Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Google Your Mom

I was visiting with my folks last weekend when I casually mentioned that I had recently Googled them on the internet. They had no idea what I was talking about. The more I tried to explain, the more glazed over their eyes became. They were born in the 1920's and although they do own a computer it's mostly used as a place to display PostIt notes for doctors appointments and grocery lists. The PostIt note--now thats an invention. I should also mention that they own a cell phone, too--the back of which has all their important numbers scotch taped to it. They may very well have never used it.

I bring this up because until a few years ago I wasn't too far ahead of them, technology-wise. I have a formal writing backgound of sorts, so word processing was my main reason for even owning a computer; that and sending and checking e-mails-- most of which were insignificant to my business. My wife bought me a laptop and made it wireless just so I could go into another room, I'm sure.

Today my business depends on technology. I visit the Grow-a-Brain website whenever I have a few free browsing minutes to spare. I posted three articles on Digg this week alone: You're So Dirty Mr Congressman, Buyers Market? Only If You're Actually Buying!, and just to be in the spirit of things, Top 10 Haunted Cribs In America. I just write the titles and a catchy intro for each--the actual articles are hyperlinked from another cache of sources I'm linked to (Bloglines) then posted on a site a couple zillion people a day look at if even for a fleeting moment. But Google likes this and as a result, makes me more important in some obscure technical category I couldn't begin to explain.

My Treo 700 PDA and I have a friendship akin to a pet owner and his master. (And sometimes yes, the tail does indeed wag the dog!) I often find myself struggling with my assumed Alpha role in this particular relationship. When the darn thing refuses to obey or becomes tempermental, I'm instantly rendered helpless or at the very least, needy. OMG.

I need to be in constant contact with my business and have 24 hour access to my e-mails and internet activity. I need to know immediately when I'm pinged. I have to be prepared to ping(Technorati) or respond to new Haloscan comments in quick fashion. I try to refrain myself from stalking the Statcounter numbers but the web moves at such a frantic pace that both information and consumer curiosity need to be handled at once lest they become stale and dissolve forever into invisible hyperspace particles or at the very least, something technologically equivalent to nothing.

Its ironic that something as seemingly cold and impersonal as raw imformational data entered on a search engine from a relocation buyer 2,000 miles away can lead to something as warm and satisfying as a committed agent/client relationship. But it does. My potential clients today know much more about me from the initial contact than anyone I ever cold called on the phone, farmed by direct mail or even met in person at an open house.

With a few simple keystrokes anyone can investigate my professional background and even see what I look like... Put quotation marks around my name and they can take an even closer look. I instruct strangers and open house visitors these days to Google me as I hand them my business card. The internet is always streaming and expanding so on some level--on many levels!-- I'm always open for business.

Oh, and by the way, Google had one mention of my parents. It was the amount of money they contributed to their parish in 2005. Good thing my wife nudged me under the table and changed the subject to the safest of all subjects--the weather. Now that put a sparkle in the old man's eyes.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Million Dollar Boo Boo?

What was once so so hot is apparently now just not. The Bravo! Channel's newest reality baby, 'Million Dollar Listing' may be only be crawling into a second season--with a little luck. The west coast market has sputtered to an even slower crawl (even with the likes of Downtown Scotty Brown!) since the original concept was developed earlier in the season. Its probably just a burp in the market but The Trib picked up the following story from the NYT News Wire, nonetheless.

Can Real Estate Shows Survive Housing Slump?

And I have to say...they did make it look a little too easy to make a hundred grand a pop on a weekly basis. Hard times in Malibu?
Can't say for sure but Chicago's hanging tough.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stay Ahead Of The Curve My Friends

I read, or at least peruse on a daily basis, most relevant published articles concerning Chicago Real Estate--both the positive and the not so rosy. I subscribe to a dozen or so RSS feeds that are Real Estate centered and pull from the best independant and syndicated articles in the media. The Nakedrepublic.com is by anyone's measure one of the more pessimistic reporters of Real Estate trends but occasionally even they can't help but let a little bit of sunshine sneak through the crack beneath the door. They have published my postings in the past so I refer back to them on occasion if for no other reason than to protest.

Anyway, today's article-- pulled from an earlier Chicago Tribune article-- points out the usual market indicators (sales down from last year, etc) but definitely leaves our present housing scenario open to interpretation. You have to look closely for the good news but its definitely there--albeit between the lines but I can see it pretty clearly. Take a look for yourself.

Note a few of the comments in the referenced article: a) "Chicago-area condo sales were off 18.7 percent in September, though the median price was up 2.5 percent compared with the year earlier.... The median for a single-family home remained steady in the nine-county area declinlng $1,000 from last year’s median..." (18.7% off is another way to say 91.3% of, the way I look at it. And $1,000 either way on a median price of around $300,000 is insignificant)

And b)

“The sellers in Chicago are very stubborn,” said David Lereah, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. “They’re not bringing their prices down....”

Davids right. We're like the Chicago Bears Defense! We don't collapse and give in because its the latest word on the street. Negotiate? Three yards and a cloud of dust, as they say but sure--by all means. Let the games begin.

But give it away?...Slash our prices?...Roll over or take a dive? I don't think so. The Real Estate market (like all financial markets) does not stay put for long or move in a straight line in any direction for that matter. There's always a little bit of curve and I like to stay just in front of it. I don't immediately default to a price reduction when a property isnt moving nor does my Managing Broker. Its just the way I was shown the business.

Oh, and p.s....I came across this by ChitownLiving via Outside.InRSS
As I've been saying for some time now, as long as there's a higher and better use for a piece of land Development is sure to follow. And its not just here...check out what Ardell has to say in Seattle. Its called progress people!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

We Love Our 'Hoods

More so than in any place I've lived--and I've lived in a lot of places (Philadelphia, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Richmond, and even Slippery Rock!), Chicagoans are the most adamant when it comes to the subject of neighborhoods.
The Chicagoist recently ran this piece:

So Where You Living Now?

pretty true...

Oh yeah, and for an added treat click here for some local humor courtesy of Sean Parnell.

picture courtesy bobmeyers.com

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Boot This...

A typical Saturday for me goes something like this: First client pick up at 8:45AM in say, the Gold Coast followed immediately by a tour of six or seven properties along the drive to Lincoln Park. With a coffee break or two in between and allowing time in between showings for traffic, parking and tardiness (of the other agents!), I should be done and ready for my second client by 1:00PM. Same scenario for the afternoon perhaps covering Bucktown and Wicker Park or Andersonville. Total summary at the end of the day: twelve to fifteen properties shown, several neighborhoods covered, hopefully an offer (maybe two) submitted, and really hopefully no tickets, towing episodes or Boots!

On a busy Saturday in Chicago, one parks wherever one can--often times in the best illegal parking space available (although the really good illegal ones are usually already taken by other urban poachers.) The Chicagoist ran an article recently about a new twist on an old ritual--getting the darn thing off once they got you.

We Realtors know its a cat and mouse game. Sometimes the mouse gets snared, sometimes the mouse gets to live another day. Fine. Its more about time than money when many different peoples schedules are at risk. I always carry enough cash on me to take a cab for the rest of the day if needed and deboot or pick up the towed vehicle at the end of the day. Take my car if you must, fine me if you have to, but please just do it in a timely fashion! I have property to sell.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Divine Intersection

My Managing Broker and I were driving the streets of North Side Chicago last week when a new wrinkle in the emerging urban landscape suddenly became apparent. As we sat at a traffic signal he pointed it out; not only are most available residential corners dotted with scores of Starbucks, new first floor commercial storefronts (with condos above) and gourmet food shops, the major intersections are now developing into "Gateways" to these new Chicago neighborhoods.

These communities were ripe for gentrification when the New Construction trend started over a decade ago. A lot of the turn of the century housing stock needed razing anyway having already outlived its useful purpose. Simply put, there's not much architectual value or consumer interest in hundred year old 'lean tos' much less several city blocks of them. The demographic change was set in motion. The long time working class neighborhoods were quickly evolving into something more affluent, specifically in the corridor between Ashland and Western from Bucktown to North Center.

Fast forward to today: There are fewer and fewer residential lots available. The majority of buildings that aren't already torn down and rebuilt on have been sensibly, if not lovingly renovated. The residential streets have already turned the corner so to speak. Now the localized commercial boom is following suit.

Beautiful brick and mortar bank structures are quickly appearing where old gas stations once stood. Old Style beer gardens have been replaced by chic cafes and eateries. Renovated El stations, new black painted lamp posts and "Boulevard" status parkways with landscaped median strips seem to invite you home as you patiently wait for the traffic light to change. Even the signal itself has a new sleek design.

Check it out: Ashland and Diversey heading west...Lincoln/Belmont/Ashland in any direction...Damen and Diversey heading east...Clybourn and Fullerton...Division and Damen...Armitage and Damen and so forth..... The upscale Condominium and Single Family Homeowners are now getting what they need to insure continued appreciation and desirabilty for resale--the transition of "lower use" anchor corners into "higher and better use" development projects. Washington Mutual, Fifth Third Bank,Whole Foods--IN...BP, Vienna Beef, Currency Exchange--OUT. These newly defined areas need their own vibrant micro-economies and the tone is being set at the major intersections.

To be sure, Chicago is a very big city with literally hundreds of communities. Many of its neighborhoods have remained the same or changed very little throughout the years. There are several historic areas that do not allow for development at all. There are Chicago Bungalow neighborhoods and Landmark Districts that I don't believe will ever change. These areas have a solid base of existing dwellings and their own local economies. Change is going to happen where change is ready to happen.

So what if one day you need a change from the usual soy latte and you awake with a taste for something that isnt organically grown? You simply walk to your three car garage, jump into your Hybrid and drive two or three neighborhoods away for an RC and original Italian Beef. After all, this is the "city of neighborhoods" and that my friends, will never change.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Moving Tips and Sage Advice

What You Need To Know About Moving

Kiplinger Archives

"Don't throw darts at the Yellow Page and get bids from at least three companies..."

Oh yeah, and don't ask your friends to help. My basic response is "I'm 50 years old, here's a hundred bucks

Monday, October 09, 2006

Return On Investment

Below is an interesting piece from Kiplinger:

What's the Payoff for Remodeling?

With luck, you could recover 86% or more of your cost.

Remodeling projects are enticing investments. You get to play the Iron Chef in a new, modern kitchen or pamper yourself in a spa-style bathroom, then recoup your money when you sell your house. In fact, anticipating that payback is often a driving force in convincing yourself—or your spouse—that a project is worth the money. But how much return can you count on?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Stuff You Gotta (Otta) Know!

Where Oprah lives and other bits of info

RedEye Sets The Record Straight
On 13 Local Myths and Mysteries

By Kyra Kyles
Published September 27, 2006

Did Mrs. O'Leary's cow really burn the city to a crisp?

What exactly is the Cubs' curse?

Why does the Chicago River run backward?

Where does Oprah really live?

In an article I recently read, the RedEye "picked the brains of several local historians and sports experts" to dig into the truth behind several Chicago based myths and rumors. I'm not originally from here so anything about the history of this great city intrigues me--and makes me look like a historical genius in the eyes of my visiting friends and relatives!

Tribune contributed.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Correct Pricing in the Present Market

This is a rewrite of an earlier blog I posted in an earlier sales cycle. I am of the opinion that now is not the time for Chicago Sellers to be "testing" the market. Hovering above correct pricing hoping to "see what happens" only makes for agonizing market time, frustration and interesting fodder for less optimistic writings than this. (Nakedrepublic.com for one) To be sure, there are still hundreds of transactions a week occuring in Chicago.

When an overpriced property goes New on the market three things are immediately set into motion. The first one is Market Time. The clock starts ticking on the first day and continues until Expiration, Cancellation or Closing.

The second thing is the New property is placed in a category of similar priced properties--many of which are correctly priced and thus--superior in the eyes of the Buyer. Its not unusual for even a correctly priced property to stay on the market for upwards of thirty days.

But probably the most important thing that occurs is the loss of the real potential Buyer. The overpriced property is "off his radar" and this results in it not even being seen. By the time the inevitable Price Reduction occurs, the potential Buyer has already purchased. And it may not just be one or two lost Buyers.

An experienced Realtor will strongly advise against being too aggresive in a static market as far as price is concerned. The time of just taking the listing to test the market is in the past, or at the very least, not in the present. There are still many points to negotiate in a contract such as tax prorations, closing cost credits and total earnest money held in escrow. What may seem like a concession in price in the beginning may actually net a higher bottom line at closing when the monthly carrying costs associated with a lengthy market time are reduced.