Monthly Archives: June 2012

Guest Post: Get rid of unnecessary items before you move.

Note from Kay: Today's post is from guest author Joseph Ver of Sparefoot storage search. Please be kind to Joseph, he's allowing me a much needed day off from  writing.

Do you have too many belongings? If you can say yes to any of these, you may have too many things:

-Do you find yourself yelling an assortment of expletives due to stubbed toes?
-Do you have to move piles of items off of chairs and furniture every time someone visits?
-Do you find yourself having to temporarily rearrange a few pieces of furniture just to get out of your home?
-Have you lost your pets only to find them hiding under papers or clothes in your home?
-Have you already forgotten the color of your carpet?

Although these may be a bit severe and symptoms of being disorganized, having too many things isn’t necessarily an immediate revelation. The moment I realized I had too many things was when I had to move out of my apartment recently. I found myself frustrated as I gathered loose papers scattered across various tables of my apartment, and stuffing them in recycling bins. All of those kitschy knick-knacks you bought at your thrift store will probably be heading back there upon moving. If you can, try to keep your home from having too many things. If you are like me and are about to move, here are some tips in deciding what you should get rid of and how to pack everything away when relocating in Chicago. (more…)

Chicago Real Estate Statistics: Bias in the Chicago Landlord Tenant Ordinance

This is part 3 in an series exploring the urban legend that Chicago is biased in favor of the tenant. Part one is here and part two is here.

Where We've Been

Remember honey, first we take the keys, then we take the whole building.

"Remember honey: step one, we take the keys, step two, we take him for all he's worth!"

So we've explored whether or not the courts are biased in favor of the tenant. The result pretty overwhelmingly confirmed this bias when it comes to joint action eviction cases. While the courts had no problem granting possession back to the landlord, they very rarely allowed the landlord the right to a judgment for the back rent owed. But a biased courtroom is one thing - most eviction cases are not jury trials. The interpretation of the laws rests entirely in the hands of a few judges and attorneys. But what if the laws themselves are biased?  There's another portion of this whole landlord-tenant thing that can be analyzed. I've left it for last because it's required a very lengthy and subjective dissection of a pretty substantial piece of law.

Is the Law itself biased?

We're talking about Chicago's infamous Landlord-Tenant Ordinance today. Since the Cook County Clerk's site is not reliably linking to it right now, I'm hosting a backup copy of the full CRLTO here for the time being so you can read along. I've had to memorize this massive document for my job. I've been working for the past 7 years within the constraints of this 30 page document. I've never spent quite so much time reading it in depth as I have over the past few weeks.

Now, before we go any further, I am NOT a lawyer. This is a citizen's interpretation of the ordinance and my reading may be just as faulty as that of the judges & attorneys at eviction court, if not moreso.

For your benefit, dear piggies, I have parsed out every clause and sorted them to get a rough count of how many of these laws are written to protect the tenant from the landlord and vice versa. I have effectively tallied the "score" of the laws on the books. (more…)

10 Situations You Should Plan For as a New Chicago Landlord cartoon - worst case scenarioMost new landlords think through the steps involved in finding a tenant, but they rarely plan on what to do in the event that a major catastrophe or minor disturbance alters the flow of the occupancy. After 7 years in the rental market I can attest that every one of the 10 items on this list has occurred, sometimes on multiple occasions. I'm not going to tell you what your contingency plans should be, although I have served as a sounding board before in helping landlords hash out their worst case scenarios.

In all of these cases make sure that you know the city laws about what you can and cannot do, have contacts handy in your files who can handle the repairs, and know what your timeframe and potential cost will be is to resolve the issue. Make sure you've taken all the necessary preventive measures to keep these situations from occurring, without hindering your tenants' ability to live comfortably in their apartments. Figure out what insurance will cover. Figure out what your liability limits are. Having a plan in place will help you to keep your head about you and your wallet close to intact in these admittedly stressful scenarios.

Photo of fire damage caused by a space heater

Fire damage to a Florida apartment caused by a space heater.

1. Fire that damages a unit. 90,500 apartment fires break out per year in the United States. In 2010 that came to 440 deaths, nearly 4000 injuries and over $1b in property damage. (Source: [1]) 36% of all US fires in 2010 were to some sort of building, as opposed to wildfires, dumpster fires, cars, etc. (Source: [2]) Regardless of if it's a small grease fire that can be extinguished with a kitchen fire extinguisher or a space heater that arcs on an overloaded outlet, it's always possible that one of your apartments will be damaged by fire.

Skyline shot of Chicago apartment building on fire

3 alarm fire at 885 W Cornelia, summer 2011

2. Fire that destroys the building. A single apartment on fire is one thing. Losing an entire wing full of apartments, or worse, seeing your property condemned due to fire, is an absolute disaster. This is, oddly enough, one of the few scenarios that new landlords will actually plan for as it's a pretty extreme "what if."  Fires are tricky things to contain. A careless neighbor, vagrant or neighboring pizza place could take out your building. Make sure you've planned for fires both big and small. (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…)

Rent Bacon: April 2012

Rents once again increased over last year, and market times decreased in 2 out of 3 zones. (corrected July 2012)

Details for April 2012

The downtown mid-north side zones continued their patterns of serious rent increases and shortened market times in April. However, it is interesting to note that in both Zone 1 and Zone 2 the number of MLS-listed 2 bedroom apartments actually decreased slightly year-over-year. This makes sense in a strong landlord's market, as landlords are finding success in renting on their own this year.

Also of note - this is the first time that we've seen the average market time in any zone fall below the 1 month mark. In this case, it was Zone 2, with an average market time of 31 days. When dealing with rentals, paid in one month increments, the difference between a 31 day market time and a 32 day market time has a major impact on cash flow and therefore on relative value.

While Rent Bacon normally looks at year-over-year data, this month it's also worth looking at the month-over-month growth when compared with the rent rates for March. Zone 1 saw a 10.4% month-over-month increase in rents, Zone 2 up by 1.7% and Zone 3 up by 3.8%. The zone 3 increases are particularly worrisome considering that Zone 3 neighborhoods are usually the least expensive options available to lower-income tenants. Some of the rent growth can be attributed to April being the first "on-season" month in the Chicago rental market, but not all.

 Average RentAverage Market TimeTotal Rented
Zone 1
April 2011 $230744 days229
April 2012 $262232 days202
Zone 2
April 2011 $186242 days97
April 2012 $197631 days84
Zone 3
April 2011 $130052 days20
April 2012 $141354 days24

As always, stats reflect pricing and activity for 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartments listed in ConnectMLS as with rented dates during the month of April. Analysis of specific areas is available upon request.

What is Rent Bacon?

Rent Bacon is a quick visual summary of what’s happening in the rental market this month compared with this time last year. It breaks the city down into three zones. For each zone, it takes the change in average rent rates and the change in average market times as percentages, and then averages the two percentages together.

Zone 1 covers central Chicago from South Loop through Lincoln Park. (Actual coordinates: 2000 South to 2000 North, from Western Ave to the Lake).

Zone 2 covers the near North side of Chicago, including Lakeview, Bucktown, Uptown, Lincoln Square, Roscoe Village and NorthCenter. (Actual coordinates: 2000 North to 5200 North, from Western Ave to the Lake.)

Zone 3 covers the Far North and Near South side of Chicago, including Edgewater, Andersonville, Rogers Park, West Ridge, Chinatown, Bridgeport and Douglas. (Actual coordinates: 5200-7600 North plus 2000-4500 South, from Western Ave to the Lake.)

Want more Bacon? Here's last month's update.