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Month: April, 2010

Chicago-area home prices show first signs of recovery after three-year slide

Home prices are rising again in some Chicago-area neighborhoods, in a sign that the local housing market is nearing the end of a devastating three-year slide. Single-family home prices rose in 56 of 253 Chicago-area ZIP codes last year, according to Fiserv Inc., which calculates the widely followed Case-Shiller Home Price Index. It’s the first gain since 2006 in any of the local ZIP codes Fiserv tracks. Declines slowed sharply across the region, suggesting the worst erosion of home values is over. Prices in the area fell 2.8% last year, compared with 16.3% in 2008. The data, provided exclusively to Crain’s, offer the most detailed and accurate survey of single-family home prices. Fiserv tracks price changes at the ZIP-code level and compares repeat sales of the same properties. The numbers reveal an uneven recovery, with gains concentrated in neighborhoods hit early by the foreclosure crisis. Double-digit declines continue in outlying suburbs. It’s “very good news” that the market “is beginning to show signs of stability in selected areas,” Schaumburg-based housing consultant Tracy Cross says. “On the negative side, you still have areas that are saturated with a high number of foreclosures.” As prices approach a bottom, it’s possible to start assessing the damage. Parts of metropolitan Chicago have seen a decade or more of home price appreciation erased in three years. At the end of 2009, the local price index had plunged 25.8% from its peak in the first quarter of 2007 to its level in first-quarter 2003. ANOTHER SLIP Home values aren’t expected to regain much ground soon. Fiserv predicts Chicago-area prices will slip another 2.6% this year and rise just 0.2% in 2011. Falling prices, low interest rates and the federal housing tax credit have helped boost demand, but generally not enough to offset high foreclosure rates and the miserable job market. “Until we start creating jobs on a regular basis, I don’t think (the market) is going to turn around,” says Prudential Rubloff agent James Horwath of Chicago. “I think it’s going to be another tough year still.” Over the past three years, prices fell in every ZIP code Fiserv tracks, but some areas weathered the slump better than others. The picture is bleak in suburbs like Cicero and South Side neighborhoods like South Shore, which have suffered drops exceeding 40% since 2006. Homeowners from the Gold Coast north to Uptown fared the best, with declines ranging from 11% to 15.3%. But buyers are “finally getting off the fence,” says Jennifer Ames, a Coldwell Banker agent who works in affluent North Side neighborhoods like Lincoln Park and Lakeview. Ms. Ames brought a four-bedroom brick Victorian at 852 W. Webster Ave. to the market on Feb. 22 with an asking price of $1.4 million. A buyer signed a contract on the house three weeks later. “We’re definitely seeing the spring market we didn’t see last year,” Ms. Ames says, declining to disclose the sale price. While prices fell slightly on her turf last year — the 60614 ZIP code sustained a 2.5% drop — they surged in the least likely of places: economically depressed Chicago neighborhoods like Austin, which saw a 20.2% gain, and south suburban Harvey, which led the market with a 28.4% increase. It’s unclear, bordering on inexplicable, why prices bounced back last year in communities with soaring unemployment and foreclosure rates, but one pattern is obvious: The ZIP codes that gained the most last year suffered some of the biggest price drops in 2008. The same trend has emerged in other cities, Fiserv Vice-president David Stiff says. Though he hasn’t studied the Chicago market, Mr. Stiff posits that foreclosure sales in prior years may have depressed values in some ZIP codes so much that prices are surging as distressed sales taper off and the market starts returning to normal. HOLDING OFF James Shilling, director of DePaul University’s Institute for Housing Studies, says lenders that foreclosed on homes in the most distressed areas are holding off on selling those properties so as not to flood the market and depress prices. Whatever the reason, it will be several years before homeowners in many ZIP codes get back to boom-era prices. Home values in some south suburbs are down to 1998 to 2000 levels, according to Wisconsin-based Fiserv. Crete was the biggest long-term loser, notching price declines of 5.3% over the past decade, while Lincoln Square led the Chicago market with a 10-year gain of 72.2%. Last year, single-family home values rose 1.2% in Lincoln Square’s 60625, one of 56 local ZIP codes to notch a gain, according to Fiserv. Other winners included Oak Park’s 60302, with a 4.2% increase; 60618, covering Irving Park and Avondale, 4.1%, and 60640 in Edgewater and Uptown, 2.1%. Though some areas may be close to turning a corner, they don’t include distant suburbs like Waukegan, Round Lake and Zion, which suffered double-digit declines last year. Prices fell 10.2% in west suburban Yorkville, where foreclosures and overdevelopment have depressed prices. The Yorkville market, says Century 21 Pro-Team agent Kathy Grabow of Aurora, “just got caught with overbuilding.”

By: Alby Gallun April 26, 2010

©2010 by Crain Communications Inc.

Things to do this weekend.

The Hat (Art) Show
The Advanced Headwear students from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago will exhibit a show  entitled “Curiouser & Curiouser” at the Tom Robinson Gallery, 2416 W. North, on Friday April 23 from 5-9pm. Click here for more information.

Bucktown Apple Pie Contest Kick Off Party
Join the Friends of Holstein Park on Sunday April 25 at the Charleston (2076 N. Hoyne) from 4-6pm for an event planning kickoff party. There will be prizes, food and drinks. For more information and to RSVP please contact:

Earth, Wine and Fire is a charity event intended to benefit the environment. It will occur on Friday April 23, 2010, the day after Earth Day, from 5-11PM (a movie screening of No Impact Man starts at 5:00; the party kicks off at 7:00). We expect it to be a fun party hosted by a small group of community folks who banded together to create an enlightened evening with a purpose. We intend to educate, incite action and enjoy. Buy your tickets in advance for a discount. $25 now; $35 on the day of the event. Includes: Entry, 3 tickets that can be used for drinks or the raffle, appetizers, music, entertainment and full access to all Nature Museum exhibits! Additional beverages available for purchase. Children 12 and under are free.

Is the New York Times Suggesting You Buy a Home?

Is the New York Times Suggesting You Buy a Home?

by Steve Harney on April 23, 2010

in For Buyers

We do a tremendous amount of research each week. Occasionally we see a news source stressing a certain point. It was interesting to see the articles on housing published at the New York Times over the last several days. It seems they might be of the belief that now is the time to buy a home. Let’s review the articles.

4/19/2010 – Should You Buy or Rent a Home? Cost Gap Narrows

The article begins:

Thinking of buying a home? Consider this: The gap between monthly rents and mortgage payments is at its lowest level in almost 20 years.

In some markets, the difference can be less than $100, according to a national study conducted for The Associated Press by Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services.

The study, part of a week-long look at homeownership by the AP, found years of falling home prices and low interest rates have created the ultimate buyer’s market.

The article goes on to give both sides but it leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that purchasing a home makes great sense right now.

4/20/2010 – How to Take the Stress Out of Buying a Home

Here they explain that it isn’t hard if you have the proper help:

A combination of government incentives and near record-low mortgage rates has prompted legions of first-time homebuyers to take the plunge. Buying a home can be exciting, yet daunting because it’s a complicated process with potential pitfalls at every step. But, it doesn’t have to cause anxiety if you plan and find the right professional help.

4/20/2010 – 5 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Credit to Buy a Home

In this article, they explain if you can’t buy now because of your credit you can improve your credit in order to buy one at a later date.

Credit problems are often an obstacle to buying a first home. You can take steps to improve your credit score and increase your chances of getting approved for a mortgage on better terms. As a starting point it’s critical to look at your credit report well in advance and take steps to fix any problems.

What does this mean to you?

If the New York Times is encouraging their readers to consider buying and giving advice how to do it, maybe it’s time to buy.

The Enterprising Kitchen-May 6th Bubble Bash!

I was introduced to the Enterprising Kitchen (TEK) through a women who belongs to PWCC with me. It’s a tremendously worthwhile concept.  The mission statement is “The Enterprising Kitchen empowers low-income women to create a brighter future by helping them build a foundation for permanent employment”.  What a novel concept!! Ok, a little sarcasm there.  But seriously, why aren’t there more organizations doing this?

For six months, TEK provides women with a job making spa products–I’ve tried them, they are great.  But during that time they are coached, empowered, exposed to success and given training and critical life skills so that they can become self sufficient.  This is not just a band-aid, this is an actual solution!  Their website does a nice job of talking about the goals and model of the organization.

Some highlights that I think are really critical and unique to TEK:

  • giving women the opportunity to help themselves is critical and will affect social change;
  • working in a well-run business teaches life skills as well as employment skills, both of which are essential to self-sufficiency; and
  • realizing sustained, permanent employment requires a more holistic approach, not just job training

The annual fundraiser, Bubble Bash, is coming up, May 6, 5:30-9pm at the Chicago Cultural Center. They  have an AWESOME raffle which includes a cruise for 4 on a private 38-foot Catalina Sailboat and a weekend theatre getaway in the city.  For more information contact Carey Smith at 773-506-3880 or

How do you choose your medical professionals?

Being comfortable with your doctor-or your kids’ doctor- is critically important to many people.  It’s a very personal choice. I happen to be someone that doesn’t really care about my own doctors. I was sick a lot as a child, I was in and out of the hospital and saw specialist after specialist. In the end, I got better. Not because of something someone did, mostly I just grew out of it.  So, I have a tendency to believe that whatever is wrong will get better eventually and I prefer to grin and bear it instead of being poked and prodded in the meantime. So now, I pick someone that is convenient and that’s where I go. That’s how I have done it in every place I’ve ever lived and it’s always worked fine.   But, that’s probably because other than my annual checkups, I never go to the doctor. The rest of my family is closer to the norm and wants to be treated by someone they like and feel some rapport with, someone they are comfortable talking to and asking questions. So, how do you find someone like that?

Although I don’t care for myself, I do care when it comes to my kids. When I was about to have my daughter I began thinking about a pediatrician for her. I looked up providers on the health care website as usual but just to see who was around.  I could see by the sheer number of listings that some practices were huge.  And, I Googled the “best pediatrician in Chicago.”   And, of course, I asked around. Town and Country came up regularly as it is one of the largest practices in the city. I ruled it out because I didn’t like the idea of going to whoever was available in the practice. I had one pediatrician when I was a child and he knew us when we came in. I liked that.

I decided to interview some potential docs. So, I started to make a list of practices that were referred or that I found online and liked. I found a great website, the Lila Guide that has reviews of everything related to parenting and kids. I found a review of a doc there that I loved and put him on the list.  When I started to call and make appointments to meet the docs, many offices were almost offended–why did I need to come in if the baby wasn’t even born yet? I was surprised, the medical profession is still a service profession isn’t it? Anyway, I had a  short list. The doc from Lila Guide was my first interview. And I LOVED him.  I needed a doc that would mostly let me go with the flow unless something was really, really wrong.  This guy has fostered dozens of babies with his family so he really gets it that every baby is different and you do what makes sense for your baby no matter what the proscribed wisdom says.

When I told him that my kid comes with me to walk our dogs three times a day and asked when I should be worried it was too cold for her he said “if her fingers and toes are blue, she’s too cold, otherwise, if you can breathe comfortably, so can she”.  Thank goodness, someone that wasn’t going to tell me I had to cover her face up and keep her in the house when the weather was nasty!  He walks with his kids a lot too and told me about a fantastic backpack. Sophia outgrew her front carrier pretty quickly and I much preferred carrying her instead of messing with a stroller every time we walked.  Here is the website for the carrier, it’s really wonderful and worth every penny. Who is this amazing doc?  Dr. Lawrence Linderman at Roscoe Village Family Practice.  You can even make your appointments online!  The one time I actually was a little worried about something, I called and he was out at a conference. He called me back and told me what it was over the phone. That is exactly the kind of doc I want.

The point is, if it matters to you, it can take a while to find the right doctor. Same goes for vets by the way! Personal referrals are good but they are not foolproof, none of the personal referrals I got were what I was looking for.  It’s such a personal thing, it’s tough to know what someone else finds comforting. Websites like Yelp, Lila Guide and Angie’s List can be really helpful when deciding if it’s even worth taking the next step, whether for yourself, your children or your pets.  The good news is that we live in Chicago and there is no shortage of wonderful medical facilities and providers no matter what your personal preference.  Good luck and good health!