Tag Archives: MLS

Anatomy of a Showing: Is Same-Day OK?

The matter of booking showings with very short notice has come up several times with my clients lately, so I thought I should address it for everyone. With the recent holidays the time required for booking a showing has been longer than normal, but even in normal circumstances there is a fine balance required to get you in to view a home or apartment.

Requesting a showing with very short notice is like springing a pop quiz on the current residents.

Requesting a showing with very short notice is like springing a pop quiz on the current residents.

The Process of Booking a Showing (more…)

10 Questions to Ask Before Listing an Occupied Apartment

The sweetest tenants in the world can become your worst nightmare once it comes time to show their apartment.

A good and prosperous landlord will do everything in their power to minimize the time that their rentals sit vacant in between occupants. In an ideal world, the outgoing tenants would leave and the new tenants would move in on the same day, but unless you keep a model unit sitting empty this means showing the apartment while it is still occupied.

Show an occupied apartment adds a layer of complexity to the situation, risks harming the relationship with the outbound tenants, and bucks the expectations of the prospective tenants in the market. Before you put your occupied apartment on the market, give some thought to these 10 questions.

1. Does the apartment need less than 24 hours worth of work to get it into move in ready condition? Unless your lease specified a move-in and move-out time, your outbound tenants may expect that they’ve got until midnight to remove their stuff, and your incoming tenants may expect that their lease starts at midnight. By showing the apartment while it’s still occupied you are telegraphing that you intend to spend less than one day getting the place ready in between. Make sure that the place looks like it would be clean and habitable with very little work before you put yourself through the madness of a 2-4 hour paint, patch & clean at midnight. (more…)

Square footage, room counts and other lies my agent told me

Back in 2007 I received an interesting email from a local landlord in response to one of my Craigslist ads for an apartment:

Just a word of advice, if you say it’s 930 square feet no one is going to come to see it.  You’re in competition with landlords who would describe this apartment as at least 1300, 1400 square feet.  Tenants’ expectations of square footage are inflated because they’re judging square footage by what they’ve seen.  Describe this place as 1300 square feet and you’ll get more traffic.  They don’t have to rent it if they don’t like it.  Good luck.

The floorplan of the apartment in question.

The floorplan of the apartment in question.

Square footage is for engineers. Room sizes are for the rest of us.

I had measured this apartment, CAD rendered the floorplan – it was 930 usable square feet, give or take a few. I spoke with my client at the time and discussed this feedback with him. He and I agreed to continue listing the actual measured square footage. Neither of us wanted to waste our time or the time of prospective tenants who “didn’t have to rent it if they didn’t like it.”

So let’s get things straight. I’ve measured thousands of apartments and CAD rendered the results. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Standard Chicago vintage studio: 200-400 sq ft.
  • Standard Chicago vintage 1 bed w/ eat in kitchen: 400-600 sq ft.
  • Standard Chicago vintage 1 bed w/ dining room or smaller 2 bed: 550-800 sq ft.
  • Standard Chicago vintage 2 bed w/ dining room 700-900 sq ft.

Above measurements are for Pre WWII walk-up buildings. Anything larger than that and the agent is either counting walls as part of the area or just guesstimating based on how the space “feels.” (more…)

10 Common First-Time Buyer Mistakes

The real estate industry loves a first time buyer and will cut them a lot of slack to get them on the path to homeownership. Agents who work with first time buyers on a regular basis (like me) are accustomed to the errors that can crop up when you’ve never done this kind of thing before. However, there’s a few mistakes that are easily avoided.

Price is only part of the puzzle.

1. Looking at only price. A recent buyer client found a sweet deal on a 3 bedroom in Skokie for $79.9k. She also looked at a 2 bedroom in Morton Grove for $100k. However, the monthly payment for the 3 bed was $1253 while the monthly payment on the 2 bed was $1021. This is with the same down payment, same mortgage rates. When looking at a condo you need to consider not just the purchase price but the property taxes and the assessments. When looking at a single family home, it’s property taxes and insurance. When you’re browsing online for homes, make sure you take the monthly expenses into account. (more…)

Open Letter to the real estate community regarding contingent rental listings

With the rental market getting progressively more intense in Chicago, it is time the Real Estate community paid more attention to the wild wild west of unregulated rental listings in ConnectMLS.

I would like to suggest starting by requiring agents to mark their listings as temporarily unavailable if they are refusing to show them to the public, regardless of if they have anything in writing from their prospective tenant or not.

I would add that the timeframe for marking the listing contingent should be far less than the 72 hours required for sales contracts. Given how fast the rental market moves on a regular basis – a search generally wraps in no more than a week – the timeframe should be more like 24 hours maximum to pull down a rental listing that’s headed to lease.

Normally in a sales situation, once a written offer is accepted the listing can be marked as “Contingent” or “Pending” until such time as the deal closes so that other potential agents and buyers know that the property is no longer available for consideration and no longer accepting offers.

Leases can sometimes take up to a week to negotiate without anything in writing. With the rules in their current format, an agent is able to continue posting their advertisement to all of the publicly syndicated sites as a bait-and-switch tactic by keeping it valid in Connect even though they have no intention of showing it to any additional renters.

When a client has to call agent after agent only to be told that their first choice of listing has been unavailable for 6-7 days already, it is disappointing to the client and does nothing to improve the image of Realtors who are already fighting an uphill battle. Here in Chicago, Realtors who are dedicated to the rental market are surrounded by rental locator services who do not always license their agents. We are dealing with leases that often require major legal review in order to bring them in line with city ordinance. In many cases we are pushing back to legitimize rentals within offices that have never before seen them as a viable income stream. We are trying valiantly to educate our clients about the values of exclusive listings in a city fully dominated by non-exclusive and portfolio-only listings. We do not need anything or anyone working against us.

The negative effect upon the public is amplified in the rental market as so many prospective tenants are unrepresented and therefore more vulnerable to bait & switch. It makes me sad to know that the first question I will always get from a prospective tenant is “Is the property still available?”

Rental-focused Realtors are often the first introduction that many of these future home buyers and sellers have to the real estate industry. Agents working rentals are usually the newest of the new, or sometimes inexperienced in rentals despite years of practice in the sales market. They need the most guidance and support to help this next generation to understand the real estate market, but instead they’re left with little enforcement, scant tools and very little supervision.

I realize that many agents make a considerable profit by leveraging this gap in the rules. However, I would encourage you to consider the best needs of the public and our mandate to provide our clients AND our customers with care and accountability.

Landlords, you can help to fix this issue by instructing the agents who represent you to take down the listing once you’ve accepted an application. Renters, you can help by providing earnest money with your application on the condition that the apartment be removed from all public listings for however long it takes to run the background check, draw up the lease and get it signed. Realtors, you can help by amplifying this request to MRED if you find it pertinent.

A copy of this request was sent by email to MRED, LLC, the company behind the MLS, on March 1, 2012. The response from MRED was that they would submit my request to a committee, consisting of Illinois Realtors. They did not give a timeframe for action. I have no doubt that this problem will continue to plague landlords and tenants for the next year at least. However, a greater number of voices speaking for the consumer in this situation could help to speed the process. The email address to add your voice to this request is rules.regs@mredllc.com.

Thank you for your patience. Stay tuned for some great pointers on teaching kids to save money coming this Wednesday!

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