Tag Archives: real estate industry

Chicago Apartment Hunting Bingo

For those of you looking for apartments this year, I figured a little bit of humor could help to lighten the task.

This is your apartment hunting Bingo card. Get five squares in a row, and you win! (I don't know what you win. A more enjoyable apartment search than people who aren't playing Bingo, I guess?)

If you don't like your card, hit refresh to get another one.

If you have an apartment-hunting cliche you'd like me to add, leave it in the comments.

Oh, and I should mention: many of these are bad things that occur during showings. Please don't deliberately cause them to happen just to complete your Bingo card. Thanks.

B I N G O
Ad has exterior photo only Unit smells of pot smoke Misspelled circuit breaker labels Padded elevator Ant traps
Apartment listed by Realtor Agent doesn't show up Loud music in building Passive-aggressive lobby notes Ad says "This one won't last!"
"Are you familiar with the area?" Empty except for cleaning supplies Water Included!

(Free)
Agent shows where to put kitchen table Apartment listed by current tenant
Sleeping tenant Ad with no photos Plastic insulation on windows Questionable posters on walls Messy cable installation job
Must remove shoes to view Room off limits during showing Tiny exercise room Lobby doors that hit each other Apartment full of packing boxes

Reload for a fresh card!

If you enjoy this, please share it. Let me know if you get Bingo!

Buying in 2013? Here’s what to expect.

I don’t really spend much time talking about the home buying market. There’s plenty of folks who write well about that side of the business. I feel that renters and landlords are somewhat under-served, so I focus on them. However, the changes occurring in the Chicago residential market are going to affect everyone this year. It’s time that we have a little talk about what to expect if you are moving from renting to buying.

You’ve probably heard a lot over the past several years about the depressed housing market. If you’re renting, you may have thought you still had some time to take advantage of the lowest home prices and mortgage rates seen in decades. Guys, you’re running out of time. Prices are climbing, inventory is short, and rates are starting to move up again. While the prices aren’t likely to spike back up to 2006 levels any time soon, the bottom of the market has passed you by. (more…)

Rental Site Review: SearchChicago.com

There’s a ton of sites you can use to look for apartments in Chicago. Not all of them are fabulous. Most have a mash-up of private landlords, locator services, realtor listings and fake/scam rental listings. The inimitable Joe Zekas of YoChicago is taking on some of the more problematic listings in his own way this year through his Craigslist Apartment Cleanup effort, which I applaud even though it may make my job tougher if any of my legit exclusive listings accidentally get caught up in his dragnet.

However, I thought it would be worthwhile to go through some of the sites that I’ve experienced to let you know how they stack up. I’ll be rating each site I review based on the diversity of listings, the legitimacy of those listings, ease of use, and the freshness of the listings, since the apartment market moves pretty fast. A site can score up to 40 points. Today we’ll be starting with SearchChicago.com, the online classifieds section of the Chicago Sun-Times.

SearchChicago.com logo property of Sun-Times Media.

SearchChicago.com logo property of Sun-Times Media.

SearchChicago Scored 14 out of 40 points. Find out Why. (more…)

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…)

If Homes were Marketed Like Apple Products

PC Operating System Market Share, March 2012

The Core of the Matter

With 31% of the smartphone market,[1] 66% of the tablet market[2] and 6.7% share of the very splintered and entrenched desktop market[3], Apple is a company that cannot be ignored. Among Generation Y, the Millennials and their younger followers the share is even higher. If you’re talking about real estate buyers, typically the more financially stable segment of the population, I’d posit that you’d see an even higher market share given to Apple.

Younger generations have avoided buying cars.[4]  The first major purchase they make will instead be a computer or smartphone. Technology is now their first introduction to installment payments for big ticket items. A computer is often the first item where a young consumer must buy with an eye towards maintenance costs and longevity. They may have to choose between a style leader something that’s less fashionable but more affordable. Basically, buying a computer is now the average Chicago consumer’s training for buying a house.

Apple has succeeded where the real estate industry has failed. They’ve convinced those cash-strapped younger consumers to pay a premium for equipment. (more…)

  1. [1]Zach Epstein, NPD: Apple was best-selling U.S. smartphone vendor by wide margin in Q2, August 23, 2012, BGR.com
  2. [2]AP, Worldwide market share for tablet systems a market dominated by Apple’s iPad, Sept 5 2012, Washingtonpost.com
  3. [3]Market share for browsers, operating systems and search engines, August 2012, Netmarketshare.com.
  4. [4]Brad Tuttle, Car Ownership Not Popular With Generation Y, May 2, 2012, Time.com

Weekend Links: August 18, 2012

No themes or schemes for this installment of the weekend links.

The Green Roof on Chicago’s City Hall. [via CityofChicago.org]

It’s not easy being green. WBEZ looks into the success rate of Chicago’s Green roof programs and the future for this environmentally-friendly innovation in a market with minimal development. (“A green roofs check-in, Anthony Martinez, WBEZ.org)

…But the city may be able to help. Would you like a free programmable thermostat for your home? How about free low-flow showerheads, CFL lamps, energy audits or tax-break incentives towards green upgrades? The Retrofit Chicago program has been expanded to include the Residential sector, with a focus on older buildings. (“Residential Phase of Retrofit Chicago Launched,” CityofChicago.org Press Release)

1952 called, it wants its racism back. Seriously guys, I thought we were past all of this nonsense by now. A father in Cincinnati has sued his landlord for posting a “whites only” sign at the building’s swimming pool. (“Father: ‘White Only’ pool sign caused suffering,” AP via HeraldExtra.com)

Condo assessments now optional, says Illinois court. In a ruling that has attorneys and condo associations nationwide looking on in horror, an Illinois court has deemed that owners are entitled to withhold their assessment payments if the association is not sufficiently maintaining the common areas of the property. Can anyone else see the potential for disaster in this? (“Ruling could change course of collection proceedings,” Pamela Dittmer McKuen, Chicago Tribune.)

Reuters is all up in our business. A recent Reuters article about whether condos are a viable alternative to college dorms has a very familiar ring to it. I may be kind of biased, but I like our take on the situation better. (“Condos for college kids? Do the math first,” John Wasik, Reuters.)

Eviction(s) of the week. I talked about passive-aggressive tenants, but these guys are just plain aggressive. Of course, you’ve probably heard already that Colorado gunman James Holmes was evicted from his apartment in Aurora. Booby-trapping his apartment and murdering multiple people are cited as the causes for the eviction, although Holmes has not yet officially been convicted of the killings. Meanwhile, an officer in Texas was killed by a tenant while he was in the process of serving eviction papers. Be careful out there, guys. (“Holmes officially evicted from Aurora Home,” CBS News. “Eviction’s deadly turn no surprise to law officers,” James Pinkerton, Chron.com)

Agents, you be careful too. Local Chicago wholesale real estate agent RJ Cit tells us the story of working with an unstable veteran in the process of selling the distressed and badly underwater home of the vet’s deceased father. Stalking, threatening phone calls, and assorted other hijinks ensue. Part I and Part II. (“Wholesaling Real Estate – Worst Seller Ever,” RJ Cit, ChicagoCashFlowProperties.com)

 

Weekend Links for August 11, 2012

Finding apartments as an expat is rarely simple, as this roundup of guides and personal accounts will attest.

This year has been big for working with clients who are moving to Chicago from elsewhere. I’ve worked with people moving from Boston, New York, DC and Los Angeles. Also in the mix have been renters from overseas. I also spent some time reading my friend’s Facebook updates about her difficult apartment search as an ex-pat in Germany. So, after writing about mortgages all week it’s time for me – and you guys – to take a well-earned vacation trip around the world with this installment of the Weekend Links.

Renting apartments outside the US. Of course, I cannot depart entirely from the real estate theme here, so we’ll be focusing this travelogue on guides and personal accounts of renting apartments in countries other than the United States. (more…)

Weekend Links

I figure you guys could use a weekly break from my yammering so I’ll be doing links on the weekends. Don’t know if this will continue forever but it’s worth a shot.

  • The Future is now: The Illinois legislature has approved an amendment to the Illinois Security Deposit Return Act that allows deposit receipts and statements of damages to be sent via email instead of registered post. Friend of the blog Rich Magnone gives some good analysis of the new amendment.
  • Saying nice things: I should also mention that Rich is an excellent Chicago Eviction attorney and legal advisor for landlords. His site, ChicagoEviction.com, contains a ton of good info for landlords from the legal POV. He’s thorough and practical and has excellent taste.
  • Gambling with Apartments: It’s always interesting to see what big corporate thinks of our living situation. See how the REITs who invest in large-scale apartment complexes are assessing Chicago’s rapidly rising rents and falling vacancy levels. REIS Reports has one take on the booming downtown luxury rental market, and Crain’s Chicago Real Estate Daily has another great take on the matter.
  • Oldie but goodie: over on Get Rich Slowly, a blogger talks about how ruining his credit score was the best thing he could have done for learning how to live within his means.
  • A bit of good news: Another agent in my office (Baird & Warner City North) was one of the experts consulted for a front page Chicago Tribune article on Friday. Chicago home prices break 49 month losing streak.
  • The ultimate move-in checklist: The Chicago Housing Authority performs some of the most stringent housing inspections in the area on behalf of its Housing Choice Voucher Holders, also known as recipients of “Section 8” housing assistance. They make a version of their inspection checklist available for the public. See if your apartment would pass a CHA inspection. (PDF)
  • Eviction of the week: a tenant renting out his apartment for short stays using the popular AirBnB short term rental service has found himself served with an eviction suit. Maybe he can use some of the $20k he earned from his illicit side business to buy his own place instead. Find out his side of the story at Fast Company.

Reality TV Week: House Hunters

House Hunters Title Card

Is it real? Is it Memorex? Does it matter?

What’s 12 years old and follows a very familiar architecture that we’ve all come to know and love? No, not your parents’ McMansion – it’s “House Hunters” on HGTV. Most of you will probably be familiar with the show – probably moreso than I am, as I don’t have cable and rarely watch television. However, this week I’ve gone ahead and watched about 10 episodes in a row (bleah!) in honor of the recent blog entry at HookedOnHouses.net. They interviewed a former “House Hunters” buyer who accuses the show of being totally fake. General reaction on the web has not been one of surprise, although a few people have seemed reasonably disappointed.

Given the wooden “I love it”s and “I hate it”s and the incessant repetition of certain phrases, anyone with a brain could have figured out long ago that parts of this “reality” series were scripted. However, I’ve seen countless comments to the recent blog entries about this latest revelation that indicate a bevy of viewers who think “House Hunters” portrays the buying process as it really happens. I’ve also worked with buyers who have been die-hard fans of the show, so I’m sure this news is not the happiest in the world.

HGTV responded with a press release stating, in part,

We’re making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints, while honoring the home buying process.

… In other words, “seriously guys? You thought this was all real? Helloooo!” (more…)

Chicago Real Estate Statistics: Porker’s Index

Harper’s Index has always been one of my favorite sources for trivia. I’ve nicked their format once before and it was a blast. Since Friday is the day when I count things for you it’s time I return to that format for a smattering of curious figures.

Number of true search results in Amazon’s library for:

  • “How to be a good landlord”: 91
  • “How to be a good homeowner”: 100
  • “How to be a good tenant”: 0
  • “How to be a good manager”: 2,535
    Source: Amazon.com as of June 10, 2012

Number of Google search results for:

  • “I hate my tenants”: 47,500
  • “I love my tenants”: 118,000
  • “I hate my landlord”: 985,000
  • “I love my landlord”: 3,480,000
  • “I hate my job”: 6,130,000
  • “I love my job”: 29,600,000
    Source: Google.com as of June 10, 2012

Number of new Chicago Craigslist postings in an hour for:

  • Apartments for rent: 950
  • Jobs – all categories: 26 (note: Craigslist charges to post job ads in Chicago)
  • Computers for sale: 15
  • Missed connections: 6
    Source: chicago.craigslist.org between 6:25pm and 7:25pm on June 10, 2012

Average student loan debt for 2010 grads:

  • Illinois state average for 4-year college graduates in 2010: $23,885
  • School of the Art Institute of Chicago: $39,306
  • University of Chicago $22,359
  • NEIU: $10,976
    Source: projectonstudentdebt.org

Other things you could buy for $23,885:

  • 3/4 of a year’s rent in a luxury 2 bedroom Chicago West side Loft condo (Source: ConnectMLS)
  • A 2012 Ford Mustang. (Source: [1])
  • 28.8 Top end Ipads with Cell service. (Source: apple.com)
  • 31.4% of one year of an average Chicago public school teacher’s salary (Source: [2])
  • 55.4% of one year of an average rookie Chicago cop’s salary (Source: [3])
  • 871 shares of Facebook stock today.
  • 42 shares of Google stock today.
  • 19% of a single share of Berkshire Hathaway stock today.
    Stock sources: Google Finance

Average list price per square foot per month for:

  • Lakeview 2 bedroom rental (assuming 700 sq ft per 2 bed): $3.27
  • Lakeview 2 bedroom condo purchase distributed over 30 years: $1.30
  • Lakeview storefront rental up to 700 sq ft: $1.83
    Source: ConnectMLS

US National Interest rate averages as of mid-June 2012:

  • 36 month new car loan 3.44%
  • Standard 30 yr Fixed Mortgage: 4.21%
  • Stafford student loan: 6.8%
  • PLUS student loan: 8.5%
  • Average Business credit card w/o “rewards” APR: 13.13%
  • Average “Student” credit card APR: 13.16%
  • Target Credit Card: 25.24%
  • Chicago payday loan, repaid in 2 weeks: 405%
    Sources: (Bankrate.com, [4], [5], [6])

Base Rent rates for interesting commercial spaces:

  • 7500 sq ft of storefront space on Division in Wicker Park: $23750/mo
  • 8000 sq ft next to Circuit Nightclub on North Halsted: $13000/mo
  • 2400 sq ft former 7-11 with parking lot in Lincoln Square: $4800/mo
  • 6250 sq ft dog care facility w. equipment on Western in Roscoe Village: $3500/mo
  • 5000 sq ft church in Austin for Sunday afternoons and one weeknight: $1500/mo
    Source (Loopnet)

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…)