Archive for 2011

Smart Remodeling for your Chicago Condo

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

As Chicagoans begin the inevitable yearly retreat into their homes and condos, sheltering themselves from the imminent bitter weather, home improvement becomes a popular theme. After all, the more time you spend in your Chicago condo, the more opportunities you have to ponder the ways in which you can improve upon it, ensuring that your living space reaches its full potential.

However, in the midst of the current economic climate, it would be a mistake to rush right in to condo renovations without first hashing out a full plan. Before any of the work begins, you should have a thorough checklist of what it is you want to do, and how exactly you are going to go about doing it.

The first and most important step in renovating your Chicago condo is hiring the right contractor. Conduct as much research as you can on different contractors, meeting with each one to hear their plan for your space. Talk to family and trusted friends to see if they have recommendations, but always check the contractor’s credentials, making sure they are licensed and insured. Keep in mind that some contractors have specialties, so if you are planning on renovating your living room, maybe think twice before hiring the bathroom guy.

After settling on the right contractor for your Chicago condo renovation, meet with him or her to discuss the blueprints, budget and timeline for completion of the project. It is important to get everything sorted out and in writing before even thinking about commencing construction. The last thing any condo owner needs is a fully gutted kitchen and no definitive plans on how long it’ll take to redo the place! Construction is an exciting phase in any renovation, but unless you know exactly what the end result is going to entail, hold off on the smashing and bashing.

A major part of solidifying a renovation plan is figuring out just how much time the project will take. This way, as long as the construction is completed as planned, you won’t feel as impatient or anxious during the process. Depending on the seriousness of your home improvement project, construction could take several months to finish, so be realistic about the timeframe ahead of time.

And know, too, that there could be unexpected hitches along the way. If everything comes together without a hint of trouble, consider yourself lucky—surprises tend to abound during remodeling projects. This is where it is essential to have a contractor you fully trust. If they say everything is going to be OK, everything is going to be OK.

Proposed Multi-use Complex for Lakeview Apartments & Retail Space Creates a Stir

Monday, December 19th, 2011

A proposed high-rise is causing some neighborhood people to pipe up in Lakeview. The high-rise’s developer, JDL Development Corporation, is looking to build a new residential/retail space consisting of 17 stories and is getting an adverse reaction from neighbors regarding the building’s lofty size.

Opponents of the development said they either want the project to be smaller or to be terminated completely. Reasons of dislike for the building vary between feeling it will saturate the Lakeview real estate market because it has too many residential units, and worrying it will increase street traffic and block views, especially for the buildings located on Grace Street.

The $100 million project would be located at 3750 N. Halsted, on the corner of Barry and Halsted Street (just south of the IHOP restaurant in Boys Town). This site is currently occupied by the Faith Tabernacle Church’s parking lot. The proposed Chicago real estate would replace the parking lot with around 350 apartments on top of retail space that spans 46,000 square feet. It would also include parking that could be used by both tenants and shoppers.

According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, Halsted Neighbors is a newly formed group that opposes the development and claims it has gathered over 300 signatures for a petition against the project. The group stated on their website that they believe the proposed Lakeview apartment development is too big and will lower property values while creating a housing surplus.
On the other hand, Jim Letchinger, president of JDL Development, said his new mixed-use project has gathered much support from other communities, due to the fact that Lakeview real estate has had little new construction in rental housing during the past two decades. The focus had been on building condos for so long that many see a high demand for the new apartments now.

Letchinger and Alderman James Cappleman’s 46th Ward zoning advisory committee met on December 8th regarding the proposed Lakeview real estate. So far, Cappleman seems to have taken a neutral position on the development, which is to be designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture and will contain only a few units with balconies. The building will, however, include a private courtyard and outdoor pool.

There is already a contract pending to purchase the land from the Faith Tabernacle Church, which would receive renovation funding and be allowed to maintain parking on the site if the project were to move forward. Blueprints for the complex include a 369-spot parking lot that would be accessible to both apartment dwellers and shoppers. As to what type of business is expected to lease the commercial section of the building, Letchinger claimed rumors regarding a Wal-Mart or grocery store are untrue. He proposes a health club will most likely be in the retail space, but said that a deal is yet to be completed.

A Look Back at One Creative Idea to Sell Chicago Condos Nearly One Year Ago

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

If we look back to a Crain’s article that ran almost one year ago (in January 2011), we’ll see Mesirow Financial had discovered an interesting way to sell out a bunch of Chicago condos that were for sale at the time in the West Loop. Here’s what happened…

The developers of the 237-unit project known as R+D659 (located at 659 W. Randolph Street) wanted to sell 19 unsold condos to a local non-profit that aids with treatment of mental illness and addictions so the organization could rent the units out to their clients. Thresholds (the Chicago-based non-profit) had planned on purchasing the Chicago condos for mental-health patients to live in while making the transition to living independently from needing assistance. However, before the deal could go through, the condo association of the building had to review the proposal—not to mention it also required city approval.

In order to gain the needed zoning approval from the City of Chicago for the R+D659 project, Mesirow had to keep 10% of the building (24 condos) set aside to be used as affordable housing. Of course, because of the recession and the housing market funk, Mesirow only sold five of the Chicago condos it had reserved for lower-income buyers.

The agreement with the City of Chicago ensured that the 19 remaining units remained affordable, however, it also allowed Mesirow to find an inventive way to sell the lower-priced units despite the Chicago condo market’s dismal state. The deal with Thresholds to purchase so many units at once was a rarity for the times. Still, the proposed solution for Mesirow was sure to create some issues with other tenants of R+D659. While some residents may not wish to live in the same building as recovering mental health patients or addicts, others may fret that the value of the condos would decrease due to the scenario.

At present, Chicago does not allow for non-profits to make these types of sales. Thresholds was planning to pay $125,750 per condo and not a penny more for the Chicago real estate, due to an ordinance proposed by Mayor Richard Daley in December 2010. Thresholds also was interested in buying one of the affordable units that Mesirow sold previously and was planning on assigning a staff member to each client for counseling, training and educational aid.

However, the plan was scrapped only a week after its announcement in January 2011. The condo board and condo owners were very adamant about not wanting it to move forward and Alderman Walter Burnet decided to block the required ordinance through City Council unless they retrieved approval from all of the building’s owners. As a result, Mesirow and Thresholds did not go through with the deal and the units did not sell after all.

Changes for Luxury Chicago Condos Sales Began Back in 2010

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

At the beginning of 2010, local developers began to lower prices and hold auctions on newly developed Chicago condos, resulting in a small amount of the Chicago condo market to prosper. According to an article from, those buying were primarily wealthy; purchasing unique and high-priced Chicago real estate, like luxurious downtown Chicago condos in state-of-the-art high-rises. From the beginning of 2010 to mid-May 2010, forty downtown condos were sold for $2 million and up—most of them in developments that have only just opened their doors in the past few years.

A couple of these buildings include the Elysian at 11 E. Walton Street, which had an $8.182 million dollar sale (the highest price paid for a Chicago condo since 2006); and the Aqua, an award-winning skyscraper at 225 N. Columbus Drive where a 3-bedroom Chicago condo sold for $2.24 million.

Behind these sales is good timing. Many buyers made decisions to purchase units in these developments long before the buildings were ever erected, and long before the recession. Following several years of planning, marketing and construction, building owners were finally starting to deliver in 2010. And buyers were finally able to close on their new homes and move in.

The well-known Bloomingdale’s high-rise, a 21-year-old skyscraper located at 900 N. Michigan Avenue, saw a new block of Chicago condos open up last year that were previously occupied by the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. Three of the units were sold for upwards of $2 million and one was purchased for $4.75 million in February 2010.

At least 16 purchasers of the Elysian downtown Chicago condos closed at $2 million or higher since January 1, 2010. Around that same time, the Legacy at 60 E. Monroe Street sold three units for upwards of $2 million, which were some of the first closings for the new property. A sum of $2.3 million was paid in May 2010 for a previously owned condo located on the 51st floor of the Trump International Hotel & Tower and yet another buyer spent $3.45 million in April 2010 for a Chicago condo located on the 54th floor of 55 E. Erie.

The buyers of these luxury condos almost always purchase in cash and know that when the market fully recovers, they will own some very valuable pieces of Chicago real estate.

This cross-section of buyer activity does not mean, however, that Chicago’s luxury real estate market was never influenced by the recession. The high-end development at 50 E. Chestnut in the Gold Coast is a prime example. These Chicago condos were priced starting at $2 million. In 2007 and 2008 there were 17 sales, but only two sales between 2008 and 2010—one in 2009 and another at the beginning of 2010. The decline in sales could also be completely related to timing as this building was finished right when the market caved. The condo that sold in 2010 did sell for over $3.335 million. However, another condo of the same size on the same floor sold for $3.964 in 2008—a significant difference, and perhaps a very clear sign of the times.

The Holidays Are a Great Time to Sell Chicago Condos

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

According to a recent survey performed by, selling one’s Chicago condo can be ideal during the holiday season. Many real estate experts are advocates of condo and home owners listing their places during this time of year for the primary reason that buyers tend to be more serious when looking. Competition tends to be low during the holiday months as well. So, if you’re thinking about putting your Chicago condo on the market, what are you waiting for? The holidays are already in full swing!

The survey by was conducted between October 26 and November 8 and included 429 real estate executives. For the survey, the term “holiday season” was defined as November 23 to January 2nd. Sixty percent of participants were noted to advise sellers to list their homes during this time because “it’s a good time to sell.” A little less than a third said they would advise homeowners to sell if they felt strongly about doing so. Only 1% of survey participants believed the holidays were not a good time to sell a home. Nearly 80% said buyers were more serious during this time and 61% noted less competition was an added benefit.

As for winter weather, only 17% stated that the welcoming warmth of a home helped sell homes in cold climates, such as Chicago. Thirty-nine percent believed winter weather created the greatest difficulties for holiday house sellers. Equally noted were the high number of vacation and celebratory scheduling conflicts. Additionally, the largest challenge (mentioned by 63% of participants) is keeping homes clean and ready for open house viewings during the holiday season. Despite visitors, wrapping paper and extra decorations, it’s important to keep your Chicago condo neat and tidy if you’re going to try to sell right now.

Further results of the study found that selling a property during the holidays necessitates a unique plan of action as compared to other times of the year. Over 8 out of 10 participants in the survey agreed that listing photos online is absolutely essential for advertising homes during the holidays because buyers may not be able to attend many open houses due to busy schedules and/or weather.

Almost three-fourths of real estate professionals polled felt pricing made a huge impact during the holidays and that properties should be priced to sell. Forty percent stated that staging and decorating the home was even more important. For sellers to maintain flexibility in regards to contractual terms (such as move-in dates and the like) was notably significant to one third of the survey panel.

In regards to staging a home for sale, nearly all survey participants felt seasonal decorations—even religious ones—are helpful. However, not all respondents agreed on what kind of decorations were most appropriate. Thirty-seven percent believed nonreligious holiday decorations were best, while 28% thought any and all decorations were fine to use. Over a quarter of those surveyed felt non-holiday specific decorations were most inviting for buyers and 8% felt staging the home without any decorations was the way to go. Eighty percent of poll participants suggested building a fire in the hearth is a good form of staging as long as the seller or listing agent is present for showings, and 62% encouraged ample outdoor lighting due to shortened daylight during this time of year.

No matter what time of year you want to sell your Chicago condo, it is a smart idea to enlist the assistance of a professional real estate agent. A realtor knows the market inside and out; summer, winter, fall and spring – so they can help you best position your property for a smooth and successful sale.

Chicago Luxury Home Market: Gold Coast, Lake Forest, Winnetka, Northfield & Barrington

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Seeing specific examples of real estate activity in Chicago can help paint a picture of what’s happening on a larger scale. Here’s a look at what types of luxury Chicago homes have sold recently, as well as those that are up for sale in the Gold Coast, Lake Forest, Winnetka and other affluent areas of Northern Illinois. These examples come from an article on that was posted in November.

Gold Coast

A landmark Gold Coast greystone, built in 1881, has been listed for $3.95 million. The Chicago home for sale includes 7,500 square feet, seven bedrooms and sits on an extra-wide lot. The Romanesque-style Bellevue Place Chicago home was listed by Randy McGhee of Koenig & Strey Real Living and includes four fireplaces, five en suite bedrooms and a four-car garage.

Lake Forest Home

A five-bedroom home in Lake Forest recently sold for less than its 2007 price – 15% less. Mark Grube, a managing director at a health care consulting firm, purchased the Estate Lane Colonial for $1.63 million from Jay and Joy Lenstrom in October 2011. The Lenstroms purchased the home for $1.91 million in 2007.

Lake Forest Estate

An eighteen-room historic, English Manor estate in Lake Forest sold for $6.39 million. The estate is located on Green Bay Road and has seen bedrooms and eight full bathrooms. The seller, Lake Forest Landmark Development, purchased the home for $2.4 million in January 2008. The hundred-year-old home has been completely restored and details such as the original hardwood floors, ceiling molding, and staircase handrail have been preserved. The estate sits on 2.5 acres and the buyer purchased an adjacent one-acre lot. The home includes a four-car heated garage, an attic that has been remodeled into a third floor, a finished lower level, and a detached gardener’s cottage with a kitchen, two bedrooms and two full bathrooms.


A 5,000-squre-foot home in Winnetka, containing six bedrooms and 4.5 baths, sold to a personal injury lawyer, Jeffrey Sussman, for $1.7 million. The Grove Street home resides on half an acre and includes a pool. The original owners purchased the home for $1.95 million in 2000.

South Barrington

A 6,100 square-foot, six-bedroom home in South Barrington sold for around $1.63 million. Chief financial officer of Sirva Inc., Thomas Oberdorf purchased the Wescott Lane home. The seller originally purchased the house in 1995 for $825,000.


A Cape Cod-style home in Northfield sold for around $1.43 million to Thomas Melzl, the regional VP of sales for Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle Corporation. The Laurie Lane home contains six bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms, and was purchased by the original owners for $1.33 million in 1998.

Vintage Chicago Condo For Sale & Mansion Built in Lincoln Park

Friday, December 9th, 2011

If you’re keeping tabs on Chicago’s celebrity home and high-end real estate sales you may be interested in a couple of transactions reported on by the Chicago Tribune’s Luxury Real Estate section this week.

Vintage Chicago Condo

Mark Saxenmeyer, a former WFLD-Channel 32 special projects reporter recently listed his two-bedroom Chicago condo for $339,000. Saxenmeyer left the television station in December 2010 after working there for 17 years. He now lives in St. Paul, Minnesota and has decided to sell his designer piece of Chicago real estate.

The 45-year-old, current KSTP-TV reporter listed his Chicago condo on November 1st for $359,000 – $20,000 less than what he purchased it for in 2005. He originally bought the three-level, six-room residence after he “fell in love” with the classic flatiron-style architecture and unique, non-cookie-cutter feel.

The Chicago home is located in the city’s North Side Lincoln Park neighborhood and was built in 1883. The 1,200-square-foot property contains a 12-foot-tall tin ceiling, a lofted den, three large picture windows that overlook a park, original wood floors, refurbished doors with solid oak finishes, a rooftop deck, a storage room and an attached one-car garage.

Lincoln Park Mega-Mansion

A four-story mansion is being developed across three city lots in Lincoln Park. The Chicago home is a contemporary mansion with marble and slate exterior, built by Joseph Sacchetti, in partnership with Wolverine Trading.

Sacchetti is one of many Chicagoans who has used multiple lots to create on big property in Lincoln Park, demolishing existing homes to construct a mansion. In recent years, others who have done the same include Richard Parrillo, John Bucksbaum, Penny Pritzker, Sara Crown Star and Donald R. Wilson Jr.

Sacchetti spent $2.6 million for two of the lots in 2007. In June 2010, he paid an additional $1.4 million for the third lot.  He has since demolished two buildings on the lots to prepare for the new Chicago home’s development.

In 2008, Sacchetti applied for a building permit to begin construction of the Chicago home, at an estimated construction cost of $4.3 million. After purchasing the third lot in 2010, Sacchetti won approval to expand the garage, which will now be spacious enough to hold four cars in all.

How To Deal with Early Mortgage Payoff Penalty of Your Chicago Condo

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Early payoff is something many owners of Chicago homes wish for, however it may come at a price. When you go to close on your Chicago condo purchase, make sure to read the fine print closely because some real estate purchasers will find there is a penalty fee for paying off that mortgage before the scheduled term is up.
According to a December article in the Chicago Tribune, buyers can save themselves from receiving such a big penalty by reading their loan information carefully or getting creative… One Chicago Tribune reader that had an opportunity to pay off his loan in full got around being docked a big penalty by giving the lender a check for the full amount of the mortgage minus $5. What good does that do, you ask? The mortgage penalty fee was determined by a percentage of the payoff amount. Therefore, if the buyer only has $5 left to pay off, the fee is greatly reduced (even a 100% penalty would only be five bucks).

Prepayment penalty is not uncommon but does not exist on all loans. Still, not all purchasers of Chicago homes realize it could be a contingency of their mortgage. Especially new buyers, who are coming onto the market in increasing numbers.

Loan fees and penalties are included in the promissory note and buyers of Chicago condos can find out if they have the penalty by reading the information there. Also, if there are any legal issues with making partial payments and then lowering the penalty as noted above, it will be listed here as well.

For all issues regarding Chicago properties, including probate matters, real estate attorneys can be extremely important to consult. Illinois-specific real estate laws and customs exist and knowing what they are is helpful to having a smooth transaction and payment plan. For example, an heir can sell his/her parent’s house with an affidavit of heirship. Illinois title companies demand a bond in lieu of probate of 2% of the sales price. This is only if the home is sold within one year of the owner’s death or 1% if the home is sold after 1-2 years of the owner’s death. If the house is sold any other time after two years, the affidavit of heirship is the only thing needed and there is no longer a bond. The Illinois Real Estate Lawyers Association ( has a lawyer locater tool for clients wishing to contact a lawyer in the state to help with all issues regarding Chicago real estate.

William Wrigley Jr. Finds Buyers for His Chicago Real Estate

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

William Wrigley Jr. is selling two penthouse Chicago condos, in addition to the landmark downtown headquarters of his family’s namesake business.

According to a November article in Crain’s, William Wrigley Jr., great-grandson of William Wrigley, Jr., founder of Wrigley chewing gum, is selling his Chicago real estate. In 2008, Mr. Wrigley sold the company to Mars Inc. for $23 billion. Mr. Wrigley stepped down as executive chairman of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. in January 2010 and the company is now preparing to depart from its landmark headquarters located at 400-410 N. Michigan Avenue. Wrigley sold the Wrigley building for $33 million and the plans are to move the Wrigley headquarters to Goose Island offices in 2012.

In tandem, Mr. Wrigley is selling his Chicago homes: one lakefront mansion in Lake Forest and two penthouse Chicago condos in the Gold Coast. His Lake Forest home, designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw was built in 1908. Its amenities include a five-car attached garage, a pool and a private beach. The sixteen-room home located on Lake Road consists of 11,000 square feet and has a sale pending from October 31st for $6.9 million. The Chicago home had been previously put on the market for $14.5 million. Mr. Wrigley purchased the seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom home in 2003 for $9.9 million.

Wrigley’s Chicago condos in the Gold Coast neighborhood at 65 E. Goethe Street are part of a penthouse that he purchased in 2002. Developer Fordham Co. sold the property to Wrigley for just under $9.13 million. The 13,200-square-foot unit is unfinished and has been split into three separate units. In 2009, Wrigley placed the Chicago condos on the market for $14 million. Raw spaces such as this can appeal to buyers due to the lack of new construction in old neighborhoods like the Gold Coast.

Two of the three Chicago condos for sale were listed in June 2010 – the unit on the west was listed for $6 million and the unit on the north for $5 million. The listing for the west unit has dropped to $4 million recently. The north unit was dropped to $4.5 million and now has a pending sale. The third, unlisted unit has just acquired a pending sale.

Chicago Condos in Development

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Even though the market for Chicago condos is recovering at a snail’s pace, a few Chicago condos are taking the risk and undergoing development. Neighborhoods like West Town and the Ukrainian Village are seeing this primarily. The projects are mostly small and the developers are keeping the risk low and constructing them in stages.

One of these Chicago real estate projects is located at 1312 W. Madison. The building is owned by Quest and contains nine units. The project is currently in its second phase, as the first phase had begun in March 2011. The development is expected to complete in May and a buyer has already signed an agreement to purchase one of the Chicago condos.

The Chicago real estate was purchased last fall by Quest from Lakeside Bank, based in Chicago, after the bank had foreclosed on the former owner. A loan for the first phase of the project was taken out for the building, which includes six residential and two commercial units.

The second phase will begin with the owner’s own money. However, the owner might need to take out a small loan for the project after the Chicago condos from the first phase close in December. The residential units will be priced from $425,000 to $490,000. Developers are predicting that people will buy if the building is in a good location and is sold at a reasonable price.

East of the Madison building, only a few blocks away, the CA23 development is under way. These Chicago condos are located at 16-20 N. Carpenter Street. The property is in its second phase of construction–all 24 of its first phase units completely sold out last summer. The building, which was previously owned by a bank due to foreclosure, was purchased for $4 million in cash by Belgravia Group.

In this economy, a few lenders are requiring developers to complete Chicago real estate projects in two stages so the demand for additional units can be reevaluated before breaking ground on the second batch. For example, the Chicago condos located in Ukrainian Village called EcoLuxehome had a difficult time with financing. The developer, Igor Petrushcak, wanted to develop a 14-unit Chicago condo complex on the 2200 block of W. Chicago in its entirety but was unable to receive proper funding to do so. Therefore, this project–as well as other Chicago real estate owned by Mr. Petrushcak–will be developed in two stages. EcoLuxhome will be financed with the developer’s own money and a $700,000 construction loan from Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union.

Another thing many developers are facing with their Chicago real estate projects is stringent lender guidelines. Many banks require that 70% of Chicago condos in development be under contract before any residents can even move into the building.