Trump Tower and Other Developments Almost Sold Out!

Trump Tower at 401 N. Wabash once had hundreds of units on the market….but now they’re close to sell out with roughly 18 units left in their inventory. According to Crain’s Chicago Business 159 new construction condos sold in the 3rd quarter in 2013 which is up from the 2nd quarter and up slightly from the 3rd quarter of 2012. But why haven’t more new construction condos sold? After all the real estate market has been on fire all year! The answer is in the inventory numbers; there is simply very little new construction to choose from! As a matter of fact we are the lowest levels of new construction inventory since 1997. This is a big change from 5 years ago.

235 W. Van Buren led the way with sales in the third quarter according to Crain’s with 41 units sold. I’m not sure how many units are left in this building but I hope they’ve put a nice dent in their inventory. In total the building has 714 units most comprised of 1 and 2 bedrooms.

1201 S. Prairie Museum Park Related Midwest has been selling at two towers in Museum Park and have been doing extremely well. Between the two buildings they sold 64 units this past quarter. 1201 S. Prairie is their highest end (flagship) building in the development. Related, at least in my own humble opinion, has done a phenomenal job at revamping not only sales but the units themselves. Of course their absolute impeccable timing of this project didn’t hurt!

401 N. Wabash – Trump Tower As I said Trump Tower only has 18 units left to sell according to Appraisal Research…I’ll see if I can verify these numbers and post an update. Inventory in Trump, even in the resale market, has decreased dramatically. Those who purchased in this building in 2010 and 2011 already have equity in their units. It’s a beautiful thing!

2550 Lincoln Park Tower Chicago’s newest luxury building has been doing exceptionally well. They closed 30 sales in the third quarter and did so with an average square foot price of $840 per foot! The developer brought on Terri Proctor to head up sales at this development and she has and continues to do an excellent job.

225 N. Columbus – The Aqua Well there is not much to say here except it is sold out!

 

What’s Next? Since new construction inventory is so low why don’t they just building more?!

New units are currently on the way! Financing is still difficult for larger buildings and even though the condo market has seen a resurgence, selling out a 400 unit building would still be a very very difficult task.

CMK Development, the same developers who built 235 W. Van Buren are planning a building at 1345 S. Wabash which will contain 144 units. Soon we will also see plans announced for a luxury condo building in the gold coast (small and boutique) and another developer is trying to building 60 units in the West Loop.

 

Paul Blackburn is an Illinois Licensed Realtor & Broker with @ Properties in Chicago. He can always be reached via e-mail at Paul@PKBlackburn.com

Gut rehabs the next wave in Chicago Real Estate?

New construction condos in Chicago are few and far between. Large scale new developments were mostly halted in 2008 and even though demand for new construction is high in Chicago banks are not willing to take the risk and offer developers construction loans on a 300 or 400 unit condo project. With the majority of new buildings in Chicago at least 5 years old the question is “What is next for Chicago condos?”

Gut Rehabs

With no new construction condos in the downtown neighborhoods many are turning to older buildings and buying “dated” units with the plans of gutting and rehabbing the units with all of today’s modern finishes and conveniences. Newer construction buildings (built between 2003 and 2008) are still selling at a premium as the finishes are “nice” and still acceptable. However, over the past decade tastes in finishes have changed a great deal. Those wanting the most updated and modern look in the downtown neighborhoods are really left with only one option: Do It Yourself….well hire it out but still “rehab your unit.”

Many older buildings have also started modernizing their hallways, amenity floors, lobbies and elevators. These capital improvements along with a cheaper price point, which allows buyers to customize their own units, are allowing old buildings to give new ones a run for their money.

If I am thinking of buying in an older building and customizing a condo; what should I look for? What should I watch out for?

 

Buy in a building that is not afraid to spend money:

It is important to buy into a building that is constantly modernizing itself. Buildings that haven’t completed any capital improvements in over 20 or 30 years are not and will not be able to compete in the market place. Updated hallways, lobbies and amenities are key. While these updates do cost money and may mean higher assessments, you will see a greater return on your investment in such buildings. Buildings that choose not to update will eventually have to (at some point new elevators and new fitness equipment will be a must) and that cost may come as a special assessment anyway. In the meantime however those buildings start to develop a reputation of “old and tired.”

Structural obsolescence caused functional obsolescence!

Consult the building engineer, an architect and a great contractor on exactly what you are able to do with your unit before buying. Many older buildings may have large living spaces but small bathrooms and small kitchens. Current trends are open, expansive kitchen spaces, large closets and well sized bathrooms. Make sure plumbing, electrical and structural walls are able to be modified to allow the reconstruction you so desire. You can update a unit all you want, but if the floor plan is poor then you will not see a good return on your investment. Many times a small change in the floor plan will earn you your greatest return.

Take advantage of what old buildings have to offer!

Location, Location, Location. Many times older buildings have some of the absolute BEST locations and BEST views in the city. Take advantage of this! If you are interested in a building on Lake Shore Drive then make sure you have a great view of the lake. If you are interested in a building in the heart of the Gold Coast then get a south view so you can see the entire skyline and the lake. This may seem like a no-brainer but you’d be amazed at how many people look at only the price tag when they’re rehabbing a unit versus looking at the entire package of what a unit has to offer.

Wider is better!

One of the biggest downside to some of the newer construction buildings are the long and narrow floor plans. Many times this is done to maximize the number of units in a building. Many older buildings have wide floor plans. Wide floor plans are almost always preferred as they offer much more window space. In addition, newer buildings have taller ceilings (9 or 10ft) whereas many older buildings only have 8ft ceilings. A wider floor plan, which allows for much more light will make ceiling height feel taller versus a long narrow floor plan which will make a unit feel “closed in.”

Assessments

Older buildings typically have higher assessments simply because they are less efficient and more costly to maintain. It is very important to see how an association is spending their money. High assessments are not necessarily bad so long as you are getting something in return such as a building that is constantly updating and modernizing itself. A building that has high assessments because they are always “fixing things” versus “improving things” is a building that you will likely want to stay away from.

 

Paul Blackburn is a licensed Illinois Realtor and Broker with @ Properties in Chicago. He can always be reached via phone or e-mail at Paul@PKBlackburn.com

SHOULD I BUY OR RENT A CONDO IN CHICAGO?

Has the market bottomed in Chicago? Is the real estate market in Chicago on a rebound? Where do I see the condo market in Chicago? These are questions asked to Realtors on a day to day basis. Unfortunately we are not fortune tellers but we do know the market quite well and understand its pulse. I am happy to say it does have a pulse, a good one! Here are my thoughts on the market and whether or not you should be a buyer right now or a renter!

My overall feeling of the condo market in Chicago is positive. When I am speaking of the condo market I am speaking of the most popular areas to purchase a condo. Everything from South Loop up north to Edgewater and as far west as Wicker Park and Bucktown and everything in between.

If you are a renter right now you will see that inventory is scarce. More people are renting now than buying and this has pushed prices up. Over the past 10 years we did not see any new construction for apartments. We saw the opposite; condo conversions. This lessened the supply of rental property. Now that the economy has rebounded and those out of college have employment again we are seeing increased demand for renters. We then add into the fact that much of the public were afraid to buy over recent years, or could not obtain financing, and we have a perfect storm for increasing rental prices.

However, since the economy has stabilized so has consumer confidence. We couple this with increasing rent prices and BAM! People want to start buying again! Investors and first time buyers started entering the market (on a more consistent basis) about 2 years ago. Most notably, in the past 6 to 9 months buyers have been coming out of the wood work and eating up all the excess inventory. Renters have finally become fed up with paying high rents and also having the lack of places to choose from. It is one thing to pay high rent prices but it is another to pay high prices but not have any GREAT options. This has forced many to BUY.

Inventory levels of condos in Chicago have dropped to record lows (record since the crash). The challenge is that quality inventory for purchase is actually scarce, at least condos priced properly. If a condo is priced right it will easily sell with in 30 days in today’s market. Versus 3 years ago when exceptionally priced properties still took months to sell.

So what does this mean? Is it a good time to buy? Yes and no! If you know where you want to live and plan to be there for at least 3 full years before you need to put the property on the market, then yes I would say it is a good time to buy. I also recommend to all my buyers to look at their property as a true investment. Instead of asking the question “What can I sell this for in 3 to 5 years” ask the question “What can I rent it for?”  Why do I say rent it?

Prices won’t be skyrocketing anytime soon! While prices have stabilized they won’t be increasing at “normal levels (3 to 5% a year)” for a while. Sure, you may snag a great deal and your return may be great, but the overall market is going to recover slowly. Here is why:

Remember how I said inventory levels were low right now? The reason inventory is low is not because people LOVE their homes and refuse to sell. Inventory is low because many people still don’t want to take a hit on their homes. Many people may be under water or near the edge of the water. What we will see happen is the market start to tick up and then some sellers unload their property because they finally can cover their mortgage or put enough in their pocket where it is worth them selling. This doesn’t mean the market is unhealthy nor does it mean that it is not the right time to buy. It simply means the market is walking slowly in the right direction.

Lets say the market just had leg surgery and is in physical therapy. It is walking again and moving forward…just at a very slow pace and every one in a while it will need to rest for a few minutes. Eventually, however, the market will return to normal. We are on the right path and I’m happy to say we can finally breath again!!

Paul Blackburn is a licensed Illinois Realtor and associate Broker with @ Properties in Chicago. He can be reached via e-mail at Paul@PKBlackburn.com  For more information about purchasing a home in Chicago please visit www.BuyingInChicago.com

Buyers are back in the Chicago Real Estate Market!

What is the state of the current real estate market in Chicago? Well, if you’re a buyer you may be happy with low prices but not crazy about the selection. Right now I am working with several first time buyers as well as some repeat buyers and inventory is actually low! Overall inventory has dropped but still remains high. However, inventory of quality condos in Chicago continues to lessen which is great news for sellers sitting on desirable properties but also slightly frustrating news for buyers.

I have recently seen several properties go under contract in the South Loop before my clients could even see them. These were not foreclosures or short sales either!

I also have another client who simply can’t find anything she really likes. While she knows what she wants she really isn’t being that picky however. So our solution to this problem is simple: We are going to direct mail owners of units she likes hoping we find someone who may be looking to sell in the near future. Do you remember when people were doing that during the boom?

The market is still not what it once was but it is starting to return to health. Values are still depressed but buyer activity is increasing heavily as rent prices continue to tick up. This is why today is the PERFECT time to be a buyer. The timing of record low interest rates and home prices is fueling this market.

 

Paul Blackburn is an Illinois licensed Realtor and Broker with @ Properties. He can be reached via e-mail at Paul@PKBlackburn.com

Condo Inventory Falls; thanks to high demand for rentals?

From Crain's Chicago Real Estate Daily

That is right, inventory for new construction condos in downtown Chicago has had a dramatic decline from last year. According to Appraisal Research downtown developers had only 2,031 unsold condos at the end of the first quarter of this year. Number still seem high? Well compare it with the number from the same time last year; 4,182.

Due to the high demand of rentals many developers have changed their projects from condos to apartments. Also, many investor pools have bought blocks of condos from developers who are receiving pressure for their banks to come due on their construction loans. What does this mean for the condo market? Continued stabilization in prices.

Real Estate prices are mostly controlled by Supply & Demand. When there is over supply in the market, those who really need to sell lower their prices and this pulls the market downward. We cannot see stabilization in prices, until inventory levels increase, or demand increases to meet the levels of supply. Since Chicago is not seeing a mass influx of thousands of people a week typical buyer demand cannot be expected to soak up all the extra supply. Ironically, the intensified rental market has soaked up much of the supply, much more than many developers expected.

While there is still more inventory on the market than developers would like, it is a positive sign for those developers still holding many empty units.