Why your Realtor may be the biggest threat to you….

When I first obtained my real estate license in 2007 the real estate market was a very interesting place. The real estate market was teetering on the verge of collapse after a decade of record year over year gains in almost every market in the country.  If you had asked someone on the street if they knew a Realtor chances are they were one or someone standing right next to them was. Once the market crashed one of the best things happened to the real estate business; lots of real estate brokers got out. Many of these brokers were part time and couldn’t put enough deals together to pay their license dues let alone make a living. They went back to whatever jobs (or hobbies for the part time folks) they held before real estate boomed. The days of sitting one open house and picking up 5 new buyers were over. Reality quickly sunk in.

In recent years we’ve seen a resurgence in the housing market throughout the country; some markets stronger than others. We’ve also seen a resurgence in new real estate brokers. Shows such as Million Dollar Listing not only make the business look easy and lucrative, but they make it look “cool.” It has never been so “cool” to call yourself a broker. Everyone wants to pull up to lunch in a new Range Rover to meet a client. Sit outside on a Wednesday afternoon, sip a martini, and discuss the real estate market with a potential client. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Not only do I want to do that, I actually do it. I’ll also be frank. This business is relatively easy and lucrative. It has it’s fair amount of stress but that is what two martini lunches and happy hours are for. But at the end of the day there is a threat to our industry, to the real estate market, and to you the homeowner; that threat is some of us. Real estate brokers. The only reason why some of us may call the business “easy” is because we know what we’re doing.

Too easy to get licensed…

The barrier to entry into the real estate business is quite minimal. You take a class, you take a test, you pay some fees, and you’re in. Actually being successful in the business takes much more work but being good not in terms of sales volume, but in terms of protecting and advising your clients, takes experience, knowledge, and the ability to understand market forces that most people don’t possess.

I’ve seen countless people on social media dive into the real estate business. They then spend money on on-line advertising, magazine ads, and even someone to manage their social media profiles. They’ll start posting articles such as “What Today’s Fed Actions Mean for the Mortgage Market” but if you asked them what it meant they’d stare at you like a deer in the headlights. When you ask them about the real estate market they’ll quote something our association has sent out as a talking point “Next year Chicago is projected to be up 3%” but when you ask them specifically about the two bedroom luxury condo market in the Gold Coast you might get that deer in the headlights look again. They’ll talk up the real estate market to you and tell you why now is a wonderful time to buy, despite the fact they may not know what area you’d even be interested in buying in. Every day they’ll post photos of a new property they visited on a brokers open talking about how wonderful it is and how it is “gorgeous, stunning, amazing location” even though it might be on a desolate street bordering an industrial complex. These people are a threat to you.

You might be thinking these agents can’t survive in this business. They won’t make enough to sustain themselves and they’ll die out and move on to other things. But let me ask you this, how many people do you know who have bought homes actually interviewed their buyers agent? Conversely, how many people who have listed their homes for sale interviewed multiple agents? Why do people insist on interviewing listing brokers when they’ve already acquired the asset and the sales price is essentially set by the market, yet when it comes time to acquire an asset (their home) they’ll let almost anyone help them? After all, as the old saying goes,  you don’t make money when you sell, you make it when you buy.

So why do I mention all this and take the time to write about it? Am I against new brokers? Absolutely not. We all have to start somewhere. As a matter of fact part of my day to day job is training new brokers and mentoring existing ones. What I am against is stupidity. I’m not going to sugar coat it. I’m against people who quite frankly do not have any business being in my business. I’m not saying this because I’m afraid they’ll take business away from me personally. I’m saying this because their stupidity and apathy hurts you, the consumer which in turn tarnishes the Realtor brand and what we stand for and believe in.

As a broker it is our responsibility to educate ourselves to the fullest to protect our clients. It is our responsibility to be honest with our clients and not repeat sound bites we’ve heard only to make ourselves appear much more educated than we really are. Some of the clients we deal with are wealthy and their home is a small asset to them. However, most we work with, their home is their largest asset. It will be the largest purchase they make in their lifetime. The money they make from their home (or lose) may determine what age they retire, what college they can afford for their children….or bigger yet, how much stress they’ll have in their lives. We cannot control market forces, but we can do our best to educate our clients to help them make the best decision with the information available. That is what we’re here to do. That is our obligation above all else.

So if you’re in the market to buy or sell, or even to rent, be sure to work with someone who knows what they’re doing. A new agent may be a completely fine person to work with, but make sure they have the backing of a team or a partner with experience. Make sure they’re committed to their job, to understanding the market, and understanding economic forces in general. If you’re looking to buy a new home, interview multiple brokers just as if you were interviewing someone to sell your home. Because at the end of the day how you buy your home today will determine how good of an investment it really is.

Chicago Real Estate Market Condo Market Update!

Well, it is that time of year again. The season is changing which means it is time for me to send out my quarterly letter to my past and present clients. Here is what is being placed in the mail this weekend.

 

Chicago Real Estate Market Update

Fall is here. How will the real estate market react?

The spring and summer real estate market in Chicago was very interesting. Inventory levels were at record lows and buyers were coming out of the woodwork. Multiple offers became the new norm. Listings that sat on the market for more than a couple weeks were assumed to have something wrong with them. It felt like 2006 all over again!

While the market rebounded nicely this summer it was also nice to see that hysteria did not take hold. While many places sold for above list price with multiple offers there were still many places sitting on the market for months. Listings that have poor floor plans or were simply not in “ideal locations” still were not selling. While demand did pick up with great force, it did so with caution and common sense, something that was greatly lacking during the real estate boom. The new question is: Will this market continue as we head into the fall and winter season?

I believe the market will remain strong through the fall and winter mainly because inventory levels will remain low. While prices have increased year over year they have not increased enough for many people who purchased in 06 and 07 (the peak of the market) to cover their losses. While demand will remain high, I do believe we will see less multiple offers and less units selling at or above list price this fall and upcoming winter. There were many buyers who had been sitting on the sidelines for a while and many decided to take the plunge this past spring and summer. This surge of buyers in the market, coupled with rapidly depleting inventory, is what fueled the crazy buying frenzy we saw. I do believe strong demand will continue, just at a slower pace. This in turn should make a healthy market for both buyers and sellers as we enter 2014.

What is going on with interest rates?

Just in case you don’t follow the bond market much, interest rates have increased significantly over the past few months. Rates on a 30yr fixed went from the 3.7% range up to 4.8% and even higher. What caused this? As you may remember the fed starting pumping more money into the system….again! This time it was called QE3.  The fed did this by purchasing X amount of Mortgage Backed Securities each month which in turn pushed down interest rates to the crazy lows of 3.7% and 3.6% for a 30yr fixed. A few months ago the fed started running its mouth and said it may “taper” their bond buying; in other words buy less, if the economy continued to improve. Naturally the bond market freaked out and almost instantaneously started trading as if bond buying by the Fed was already screeching to a halt.  The Good News? The good news is the fed recently announced that they will continue their bond purchasing and will not “taper” for the time being. Long story short interest rates on 30yr fixed mortgages should start to hover around 4.25 to 4.5. At the time of me typing this letter rates are averaging around 4.37% APR for a 30yr fixed. Hopefully these rates will last into 2014.

What is going on with the rental market?

The rental market is still strong but I believe we have definitely hit a price ceiling. New inventory is starting to hit the market downtown and inventory levels will continue to increase through 2014 and even 2015 as new projects are announced on a weekly basis. I’ve personally noticed that market times for rentals have started to increase even in some of the most desirable neighborhoods and buildings. This does not yet mean we will see rents falling however, it does mean is we are at the peak of the rental hysteria that we have seen since 2011.

Is it a good time to buy or sell?

In typical realtor fashion I will say it is a good time to do both! What is most important, however, is to understand your goals and your time constraints. If you are a buyer in today’s market you need to understand that inventory is low. Therefore, you will likely not be able to find that perfect place in only 30days so be sure to budget plenty of time to find the right place. How much time? I would say budget at least 3 months plus 30 to 45 days to close.

If you are a seller now is a good time to test the market since inventory levels are low. Prices have increased year over year and should continue to do so. Keep in mind pricing has not sky rocketed, however, most areas of the city have weeded themselves of the pesky low priced short sales and foreclosures that were killing values and lender appraisals. While buyers are out in the market in full force they still do not want to over pay. Pricing your listing 20% above your competitor won’t get you any more money. If anything, it will only hurt you.

 

I hope you enjoyed the summer and enjoy the fall weather that is slowly falling upon us! As always if there is ever anything I can do for you, your friends, or your family please do not hesitate to reach out or pass along my name and number.

 

 Paul Blackburn is an Illinois Licensed Realtor and Broker with @ Properties in Chicago. He can always be reached on his cell or via e-mail at Paul@PKBlackburn.com  Also visit http://www.BuyingInChicago.com for information if you are a first time buyer in Chicago!

WATERVIEW TOWER – 111 W. Wacker Might be Apartments?

Photo by Stephen J. Serio - Crain's Chicago Business

All those who know downtown Chicago know the above building. The site that was once to be a 90 story luxury tower comprised of luxurious residents and the ever so sought after Shangri-la Hotel has been left only partially started. It has been an eyesore in the downtown landscape for more than 2 years. Several attempts to convert the building to a hotel and office space have failed and there is a new developer that is trying to step up to the plate to see if they can turn their plan for the building into Reality.

According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Related Midwest has signed a LOI (Letter of Intent) to enter into a joint venture agreement with the current owners of the property (the original developer’s creditors). Related has a plan for the 111 W. Wacker site that is now “all the rage.” Related would like to turn this site into apartments. The location is fantastic for such a building that it would appear to be a no brainer right? What is holding them back?

Two basic items: Financing and Construction. Converting any existing structure away from its original use can be very expensive. Related may look at the costs to convert this half started structure to apartments and simply walk away. Only research will tell. Secondly, financing can be a concern. While financing has opened up in the past 18 months, and especially so for apartment developers, it is still difficult to come by. Related, however, has an excellent track record and should have no problem obtaining financing. But, we have all heard that before.

What is shocking to me, are the amount of developers moving into apartments. Do you remember the boom times when every developer started building condos? Thousands were coming on-line…well we are seeing something similar here. Crain’s reports that three apartment buildings in the greater downtown area are currently under construction with another 11 in the planning stages. If all 14 projects are able to obtain financing and come to fruition, these buildings would mean that more than 5100 new apartments will hit the market. That is a relatively large number I think. I wonder if the current demand will be sustainable in order to absorb the massive influx of supply.

Since the beginning of 2009 more than 4000 units have alrady hit the market and demand has still outpaced supply. However, what is the tipping point and when will it tip? The big money doesn’t appear to see any end in site. 1 W. Superior place just sold for $320 Million, which equates to $396,000 per unit. The property was last sold in 2007 for $218 Million. Not a bad return in only 4 years huh?