

Lease breaks happen. Landlords hate them and often get really grumpy when their tenants don’t honor the full term of their lease agreements. They’re totally justified in being dour about it, especially if the tenant takes off in the middle of the winter. It’s an inconvenience, a hit to the wallet, a bad time for a vacancy, not to mention a broken promise. However, it’s important to remember that tenants, especially with home prices as low as they are here in late 2012, are renting for a reason. They know they can’t commit to a long-term home ownership situation. They know they may have to cut out early. They are renting because they are trying to be responsible about their large-scale purchases. The whole point of renting is that it allows for a much easier “out.”

I’d say that about 30-40% of the 1200+ leases that I have worked on since 2005 have wound up with the tenant leaving in the middle of a contract term. They may stay for a year, renew the lease, and then leave halfway through the second year, they may bolt in the middle of their first month, or they may even stay for 10 years and then suddenly have to depart. No matter what, it’s still means a broken lease and the potential for some very bad blood between the landlord and their departing tenant.

In Chicago, there’s two standard routes that a responsible tenant can take to break a lease. One is subleasing and the other is rerenting. They are often confused and somewhat murky. So, in the interest of making everything very clear, I’ve gone ahead and made a twee pink infographic for you, available after the jump.

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