Archive for the 'Downtown' Category

Chicago’s Celebrity Real Estate

Monday, February 11th, 2013

In local celebrity real estate news, Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan has found a potential buyer for his Gold Coast condo. After four years on the market—ironically the average period of time any band member has ever lasted in the Pumpkins—the condo is now under contract for $2.85 million. The eccentric Pumpkins founder put his 3,700-square-foot vintage in-town condo on the market back in 2008 with an original sales price of $5.5 million dollars.

With his primary residence a $6.8 million dollar mansion situated just off Lake Michigan in Highland Park, Corgan has been attempting to unload his renovated full-floor Gold Coast condo at various asking prices ranging from the original $5.5 million to the selling price of $2.85 million.

Corgan’s real estate agent declined to speak on particulars of the sale outside of the fact that she anticipates the transaction to be completed in 30 days.

The Gold Coast condo, located within the famed Paterson-McCormick mansion, has elements designed by renowned architect David Adler. This six-room unit is equipped with two bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, four wood-burning fireplaces, walnut parquet floors, a reception room, 10-foot-plus ceilings, a library, balcony, large terrace and deeded parking spot.

Now you may have missed out on your chance to live like a mid-90’s alternative rock god, but don’t let this missed opportunity allow you to slip into an infinite sadness (Pumpkins reference!). Dream Town Realty has several luxury properties that have recently come to the market, all of which will satisfy your inner-rock star.

Gold Coast Living
·     1540 N. Lake Shore Drive #12N is a 3,000-square-foot vintage condo within walking distance of North Avenue beach. This three bed/three bath prewar vintage unit combines traditional Gold Coast décor with the convenience of modern finishes. This completely renovated unit features beautiful millwork in the library with built-in shelves and paneled walls; limestone, marble and granite surface in the kitchen and bathrooms; hardwood floors throughout; and available parking.

·     1000 N. State #6 is a 4,200-square-foot townhome that feels like a single-family home. This four bed/three-and-a-half bath is located on the corner of Oak and State. This unit offers two-car parking, a private terrace (shared by 15 units), communal swimming pool, home office, 20-foot skylight, marble/granite floors, sauna and steam, and a private deck.

The Lex Looms Large in Chicago Skyline

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Built just before residential housing crash, the high-rise condominium at the corner of Indiana Avenue and Cermak Road its initial years almost entirely empty. But fast forward several years—after a change in ownership and a new name, “The Lex” is now proving to be one of the most sought after Chicago condos.

Officially re-opened in March of last year as a 296-unit apartment tower, the Lex is now almost 73% full, with tenants from around the world.

One glance at this building, located in the South Loop, and its appeal is immediately apparent.
Amenities include a 24-hour fitness center overlooking Chicago and Lake Michigan, enormous living spaces and in-unit washers and dryers, so it’s understandable why the Lex has garnered so much attention as of late. Plus, its proximity to major interstates and public transportation makes it particularly attractive to residents who have to commute regularly.

Floor plans at the Lex range from a 598-square-foot junior one-bedroom/one-bath for $1,549 a month to a 1,552-square-foot three-bedroom/two-bath penthouse for $3,244. While the penthouse units on floors 32-35, as well as most of the “junior” plans, are fully rented, there are still several one-bedroom+den and two-bedroom/two-bath units available.

No matter the size, each and every unit in the building comes equipped with floor-to-ceiling windows, 9-foot ceilings, a private balcony, plus the aforementioned washer and dryer.

Environmentalists will be happy to know that the Lex was designed with green practices in mind. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Development) certified and outfitted with an energy-efficient heating and cooling system, the Lex is one of many environmentally conscious residential buildings now dotting the Chicago skyline.

As for the neighborhood, the South Loop may be a little off the beaten path, but it’s a rapidly rebounding community with equal parts edge and elegance. The Lex may prove self-sufficient for many winter hibernators, but for those bold enough to brave the cold weather, the area possesses no shortage of entertainment, including the nearby McCormick Place exhibition complex.

In short, what once stood as a sign of everything that was wrong with Chicago real estate, now stands as a sign of sure recovery. And with other aspects of the market clearly following suit (increased home sales, new construction, etc.), now may be the right time to call your Chicago real estate agent to discuss your dreams of home ownership!

West Loop Area to Get First-Class Facelift

Monday, January 14th, 2013

New construction is at a near-standstill across the country, but one Chicago developer is venturing into territory that many are too wary to approach.

Hoping to revitalize a neglected sector of downtown Chicago, Jason Vondrachek of Quest Realty Group recently shelled out almost $2.5 million for a 25,000 square foot parcel of land at 37 S Sangamon St. in the West Loop. In addition to the planned construction of five new single-family homes with skyline views, Mr. Vondrachek is allegedly considering construction of as many as 40 condos in place of the dilapidated warehouse currently situated there.

Mr. Vondrachek’s decision to invest such a large sum of money in new construction is a bold one, considering how much difficulty established residential buildings have had attracting buyers. When the market slowed after the housing bubble burst, new construction went with it. In 2011, only 624,061 building permits were issued nationwide, down from 1,398,415 back in 2007, according to the United States Census Bureau.

Still, many experts agree that population growth will eventually demand a significant increase in the number of living space needed in the coming months and years. After all, developers can remain cautious only for so long before their hesitation turns their business stale. Many developers are finding success in the burgeoning apartment market, which has exploded thanks to a hordes of Chicagoans still too wary to buy.

But as rent prices skyrocket, more and more apartment-dwellers are considering the perks of owning their own condo, paving the way for a healthy Chicago condo market in the coming years. At the end of the third quarter in 2012, the Second City had just 46 unsold, new construction condos, down from 973 completed or under construction four years earlier, according to Chicago-based consulting firm Appraisal Research Counselors.

Even as demand for condos rises exponentially, investing in a major construction project remains a risky venture nowadays. Mr. Vondrachek, however, remains confident that his risk will pay off, stating, “We’ve always tried to go against the grain a little bit, and we know that condos work in this location.”

The West Loop area may still be a bit fragile in the wake of the condo craze of the previous decade, but Mr. Vondrachek and the other developers planning construction in the area are banking on the business of those seeking a more “boutique” vibe. One can only hope his fortitude and confidence is paid off in the long run, and that those investing in new construction serve to bolster Chicago’s tender real estate sector.

A Room With A Chicago View

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

When you live in a city, personal privacy can sometimes prove annoyingly elusive. Chicago may not be as cramped as New York City, but finding an affordable condo with plenty of space in the Second City can certainly be a challenge.

The listing of unit #801 at 701 S. Wells Street in Chicago’s Printers Row neighborhood proves, however, that an affordable, lofty space with a gorgeous view is not unattainable.

This unit boasts enormous rooms with majestic hardwood floors, but it’s the outdoor space—a 1,500 square foot patio wrapped around the northeast corner of Wells Tower—that will really make your jaw drop. Most Chicago condo owners can consider themselves lucky if they get a private balcony at all; the person who snaps up this unit will hold enough outdoor space to host their every friend and family member for seasonal soirees on the terrace.

The $374,900 asking price will also get you a roomy two-car private garage, a beautiful view and a wide array of amenities including a workout facility and central air conditioning. And yes, you read the listing price correctly.

At first glance, the Printers Row neighborhood in which the building is located may seem out of the way, but the truth is, you’re just outside the thick of it all (Grant Park is just over a half mile away, with Millennium Park another quarter mile out).

Printers Row is chic and urban and utterly lacking in pretentiousness, which some begin to suspect the closer they get to the Loop and the Magnificent Mile. It also benefits from its close proximity to the bustling South Loop without suffering from the noise and chaos of the city. Plus, the community manages to maintain a quaint neighborhood feel owing to its clean streets and large trees.

And, true to its name, Printers Row is home to a wide array of book dealers with rare works, university texts and literary classics, making it an ideal place for the intellectual type.

An adventurous buyer willing to venture off the beaten path may find their ideal property at 701 S. Wells Street #801. Free from the hustle and bustle of the city, this unit proves that privacy is more than just a pipe dream.

Renting in Downtown Chicago Could Cost You

Friday, December 21st, 2012

As many are still shell-shocked from the real estate woes brought on by the 2008 bust, renting will remain a popular option for the foreseeable future in Chicago. As a result, apartment rents have been steadily rising—and will continue to do so amongst the top levels of the rental pyramid in Chicagoland. Among the lower levels, rents will remain fairly flat.

In the fancy luxury buildings of the downtown area, rents are roughly 7.5 percent higher than they were this time a year ago. The most exclusive buildings are charging around $2.58 per square foot, and a few have gone as high as $3.00 a foot. These per-square-foot rates are at an all-time high.

Following the “superdeluxe” buildings are what is known as Class B buildings. These properties have rents that are up roughly 5 percent, with their square footage charges varying greatly. The level below that, which covers apartments in struggling areas, saw a 2.5 to 3.5 percent increase in rent over this time last year—after almost a decade with no movement in rental charges.

At the lowest level, rents are flat, and are likely to remain that way until a full economic recovery takes hold. These apartments are located in areas plagued by high unemployment, making it difficult for landlords to find tenants who can actually afford to pay rent.

Demand for rentals is very high in mid-level areas like Hyde Park, but unlike the downtown area, rents won’t go any higher than inflation.

So what is truly behind the rising rents, and why the disparity among “levels”? The economy is what seems to be driving the wildly increasing rates. Movement in the top three levels is primarily dictated by employment and income growth. Renters at the top levels are usually college-educated, and the unemployment rate for this group of people is pretty low, around 4.5 percent. This, combined with the high demand for downtown rentals is what has driven luxury rental prices sky high.

Hancock Tower Condo Board Under Scrutiny

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Chicago’s most recognizable address is now the epicenter of a heated dispute between the condo board and its residents. The Hancock Center may boast a rooftop bar with the best views in the city, but according to two of the building’s residents, it also happens to be a hotbed of favoritism and rule breaking.

Orthodontist Neil Kay and fellow plaintiff David Huang, both residents of 175 E. Delaware Place, have opened a lawsuit against the condo board at Hancock Tower, citing allegations that board president Michael Stickney and his wife are turning a blind eye to an otherwise strictly enforced rule by operating a specialty foods brokerage out of their unit. Board member Laura Moehlman is under similar scrutiny for running a sales and marketing business from her condo. Both Stickney and Moehlman, alleges the suit, are in direct violation of rules prohibiting non-residential units in the Hancock Building.

The lawsuit comes after a string of clashes between the condo board and disgruntled residents of this world-renowned edifice.

According to Kay, the board all too frequently uses building rules as a weapon against some residents, while callously ignoring them in their own lives. As evidence, Kay cites the numerous incidents of the past couple months in which several condo owners in the building have been fined for various minor code violations, such as late notice on a lease renewal. When juxtaposed with Stickney’s and Moehlman’s apparent disregard for the rules in their own lives, it amounts to gross misconduct and an abuse of the system.

Kay’s wife complains of a class divide—or a “two-tiered system of enforcement” as her husband says—spurred on by rampant favoritism, which keeps some residents down while elevating others. “A small little group seems to be serving their interest and coming down hard on other people, and it’s just not fair,” she said.

By all accounts, this alleged divide between the board and the residents of the Hancock Tower seems to be driving the lawsuit more than the actual rules violations. Indeed, according to Chicago lawyer Mark Rosenbaum, many condo associations prohibit business uses for residential units in their buildings, though more often than not these violations go unnoticed or ignored as more people do their work from home.

If you are a Chicago condo owner facing a conflict with your board or another resident of your building, make sure to educate yourself as much as possible on your rights. For more information on the Illinois Condominium Property Act visit: www.condorisk.com/content/condoact/property_act.htm, or for more specific questions visit http://www.illinoislegalaid.org/index.cfm.

Saving Chicago Condos In the Downtown Loop

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Nationally, the housing market is slowly coming back from the brink. But in Chicago, we are still facing a few trouble spots. The most glaring stain on our housing market metrics? Downtown condo sales.

Since the collapse of 2008, downtown condo sales have been on a steady decline. The number of unsold new condos fell to an all-time low of 1,478 units in Q3 of 2012—a far cry from the nearly 6,000 unsold units that were available in 2007.

Developers managed to sell 154 units downtown in the third quarter—down from the 182 units sold in the second quarter of this year, and the 229 units sold in the third quarter of last year. Although condo sales are looking bleak downtown, other Chicago areas, such as Streeterville, are doing quite well, as Chicago homebuyers take advantage of record-low interest rates.

So what’s the problem with downtown? Most Loop dwellers prefer renting over buying, and as the market makes a pivot to accommodate this new reality, condo developments are falling by the wayside. Developers are moving to rent out condos, as opposed to keeping them on the market unsold.

Interestingly enough, nearly 500 of the market’s 1,478 unsold units are in three failed South Loop developments. New York-based developer Related Cos. is taking over the project, hoping to jump-start sales through a partnership formed with the lenders who initially financed them. This bold deal is the biggest distressed condo deal since the onset of the collapse in 2008.

So how is Related Cos. planning to ensure that they’ll fare better than other condo developers? The firm plans to reposition the three condo projects, spurring interest with high-end finishes and fixtures, sprucing up common areas and adding extra amenities, like dog grooming and dog walking.

Though downtown developers sold just 770 condos last year, average condo sales are usually around 2,700 units annually. New developers are confident we can get back to those levels soon.

Rent Savvy in the Chicago Market

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

With renting in Chicago on the rise and downtown apartment rents surpassing their pre-recession peak, it’s clear that more Chicagoans are choosing to rent versus rather than buy a home.

The economic downturn has driven people away from condos, and with construction underway on five new apartment projects that will offer 1,700 new units to satisfy the ever-increasing demand, it’s important that you, as a renter, know how to navigate the shifting Chicago real estate market.

The most important fact for you to internalize as you look for a new place to rent may come as a bit of a shock to your system. Ever hear the old adage that says the most important factor in the cost of real estate is “location, location, location?” Do yourself a favor and forget it.

Seriously. Wipe it from your memory.

New data from a study conducted by Lucid Realty suggests that the correlation between rental rates and location is minimal, at best. Common wisdom when it comes to Chicago’s real estate market says that the farther west you go in a given area, the cheaper your rent will be. But after comparing rents and square footage for properties in Lakeview versus properties in Roscoe Village, Lucid Realty found that rents drift down only about $.25 per square foot the more you head west. That’s not really a huge margin when you consider the credence many people give this theory.

So what does this mean for you?

You’ve now got to zero in on the factors that really do make a difference in rental rates—amenities and the single-most important influencer of rent, square footage. And truthfully speaking, if you shop around hard enough, you’ll be able to find an affordable place in any neighborhood you deem to be “better” than where you are now. It’s all up to you and your ability to apartment hunt and negotiate.

Currently, the top five Chicago neighborhoods for renting include Lincoln Park, Lakeview, South Loop, Gold Coast and River North.

And don’t think that just because you’re looking to rent, rather than buy, means you don’t need (or can’t ask for) the help of a licensed Chicago real estate agent. Check out the rental properties listed on ChicagoApartmentRentals.com and get in touch with a qualified broker who will help you find the perfect rental.

Is life in a Chicago condo for you?

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Particularly in larger cities like Chicago, condo living is all the rage among younger demographics. But as people get a little older, and especially if kids start to enter the picture, they tend to migrate out of the city and into more suburban areas offering traditional style homes. The battle between city versus the ‘burbs and, subsequently, condo versus traditional home, will likely always exist, but our list below could help you decide whether a condo is for you.

That said, condo living may be for you if:

You hate yard work and home maintenance.
Let’s face it—one of the major downsides of owning a home is all the work required to maintain it: shoveling that heavy Chicago snow in the winter, raking up leaves in the fall, cutting grass in the tumultuous summer heat. None of it’s a day at Disneyland. Life in a condo helps you avoid all of these irritations.

Simply put, you love living in the city (think metropolis downtown).
Although traditional homes are for sale even in Chicago proper, a condo will, most likely, mean you’re living in the heart of it all, with close proximity to the Loop, world-class restaurants, exciting nightlife and the best entertainment.

You like saving money (and who doesn’t?).
On average, purchasing a condo is more economical than purchasing a traditional home. Barring above-average assessments put into place by the condo association, you stand to save a bundle by opting for a condo. The upfront costs of moving in (when compared to buying a home) are generally more manageable, not to mention, repairs and maintenance tasks that usually require extra from your home budget are almost always covered by your assessment fees.

You like having a sense of community, with neighbors always nearby.
Because condos allow you to live so close to your neighbors, you’ll quickly develop a much stronger sense of community and camaraderie than you would if you and your neighbor were separated by a fence. If this is something you’d like to have for yourself, then a condo is where you need to be.

You like easy access to extra amenities.
While it’s totally possible, it’s very unlikely that you’re looking to find a traditional home with a pool, gym, sauna, indoor garage, game room, convenience store and cleaners all on the premises. But in a condo building, these amenities—and more—can easily be within your reach daily.

Sound good? Then you should definitely be considering one of the many amazing Chicago condos for sale.

NATO May Drive Chicago Condo Owners from Their Homes

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

The NATO Summit will take place in Chicago on May 18 through May 21, during which time select condo owners may be asked to leave their homes. FOX Chicago News recently reported that residents of the Library Tower condos on State Street received letters from the building’s management team urging them to stay elsewhere while the conference was in session.

It’s widely known that where there is an official meeting of world leaders–especially NATO summits and World Trade Organization events–there will be public demonstrations of protests. Often, this means riots. It is that precise possibility that has the Liberty Tower Condo Association taking extreme measures of caution.

“In the event of a riot or the potential of one near the building, all access doors will be locked including the garage door,” said the letter sent to residents of Liberty Tower. “For everyone’s safety, we will be instructing anyone in the building to stay in his or her unit.”

Even though riots and protests are a consistent aspect of international meetings, it seems unusual that local residents be asked to abandon their homes. However, this month’s event promises to be unique, largely because it coincides with Chicago’s growing Occupy Movement, which has already resulted in several arrests.

There are several local groups that have declared their intentions to protest the NATO Summit, among them United National Antiwar Committee, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

According to Joe Iosbaker, a member of the United National Antiwar Committee, “The wars and economic policies of the NATO and G8 nations are not just and will be met by protest.”

It really doesn’t get any clearer than that. The only question is how violent will protests become? That depends, in part, on how protestors respond to the increased presence of law enforcement.

The fact is, with so many stated intentions of protest, plus the existing tensions surrounding the Occupy Movement, things are primed to get ugly once the doors close and the NATO Summit commences. So while the condo association of Liberty Towers cannot force residents from their homes, they’re likely keeping their fingers crossed and hoping to see condo owners take an extended weekend away from home.