Sunday, May 13, 2007

I Moved.

Just in case you were wondering, there will be no more posts to this blog beyond this one here, as I've moved. Check it out over at

Monday, April 16, 2007

"Rent Or Buy" Question Goes Web 2.0

Last week, the New York Times published a tool that quickly lets you determine whether paying your landlord's mortgage or your own, is the way to go. Without further ado, head on over to the New York Times.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Which way to London, please?

A friend of mine (from the SF Bay Area, no less) sent me an email, and asked me to check out the "Get Directions" tab on Google Maps For the origination point, I was supposed to type in New York, and my destination would be London. Now press the "Get Directions" button. Pay particular attention to the left side of your computer screen, and scroll down to step #23.

Being a Realtor, I love maps. And I particularly love Google. But some programmer over at 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway must have really had a cynical day when he/she coded step 23.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Carnival of Real Estate #37

This week, the Carnival of Real Estate is hosted by Jay Thompson, a.k.a. The Phoenix Real Estate Guy. Having tremendously enjoyed Jay hosting CoRE #33, about a month ago, I look forward to his best-of-breed blog picks, this week.
Oh, in case you were wondering what the Carnival is all about, have a look here:

Carnival of Real Estate

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Home To Remember ... And Salvage

My business partner and I just listed a home in Chicago's toney western suburb of Wheaton. This fact alone is not much news, except that the house has some interesting history: It used to be the childhood home of our nationally beloved Belushi Brothers. You know, John and Jim... But let me back up here for a minute.

We have a client who bought this ranch-style house in Wheaton back in 2005, with the intention to remodel it, and to move in with his family. His primary motivation was to live in a pleasant community with a top-notch school system. Our client didn't know that the Belushi brothers moved in and were raised in this house during the mid 50's, until some time during the middle of the purchase process. Good thing, because he himself is a huge fan of Jim Belushi. Rather than tearing down this one-story ranch, it was given a complete makeover and received a brandnew second story. We're talking 6 bedrooms, 3 full baths, and an attached two-car garage, all situated on a 67'x160' parcel. Unfortunately, our client's plans of moving into this house changed which is the reason why it's now for sale. Have a look at what this house is all about, today:

Friday, April 06, 2007

Of Mortgages and Fraud

This article from MSN is almost a year old, but in light of ongoing mortgage fraud still a timely read. I readily admit, Baskin-Robbins is a lot more tasty. Another excellent blog by attorney and Certified Mortgage Banker, Rachel Dollar, that deals with mortgage fraud can be found here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Now you know which stocks to invest in!

Businessweek reports in their April 2, 2007 edition that two finance professors have looked at the relationship between stock performance and the size of a CEO's home. Finally, you have a tool that'll help you determine where and where not to invest. All you have to do is to figure out where the CEO of a particular company you want to invest in, lives. Drive by, take some measurements, and prosper.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Free money, anyone?

You're sitting on the fence, waiting for the right moment to jump into this adventure called homeownership. You've met with a mortgage professional who reviewed your credit history and income status, pre-approved you for a mortgage, and explained the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) to you. Right then and there you came to the realization that your estimated closing expenses are enormously high. Which is really the reason why you're still sitting on the fence, procrastinating, pondering whether or not you should go forward with your home purchase plan.

If the above scenario describes your situation, there is good news for you. It's called the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). The concept is simple: CRA was enacted by Congress in 1977, providing federal money to specific lenders who have proven that they follow ethical lending practices. This money is intended to entice lenders to make conforming mortgage loans in areas (CRA zones) that are considered to be "up and coming", or are in need of further development. These funds can be used to help buyers lower their closing fees and/or interest rate to entice them to buy in areas specified by government.

What areas are considered CRA zones? There are currently 653 pockets of CRA zones in the City of Chicago. CRA zone eligibility changes quarterly, so it is imperative that the EXACT property address is known to determine whether or not a specific property is eligible. Please contact me so I can help you determine the CRA status of any property in Chicago that you are considering purchasing. The importance of confirming the exact property address cannot be stressed enough, as there have been examples of properties in the past that were eligible for this program, whereas properties across the street did not fall within a CRA zone.

How much money could be saved? In most cases, buyers are eligible for up to one full point of their first loan amount or $3,000, whichever is less. This will appear as a "Lender Credit" on the GFE and Settlement Statement (HUD-1). For example, if the purchase price of a property is $400,000 and the buyer is putting down 10%, the loan amount is $360,000. The buyer is eligible for $3,000 to buy down their interest rate or to help pay for his closing expenses. In some cases, the buyer may be eligible for up to one and one quarter point with no cap! For the above scenario of a $400,000 purchase price, the buyer could earn a credit of up to $4,500 to buy down the interest rate or to help pay for the closing expenses. In the event the CRA lender credit exceeds the total closing fees, buyers cannot walk away with cash from the closing.

What types of properties qualify? Single family homes, high- and low-rise condominiums, townhomes, 2-flats, and 3-flats. Commercial properties, 4-flats, second homes and investment properties do not qualify for CRA at this time. Caveat: In order for a buyer to qualify for CRA credit the buyer must owner-occupy the property.

What types of loans are available with CRA funds?
Conforming First Loans (Under $417,000)

  • Fully Documented Loans
  • Stated Income, Stated Assets Loan
  • Fully Amortizing 30, 20, 15-Year Fixed, 3/1, 5/1, 7/1, 10/1 ARMs
  • Interest Only 30-Year Fixed, 3/1, 5/1, 7/1, 10/1 ARMs
  • 80-10-10, 80-15-5, 80-20 Programs
If the borrower requires a second mortgage, there are also programs available to help lower the second mortgage interest rate using CRA funds.

Is there a cap on how much buyers can earn in annual salary? No, there is no cap on annual gross income, at the moment.

There you have it. Time to jump off the fence, and enjoy the benefits of homeownership.

Information courtesy of Kristy Middling - Preferred Rate Chicago (a division of Guaranteed Rate, Inc.), and

Sunday, May 07, 2006

It's a buyer's market!

Yes indeed. And surprisingly, the Chicago Tribune made this title their headline on page 1 of today's paper. We all knew it was coming eventually, and most of us Realtors® who are busy analyzing property values day-in and day-out, had an incling that property values, while not exactly on a steep decline, were stagnating at best, as evidenced by longer market times.
Seller's, don't despair though. In Chicago, we have not seen a total collapse of property values within at least the last thirty years. It's all just a market correction, imho.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Home buyers: Google is your friend!

The search for your very own Taj Mahal just got a little easier with the help of Google.

Let's say you're in the market to rent an apartment or to buy a home in Chicago, IL. Simply go to and type in the phrase "Chicago real estate" (without the quotes.) You'll be presented with quite a bit of information to sift through. But now Google has introduced a nifty little feature that lets you filter your search and narrow things down a bit:

You first specify whether you search is about properties that are for rent or for sale. You will then be presented with a screen that allows you to further narrow down your search, along with a map on the right hand side of the screen. Properties that match your search criteria are pinpointed on the map, as well as their corresponding links in a scrollable window to the left of the map.

The data are derived from Google Base, which is a service similar to Craigslist. Pretty cool. And a valiant effort to further empower customers that use the internet for their home search. But if you're really interested in the "creme de la creme" of listing searches with far more search parameters than Google offers you, (get ready for a shameless self-promotion now) check out my very own MLS Genie.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

2005 another record-breaking year

2005 was another record-breaking year for residential real estate sales in the City of Chicago. According to figures that I've gathered from the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI), a total of 44,891 units changed ownership for a total value of (are you sitting down?) $14,589,057,950. These figures include the sale of single family homes (detached), condos, townhomes and coops (attached), Multi-unit buildings (2-4 flats), as well as vacant land.

A quick glance at the analysis shows median price increases across all property types vs. 2004. Single family home prices rose by 16.5%, condos and townhomes saw a relatively moderate price increase of 6.5%, 2-4 flats enjoyed a 14.8% surge in value, and vacant land gained 12.6%

Interestingly, in 2005, the number of single family homes sold in Chicago decreased by roughly 500 units, whereas all other residential property types saw an increase in number of units sold vs. 2004.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

You gotta license for that?

Real estate sales practitioner ranks among some of the most scrutinized professions in the United States, as far as government oversight is concerned. And that's a good thing, because us real estate sales folks advise you with the sale or purchase of probably some of the most valuable assets that you'll ever own in your lifetime. It is only natural then that government is interested in making sure that real estate practitioners know the rules and regs of selling real estate, inside and out, when interacting with consumers. And there are lots of rules. In Illinois, our profession is regulated by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation - IDFPR (formerly Office of Banks and Real Estate). Of course, having completed 45 credit hours of instruction in an approved Real Estate Transaction Course, having passed a preliminary test (Transcript) and an additional State test do not necessarily guarantee that a real estate sales genius is born. But at least it proves that an applicant knows the fundamentals of the do's and don'ts, in theory. For those of us who are actually Realtors®, meaning real estate practitioners who are members of the National Association of Realtors®, the rules are even stricter, as we subscribe to an additional set of rules constituted in what we call the "Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice".

But I digress. IDFPR has had for quite some time, a nifty little feature on their website that allows consumers (that's you, folks) to look up licensees. What for, you may ask. To see whether or not a real estate agent that you are planning on being represented by, has ever been disciplined in the past by IDFPR, complete with details. And believe you me, some of the findings are more juicy than any episode of "Desperate Housewives". Simply visit this page and browse through a list of who got fined for what. Happy peeking.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Is Chicago's housing market overvalued?

According to the latest (third quarter) Housing Market Analysis conducted by National City Corp, a financial holding company, in conjunction with Global Insight, a financial information provider, Chicago is one of the real estate markets in the country that is among the most overpriced. By how much exactly? By 21% (to learn about the current real estate market conditions in most of Chicago's neighborhoods, take a look here.) As reported by in their January 3, 2006 online article, the Naples, FL real estate market though takes the cake, being overvalued by a whopping 84%! For those interested, the article outlines the methodology of National City Corp's analysis and findings, as well as a complete list of results for the nation's 299 biggest real estate markets, here.

Now, aren't you glad you're not looking to buy in Naples?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Photovoltaic Roof Panels

Now there's a mouthful. Today's edition of the Chicago Tribune reports that homeowners Daniel and Diane Jacobson who renovated their Near West Side house three years ago, had their contractors install a solar energy system for them, that includes photovoltaic roof and solar panels. Mr. Jacobson estimates that as a result, 10 percent of their household's electricity is now supplied by solar energy. The Jacobsons are an environmentally conscious family, and their residence consists of numerous other "green" elements, including a hardwood floor that didn't cause any rainforest to be chopped down. In my opinion, a valiant effort to conserve our environment.

The part I liked best though is that on days when the Jacobsons' solar energy system produces excess energy (e.g. when they are on vacation), their special electric meter sends this information back to ComEd who, get this, buys the excess electricity from the Jacobsons. Says Mr. Jacobson, "That first year it amounted to $1.68, and ComEd asked if I wanted a credit on my bill or a check. I said, 'You send me a check - I've been paying utility bills for 20 years!' "
Way to go, Daniel and Diane.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


Third Quarter 2005 figures are officially in: In a nutshell, a ton of condos changed ownership this past quarter, and once again, we are on a record-setting pace for selling condos and townhomes (or "attached property type" in MLS lingo) in the City of Chicago. To give you a brief idea of how many condos and townhouses were closed on in the third quarter in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood alone, take a look at these stats: 922 attached units were closed on, with an average asking price of $332,718 and an average selling price of $332,054. That's a 99% price ratio by the way, which goes to show that in Lakeview there is hardly any room for negotiation when you're in the market to buy a condo. However, it could also be a sign for the proliferation of new-construction projects where negotiation on price is on the bottom of developers' to-do list, to begin with. Anyway, stay tuned for more news about Chicago's residential real estate market in upcoming columns.