Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Geno From Chicago 2008

My "Best of" Blog Posts for 2008 from across the internet can be found at:

Geno From Chicago

(Comments have been Disabled but links to all original posts are live.)

Geno Petro

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That's a Wrap...

To Chicago, the free world, and beyond:

I just posted my final 2008 piece on Bloodhound Blog for the year. Check it out with your morning coffee. It's a little strong so you may need some sugar. They don't call me 'Doppio' for nothing...or at least that's how I think they've been spelling it. And as an added bonus, I actually make mention of 'real estate' in this one.

Simple Peace, if not true and everlasting Love, to you all in 2009,


image is Chicago through a dirty windshield on LSD

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wish List: pick-up truck, house trailer, forgiveness...

Driving downstate through an ice storm this past week allowed me many quiet white-out hours to ponder my own, unfulfilled, Life's wish list. The cosmic notion hit me just about the time we pulled into Effingham, Illinois (love the name, Effingham---consider: "Honey, I'm sick of that Effing-ham. How 'bout some Effing-turkey instead this Christmas?") some 240 miles and 8 crawling hours south of our bittersweet home in sub-zero, salt mottled Chicago. We settled down for the cold winter's night at a Comfort Inn and dined on some warm gruel at TGI FRIDAY'S before awaking, early and rested, on Day Two to resume our annual Christmas pilgrimage to Tennessee and all gifts sweet and southern.

Next stop on the GPS, Metropolis: 'Home of the Giant Superman Statue.' We had been meaning to check out this giant statue for several years now but always took a pass in an effort to make better travel time. Perhaps this day would finally be.... 'the day' we threw haste to the wind and dropped in on the Caped Crusader and that whole cast of characters. Wait...maybe that's Gotham. Hmmm... Oh well, in the end it really didn't matter.

In a fleeting moment of clarity, I realized that all I ever really desire in this fair and unbalanced world is what everybody else around me has. I could learn to be content with just that, I supposed. The key to this mental metacafe, I concluded, lies not so much in the 'What'... but in the 'Where.' I want what everyone around me has as long as it's: on the Right Bank of Paris; on the Upper East Side of NYC; on a tropical beach... in the Tropics! So in the case of Metropolis, Illinois, this would compute to a comfortable house to decorate for the holidays, a pick-up truck, and a secure assistant-middle-management job at the Big John Supermarket in town.

My wife and I, forever pondering the myriad of future retirement options, always seem to pose the same question whenever we find ourselves in a new spot far, far away from Chicago: "Think we could live here?" We look around, pause...and usually continue on in silence. Truth is, we generally don't fit in. And this day is no different. We quietly pulled up to the Metropolis town square in the BMW and got out to stretch our legs. As advertised, there stood a statue of Superman, although whether it is 'GIANT' or not is arguable.

All things equal, the Big John statue at the Big John Supermarket across the street is much taller and more muscular for my money. But I'm an outsider. What do I know? Some teenaged locals were giving me a hard local look from the next pick-up truck over as I framed my iPhone camera upward for some tourist shots. One of them proclaimed, "That's a pretty big dog to be haulin' around in that fancy ve-hic-le."

I looked over my shoulder and observed our overfed pampered pet sitting upright on his own heated backseat with a jingle belled Santa collar around his neck, panting out the window. The locals had two very lean, growling pitbulls with rusty spike collars chained to the side rail of their flat bed. I looked back up at the two statues towering above and tried to remember the last time someone picked a fight with me. I attempted to mentally recall some of my karate moves but to no avail. I have a black belt laying around the house somewhere, I remember. I wondered if it was still good, praying for muscle memory. Another life, sadly. Really need to get back in shape...clean out the basement...did I unplug the coffee pot?...what was I just saying?...

"Where do you get parts for that?" another big farm boy asked, pulling me back into the Metropolis moment.

Hmmm. Good question. If I answered "at the BMW shop" someone was going to take a swing at me and let the dogs loose for sure.

"Its not mine," I finally say. "I just stole it. Wanna buy it? 30 grand. Cache." Smiling. Thank God I was wearing my sunglasses and skull cap. No more words were exchanged between the humans although the collective hounds continued giving each other the city/country stink eye for several awkward seconds.

I snapped a few shots, jumped back in the fancy ve-hic-le, and headed toward the interstate wondering how long I'd even survive in a short sleeve white shirt and clip-on tie, assistant-managing such indigenous folk. Maybe the retail food industry is not for me after all, I concluded. I pictured me and Big John eventually butting heads somewhere down my second career line and dismissed the fantasy altogether. "You can scratch Metropolis off the retirement list," I said. And although Mona would have made a pretty hot Superwoman, she didn't seem too disappointed with my executive decision (although just between us, she is faster than any speeding Bloomingdale's shopper I've ever met).

Upon reaching our peaceful and rolling hilled destination of northwestern Tennessee, we tossed around the benefits of good country living for two days and ate like fatted calves like we always do in this bucolic family setting. My father-in-law once again reminded me exactly how much real estate I'd need to sell in Dyer County to make a comfortable living. We've had this conversation often. The conclusion is always the same. A lot...of real estate, that is.

Mere price point alone dictates that selling houses and condos in Chicago assures at least a modicum of success for a Realtor compared to the deflated, slow moving housing market of this rural section of the Economy. Still, townsfolk sit around the local eatery, Toot-'n-Tell-It, and discuss the future of America as they see it. 'Goodyear's laying off. No acorns this year. Lot's of pecans, though...' The parking lot is full (as it is on every occasion I've been there) and the local, flannel shirted workers chew on the three square fat over black coffee and pie, everyday except Sunday.

Funny. The Chevrolet dealership in town is boarded up. Goodyear down the road is rumored to be laying off soon. GM, on a national level, is about to crash, but Toot-'n-Tell-It in Dyer, Tennessee is still packing them in and slinging hash morning, noon and night.

"If we retire here we could sell the BMW, buy a trailer and you could get a job waitressing," I said as we pulled into the parking lot full of pick-up trucks for one last stop before hitting the road for good after a most pleasant Christmas visit. My wife just looked at me. The passenger compartment smelled like dog and pecan pie. We'd been in the ve-hic-le hundreds of hours and traveled thousands of miles through storms of biblical proportions these past several days. And now we were about to embark on the final leg of our Christmas journey; the 492 foggy miles straight home to Chicago. No stopping; Effingham, Metropolis, and now Dyer, soon to be mere holiday memories left behind...

"Where do we get parts for this thing?" she asked, as we idled in front of Toot-'n-Tell-It for the final time this trip.

"I don't know. Not the Chevy dealership, that's for sure," I said.

"Why don't you go inside and ask someone?" she asked.

And I would have but I still couldn't remember if I had an actual Black Belt designation or not. I reached into the backseat and took the ridiculous collar off my dog before he got us both beat up, set the navigation, and waited for a signal, before pulling away. "TURN LEFT. 100 FEET," it instructed.

"Real men down here use compasses," Mona said, as we pulled onto Route 45 North, still pissed about the waitress comment.

"Yes," I said, as I adjusted my power seat and fastened my safety belt. "And their wives keep the trailer nice and clean, I'm told." as I quickly added Forgiveness to the list...

Geno Petro

images via iPhone

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like...

To: All

Believe me, I'm feeling you. Who (besides most grandparents and myself) really cares about receiving other people's family pictures on Holiday Greeting cards? It seems instead of Hallmark illustrated Santas in Santaland or Winters in Wonderland, the way to roll on the Christmas cover anymore is straight from the digital files of the household hard drive: Happy Holidays from the Holihans in Hawaii! (on the beach), or Merry Merry from Murray and Mary in MuckityMuck! (in matching reindeer sweaters by the hearth), or Rappy Rolidays rum Rover! (in antlers and fluffy white neckwear).

And whether the photoshopped families are adorned in swimwear, sweaters, or slobbery scarves, it's almost always about the Sender and not the Receiver. Or so I've heard. Lucky for us, the two Christmas cards we received so far this year clearly came from a box of 25 others just like them. We use them as coffee cup coasters instead of lining them up on a mantle or stringing them across the room. Like I mentioned, two cards total this season. (I'm secretly hoping to break our record of six total from last year.)

And this is because two is exactly two more than we have ever sent out ourselves, total, since we were married 7 years ago. The first year the cheer just kept on coming, 50 or 60 cards at least. Year two, as well. Then, recessionary numbers were reported in years 3 through 5 with a dramatic supply-side drop-off in year 6. And this year only two. One from my parents. One from my daughter. Oh, and one from the housekeeper with something written in Polish, either Merry Christmas or I Quit!, I imagine. Either way, it was one of those money holder cards but there was no money in it. Gee....I winter wonder what that means? (I don't count Christmas cards in the tally that I receive but actually have to put a check in and hand back.)

To be honest, we still exchange gifts with our inner circle and dearest loved ones and to be fair, Merry Christmas To: and From: is usually printed on the tag or wrapping paper somewhere. I don't count these as cards although the thought (and gift) is certainly there. You really can't set a cup of coffee on a To: and From: tag. And they look very silly strung across the living room, as well. Or lined up on the mantle, for that matter.

I heard someone comment recently that receiving a Christmas card with someone elses family vacation picture on the cover is kind of like receiving a Birthday card with a picture of the Sender on the cover. Especially when it is 5 degrees below zero outside and the Holihans are hanging 5 at the 21st Parallel. And really especially if they lost weight. Get my snow drift? Same goes for the family pet. However, take a peek at the very top of this post and tell me, is that not cute or what?

Merry, Happy, Cheer, and Joy to all and to all...let's get this year over with already!

Peace, too

From: The Petros

image: Oscar on a box, under the tree.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why I Should Pay My Mortgage: Reason #23

When my mostly white galoot of a hound goes galloping across the side yard as I stand watching--coffee cup already clutched and brimming--through the toastier side of the veranda picture window in my boxers and nightcap, all I can make out through the Chicago pre-dawn snowscape is a snout and three brown spots darting from pine to pine. We both know it's sub-zero outside but the animal has his own morning ritual--a personal call to duty marking his American Bulldog territory in chemical union with the less domesticated denizens of the adjoining Cook County Forest Preserve; racoons, possums, gophers and such. Basically, they just pee all over each other.

The truth be known, this is one of the main reasons I begged my wife to buy the house in the first place. I love my dog. I hate walking him in the winter. I no longer have the patience or thermal body make-up to dawdle from tree to tree to and back again on my end of the leash, waiting...anticipating...begging..."Elvis, take a dump already! I'm freezing!" He's on dog time. He does what he has to do, when he has to do it. No sooner, no later.

Forest Glen
, as I've written many times before, is a bucolic little alcove tucked in a residential nook between the Milwaukee District North Metra tracks and the North Branch of the Chicago River. We love it here. We are demographically in the city of Chicago but mentally in Mayberry RFD, or at least this is what I'm told by our more urbane, fairer weather Lincoln Park/Old Town acquaintances. It's a 22 minute train ride to Union Station and a 22 second walk to Nature. It's where a guy can stand at the window in his boxer shorts and nightcap watching his dog walk himself at 5:45 AM. And it's the best and only reason I can think of today to get dressed, drive to the Bank of America branch on Clybourn and North Avenues, and make my December mortgage payment, which, by the way, is about the price of two round-trip Business Class tickets to Rome. Every month. Go figure...then again, don't bother. We all have our own financial beasts of burden to, well...burden

"Elvis...HURRY UP!!!" I yell through the frosted window as he sniffs around for the perfect spot, still putzing. He is such a putzer, that dog; definitely not built for condominium living, that's for sure. Not in the dead of winter anyway, which like I said, is one of the main reasons I put a contract on this house to begin with. After this month's payment we only have 345 more to go. That's 28 3/4 years. I'll be 81 and Elvis will be 35 (245 in dog years). Mona, of course, will still be 37. I should have done the math, I suppose, but I didn't. I follow my heart, not my accountant's advice; always have, never will. Besides, we're dead for a long time I've heard...

Geno Petro

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chicago Readers...Hark!

Greetings to all you Chicago's Home Weblog readers, fellow real estate bloggers, internet insomniacs, on-the-clock Facebook addicts, disappointed Illinois constituents, Obama chanting optimists, run-of-the-mill blogosphereans (yeah, I made it up) and everyone else electronically cyber-chained to their work-space cubicles: I just posted on BloodhoundBlog. Click below for my latest essay:


(ps...they tell me its at least humorous, if not entirely factual)

Geno Petro

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Temporary Housing

"We build sand castles," a sales manager once told me. "When it comes to recruiting and developing a team you have to remember that a third are coming, a third are going, and a third are making up their minds..." Ironically, I happened to be one of those 'going' at the time.

The same holds true with home sales in Chicago today. Lenders are sorting through stacks of mortgage re-work files on ivory tower credenzas deciding (arbitrarily it seems) which deals to stick with and which deals to send off to the oyster shucker. I have a condo buyer who, when we first spoke back in August, only wanted to look at Short Sales and Foreclosures. His latest Text to me this morning pinged the following urgent message: NO MORE SHT SALES. NO MORE 4CLOSURES. NO MORE PAIN. We lost another one at the witching hour. I looked in my briefcase and pulled out four different Initial Earnest money checks with his signature. I wrote VOID, too, on the latest example.

The housing market, as we know it today, is subject to the winds and tides of economic change--- both globally and locally. My advice: Determine the safest distance from the tsunami and then make an Offer. Oh yeah, bring plenty of supplies and don't bother glancing at your timepiece, either. Remember, we're on Island Time (not Chicago time) now and waiting for a quick answer, like swilling warm sea water or staring into the eclipse, will only drive you insane (or at least that's what the nuns used to say). When the Sun does re-appear (one day soon I predict), those who purchased at low tide will be the king and queen crabs of the sandy 'hood, taking those long, romantic walks on the beach, hand in claw...or something along those metaphoric lines.

image taken from my iPhone on Captiva Island last Monday

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chicago's Top Ten Real Estate Deals

Check out Dennis Rodkin's latest Deal Estate piece to see my new Top Ten Real Estate Deals in Chicago blog. I am the Chicago 'concierge' (je suis) for the nationally syndicated Top 10 Real Estate Deals which features, you guessed it... the Top Ten Condo & Luxury Real Estate Deals in major housing markets across the country. (And people complain about how hard the state licensing exam is...)

And while the business of actually buying and selling property is as challenging as it has ever been in recent years, there are still bargains to be found (and had). You just have to know where to look and from whom to seek your advice (ahem...). Oh yes, and remember the sage words of Joe Pinto, my Managing Broker/Owner at Chicago Home Estates, "It's only a buyer's market if you're actually buying."

Meanwhile, Mona and I are off to Captiva Island, Florida until next week. That is, if we don't get snowed in tonight. I need some natural Vitamin D from our nearest star to bronze up the winter pallor.

Geno Petro

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh this so sux

Quick cosmic question for the odd Augustan poet out there: Exactly which Circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno can Chicago in the wintertime be found? I awoke at dawn this day only to discover a 3 inch blanket of ice and cinder covering my usually (6 months a year) bucolic parkway. Neither household pet would go near the veranda doors although bladders and curious minds were certainly brimming (my first morning chore regardless of climate, animal relief). The coffee tasted flat and the radiators in the house were clinking like a fleet of old tin lizzies. Oh...and it was garbage day--cans by the curb. (Minor household repairs, coffee and trash--also my chores.)

A month or so before I relocated to Chicago back in 1995 I was under the (wrong) impression that I'd soon be moving to Delray Beach, Florida. It was sort of a company transfer thing and my options (a direct order from my vice president) were limited (nonexistent). I had already resigned from my established position--and been replaced--in Virginia (beautiful 11 months a year) and was awaiting my turn in the corporate re-organization queue (take it or leave it) of a Fortune 500 insurance giant (with a very small unFortunate--the giant, that is--wiener). I pissed someone off upstairs (go figure) then suddenly, one day, they shoveled me off to Chicago instead of Delray and the rest is deep frozen history (the other 6 months a year here). So today I stand before the frosted window, 13 years to that fateful day later, wondering...once again...WTF???

"Where's your winter coat?" People would often ask me during those first few seasons in this, the windiest of all frozen cities.

"This is my winter coat," I'd reply, teeth chattering, ears frozen, eyes watering from behind my Ray Bans.

"That's not a winter coat," they'd parry. "That's a Members Only jacket."

"It goes with my boots," I'd say, looking down at my thin soled, Italian leather, hand crafted slip ons---mortally soaked and stained with cinder and salt, my skinned head uncovered as well.

"Those aren't boots," they'd declare before pointing down to their own buckskin and fur lined knee highs with Gore-Tex outers and Vibram soles, "These are boots!...And where's your hat?"

And so it continued until I got a real estate license and purchased my first condo in this incongruous love/hate city of soot and sparkle. I met the woman I'd eventually (instantly) love and marry and she would then forever after buy me hats and coats and boots til death does its part. And now, on any given day from December through April, I look like a duck hunter roaming the streets of the big city for my next meal. So on this, the onset of my 14th year in Chicago, I must once again ask to whomever might be listening....."WTF? Exactly which Circle of Hell..........."

Geno Petro

(image is not my car but if it was, I doubt I'd bother washing it either)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday Pix in Chicago

Marina Towers at 300 N. State Street...on a mission from God (via the House of Blues).

Bucket Drummers outside Marshall Field's (okay, Macy's) on South State Street.

Glad I kicked the habits. At 2 packs a day and a lottery ticket, I was smoking up a BMW lease payment every month.

I think I need more info before I comment further...

Geno Petro

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lights, Camera...Cut

Let's see...there was the time I was 'cast' in an independent film and broadcasted to everyone in the free world that I was going to be in a "MOVIE," possibly even Sundance, only to never hear from the casting director again. That wasn't too embarrassing. I mean let's face it, I have degrees in both Theater and English but have to sell real estate in Chicago to make a legitimate living. Lord only knows what my net/self worth would look like if I were forced to sell real estate (or act on stage) in some place like...say, Minot, North Dakota.

And of course, there was the time I jumped up off my sandy blanket after drinking cocktails all day in the sun screaming, "Sharks! SHARKS!" on a crowded beach in Nag's Head, North Carolina, only to learn, very soon thereafter, that the dorsal finned illusions were actually a school of snub-nosed dolphins. That was fun to be reminded of every summer vacation for a decade.

And most recently, last night to be precise, there was The Food Network show that Mona and I so didn't appear on. This is after ruffling more than a few feathers with one of my more widely read tongue-in-cheekers in recent months. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone thinks I'm funny. At least, none of my wife's friends do. Not anymore. Nor, apparently, did the post production folks at DD&D. Fine.

So instead of making the usual Thanksgiving rounds this Thursday to those in our once too close social circle of ex-BFFs, Mona and I will be dining in seclusion at David Burke's Primehouse in The James Hotel. And if a camera crew just happens to walk in and stick a boom in our face with the videotape rolling, you'll never hear a peep out of me. That is unless, of course, Mona doesn't come up with her half of the bill.

image by


Monday, November 24, 2008

Chicago on the Fly

The Kennedy Heading in...


Lathrop Homes on Clybourn

Metra Tracks at Mayfair

Under The Edens

Geno Petro

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chicago (and Ms Mona) Comin' to the Food Network

(me, too. me, too...)

Okay, this is going to be fun. It's one of those stories I sometimes get accused of making up but honest to Pete, it's almost entirely true. And although this is a fish story of sorts, it's not the kind you're probably expecting. It is, however, a 'keeper' in my yet to be written book of tall, if not historically accurate, tales.

A few months back a close friend of my lovely Mona's called the house and invited us out to a 'group get together' at Glenn's Diner in Ravenswood. I happen to like Glenn's but not nearly as much as I dislike 'group get-togethers.' I dislike them so much I insist on putting quotation 'glyphs' around the very phrase. Glenn, a close friend of our close friend, is the proprietor of one of the hottest fresh fish joints on the North Side of Chicago. He had just been booked for a feature on The Food Network's 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' and requested our attendance for the shoot date. This 'group' he was assembling was to help provide the basic background noise, scenery, and some local neighborhood color to the filming. But since none in our invited party actually live in that particular neighborhood, and since it was one of those after work kind of 'get-togethers' (which I really dislike), and since we were all battling the same late Friday afternoon Chicago rush hour traffic coming from different directions of the city by car to get there on time; because of all these reasons...and then some... our entire table was late when the scheduled shoot time was upon us. Quite late, in fact, according to cell phone records.

As I was serpentining (flying over speed bumps) eastward and southward through every shortcut alley I know on the north west side of this bumper to bungalow speed bump ridden city, the little 6 year girl in my back seat (our friend's otherwise charming and precious daughter) was getting...well, a little queasy. Maybe queasy isn't the right word. She was getting car-sick. Actually, car-sick isn't even the right word. She was throwing-up all over my back seat is what she was doing. That's the right word. Throwing-up. And I'm putting it as nicely as I can recall (which is every time I reach into the back seat for something) even these months later.

Sooo...we were terribly late for our reservation, the crew had been filming around our empty table for an hour, people were standing in line to get in, and the back of my neck was... wet. Maybe wet isn't the right word. Whatever, I wasn't exactly in the mood for fish as I barreled down the final side street, hit the air brakes, and emptied my carload of 'get-togetherers' out on the curb in front of the restaurant. I spotted a Good Will Drop-Off dumpster in the alley under the El tracks at Montrose Avenue (Go ahead, drive by. It's there) that was brimming with donated clothing, and quickly tore off in that direction, doors still ajar. I threw the SUV in PARK, jumped out, and grabbed a few torn summer dresses and a Van Huesen button down shirt from the top of the over flowing charity heap.

I proceeded to wipe down the back seat with my new found tax deductible evidence; make that the back seat, both back doors, the headliner, seat belts, the little things you click the seat belts into, windows, headrests, carpets, mats, briefcase, glove box, CD collection, Open House brochures...It was all just kind of smearing, if you know what I'm saying.

I frantically (good word) looked around until finally spotting a garden hose in the backyard of a Two-Flat but the chain link fence had a Beware of Dog sign on in. And since I was now very possibly reeking of whatever that child ate for lunch that day, I thought better of throwing my hat in that particular back yard, ass biting, proverbial ring and considered Plan B. ( Let me say right now that the scene from 'Pulp Fiction' where The Wolf gets Vincent Vega and Jules to totally 'clean' a back seat in Jimmie's garage before Bonnie gets home in 20 minutes is, well...pulp fiction.)

So I reached back up into the Drop-Off and grabbed another soiled rag, this time a double knit pant suit that smelled worse than the back seat of my Bimmer. I soaked it in a puddle of muddy water that had been stagnating under the El tracks since the last rainfall and sopped up as much as I could considering my tattered resources. I then circled the block four times before finding a semi-legal parking space. I parked the vehicle leaving it unlocked with the windows and sunroof wide open, just hoping an unsuspecting car thief would stick his snout inside.

I walked coolly into the restaurant some 40 minutes after splash down and gave the waitress my order. Fish. Yuck. Everyone else was already on their second cocktail. And I, being the lifetime designated driver for such (and all) 'get-togethers' from now until my last sober breath on this Earth is exhaled, ordered my fifth and final coffee of the day. A little wired... Ya think?

Of course, the camera immediately zooms in on Mona and they ask her all the good Food Network fish questions about her dinner, and the flavor, and how it compares with fish from Hawaii, and the wine pairing, and all these other 'foodie' (hate the word) things. She answers and beams with such a sweet southern accent you have to smile. Meanwhile, they don't ask me anything although I'm pretty sure the camera that was stuck in my own silent face half the time caught me almost choking on a fish bone as I was staring down the six year old across the table, war now declared. Anyway, if you watch the show this Monday night, I'm the one in the blue floppy hat that isn't smiling.

So the dinner tasted like fish, which is good I suppose since it is the best fish joint in Chicago, but then another couple (who I never met before) sat down and more food and drinks were ordered and then, as quickly as it all began, the action was cut, the lights dimmed and the final check was presented. Silly me. I thought it was all going to be free.

But instead...the bill was almost $500 with tax and tip (which in Chicago is over 30% combined and another post for another morning). I barely knew half of those 'getting-together' that evening so the final math (division of who ate--and didn't eat--what, and who drank the most--not me--and who just came for dessert, blah, blah, blah) was excruciating. Several of us pulled out credit cards then were immediately informed that the check couldn't be spread over more than two cards. And that they didn't take American Express, which I was holding out in my hand like I was hailing a taxi cab in Montana. No takers. My lucky night continued. Priceless.

The two strangers (to me) got up hit the ATM a block away for some much needed cash but one of them never came back. Thirty minutes later we still hadn't resolved the bill and it was getting embarrassing. No embarrassing isn't the right description. Humiliating is better. Actually, humiliating and pissed-off is most accurate. And sobering (for me, that is). Luckily for everyone (including Glenn, I suppose) the members of the film crew had packed away the cameras, struck the set, and were already bellying up and throwing back at the bar, having their own 'get together.'

Glenn, the gentleman proprietor that he is, stepped up and quickly whacked a hundred off the bill (and his profit, I'm sure) but by this point my mind and the evening were both quickly dulling. My wife, however, was glowing. She is soon to be a Food Network star, at least in our own household kitchen, where Channel 72 is the only programming ever on that particular screen.

You can see her (and the rest of the above mentioned cast of characters) on the Food Network this coming Monday night, November 24th, at 9PM. Like I said, I'm the one in the blue floppy hat. I would have taken it off but my neck was still a little... sticky (yeah, that's the right word). Also, the shirt I'm wearing in the show was the only decent thing I came across in the Good Will Drop-Off. And like the old man on the radio has been saying almost every weekday morning in Chicago for the last 50 years...'And now you know the rest of the story....'

Geno Petro

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another Chicago Foreclosure

I'm coming clean. Two years ago I didn't even know what a Short Sale was--- not entirely. I'd heard tell of the horror stories, of course, but never had the opportunity (and yes, it is an opportunity for someone) to experience an American Dream gone sour, up close and personal. And just so you know, a Realtor never really understands this whole painful process---Pre-Foreclosure, Short Sale, Auction, and finally, full blown REO {Real Estate Owned} Foreclosure---until forced to jump through the Seller's and Lender's hoops at least a half dozen times for free. In the Chicago Real Estate market, I just never found this to be much of an issue (or a market). That is, not until lately.

Lately, I've been showing Short Sales and Foreclosures practically on a daily basis--several times a week, to be sure. And while still a relatively small percentage of the single family and condo inventory compared to the rest of the country, their numbers have clearly increased and their presence can be spotted in every Chicago neighborhood (note the stickers on the front door). The least expensive one I'm involved with now is listed at $58,900. The most expensive, $3,550,000. A handful are beautiful. Most are not. Each is heart breaking in its own way.

I work exclusively with Buyers in this expanding Chicago Real Estate market (and have no interest to get involved on the List side other than to negotiate Offers) and have acquired a keen eye and a keener ear in the process these past few years---clues dropped by the Bank or Listing Agent to help get the deal done in a relatively timely fashion. By timely I mean less than 6 months. Oh yeah, I said months, although REO properties (Bank Owned) are almost always faster to the Closing table than actual Short Sales.

This opportunity is the hidden beauty of the internet and high Google (and Yahoo) page ranking and positioning. The property 'Inquiries' and 'Requests to Show' come into on a daily basis. I consider our Chicago (and Northern Illinois) MLS Search Engine to be the best in the city and I encourage my clients to both Register and experiment. I instruct them how to look on their own, keeping me in their house hunting loop while I search the inventory as well.

And because of this effort I've lately found myself in neighborhoods I never would have imagined a few short years ago. (You mean there are actually paved streets west of Western Avenue? Don't the houses have cacti in their front yards? Isn't the Grand Canyon somewhere off of Grand Avenue and the M streets--Menard, Mobile, Monitor, etc...?) I took the above photo in Addison/Dunning this evening as my clients and I toured the shut down, evicted property with a high powered flashlight. Note to self: keep a bag of surgical face masks handy. The mold spore count was in the trillions. The Asking Price: $152,000. Not one of the prettier ones I walked through lately.

Still, we are mulling over an Offer. Hey, throw it against the wall. Who knows?...maybe it will stick to the mold. I'm telling you...heart breaking.

Geno Petro

Friday, November 07, 2008

Hangin' w/my BFF

So I was chatting with a BFF and new Facebook bud, Danielle, yesterday at our monthly lunch meeting covering the usual 'catch-up topics'--spheres of influence, scoop, dirty laundry, relationships, love lives, the Chicago real estate business, the pursuit of trump (dough, cache, coin, income, dust), the election, etc... when we came up with a possible SNL skit. Obama's First CIA Briefing. Here goes:

CIA Guy: "Okay Mr. President Elect. There are a few things you outta know."

Obama: "Okay shoot. No wait. Just kidding. I'm anti-handgun, that's right..... Proceed"

CIA Guy: "There really are UFO's"

Obama: "No shi...I mean wow. Really?"

CIA Guy: "Yeah, and Elvis is in the Witness Protection Program in Reno."

Obama: "The King? But how...?"

CIA Guy: "You can thank Bill Clinton for that. He was hanging in a strip joint outside a trailer park while visiting a...ahem... lady friend back in '96. They ran into each other in the back room. He hooked him up with a lap dance for a trade of immunity and anonymity."

Obama: "Who Elvis?"

CIA Guy: "No, Clinton. Elvis was the opening act. He did an old, fat Elvis impersonation. Really sucked. Great cover, though. "

Obama: "Who Clinton?"

CIA Guy: "No, Elvis."

Obama: "So I'm not the King?"

CIA Guy: "Afraid not sir."

Obama: "Damn... I mean Dawg. Dawg gonnit."

CIA Guy: "Yeah.... And about Marilyn Monroe..."

Obama: "Wait. Don't tell me. She's still alive too...?"

CIA Guy: "Oh no. Dead as a door nail, Sir." Wink, wink.


Obama: "Who?... you mean...Sarah Palin?"

CIA Guy: "Hell no. Sam Giancana. Badda bing....ifyouknowhatimsayin'..."

Obama: "Oh my."

CIA Guy: "Oh yeah. Word."

Or something along those lines. Hey, you gotta have something to laugh about. The Nation's dream apparently came true on Tuesday night and then the stock market proceeded to immediately tank another 15% in 48 hours. Pretty funny. Not the type of change I was thinking about, though.

Almost as funny as me not knowing the Green Party candidate I voted for was an African American female. Not a problem, mind you...I just thought McKinney was an Irish Catholic name; Green, Party, etc. That's all. Shows what I know about politicos. Anyway, Danielle and I laughed our asses off. And that's all that really counts during a summit meeting, I've found.

Geno Petro

above image of Cynthia (not Irish) McKinney: the candidate I actually voted for.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

You Can Leave Your Hat On

Yes, yes,'s a red letter November day indeed and I think we all know what I'm referring to. (It begins with Cha and ends with nge, I have heard) Cruising south on LSD (that's Lake Shore Drive in Chicago-speak to all you squares) I suddenly found myself crawling through the bumper-to-fender pre-ceremonial sprawl that is surrounding the assumed presidential post victory festivities at Grant Park tonight. There is predicted to be a million man march; one that will actually have a million men who show up. A million woman, too, from what all my lady friends are telling me in their morning coffee blogs about town.

I put on my snoop scoop lid (see picture above), jumped into my urban assault vehicle, and pushed south (and left) to the other side of Madison where all things Hyde Park await the good (and last) word from the 2008 polling contingent. I even had NPR on the radio providing some nice liberal background noise to soothe my troubled brainwaves.

Still undecided, I squeezed into a sardine can spot in front of a high rise at 4800 South Chicago Beach then proceeded to show a half dozen Short Sales and Foreclosures before deciding on the least imperfect one with my client. We wrote an Offer on the spot.

As luck would have it, we weren't the only buyers with that same idea on this super Tuesday. I didn't even have time to take off my hat, it seemed, before we got bumped from the deal and escorted to the street with the rest of the evictees. We grabbed our cells phones and chattered away in opposite directions for fifteen minutes of re-grouping and number crunching. We re-figured the odds and break even points. My client took a deep breath and decided to go with Plan B, second runner up in a beauty pageant of warts and blemishes, a full blown Bank Foreclosure even less attractive than Choice Number One which was homely, at best, to begin with. The small Condominium was something he can possibly live with for a couple years before fixing up and dumping it right back into the hopefully less glutted South Side of Chicago when things are different in the housing market. After all, CHANGE has been promised. Or so I've been told.

Geno Petro

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Follow the scent....and R.I.P.

Hey, all yous Chicago style dogs and property sniffing mutts. I just posted on Bloodhound Blog.

And to the oldest and most beloved scoop hound of us all (and one time Uptown neighbor), Studs Terkel, you'll be greatly missed but infinitely hailed.

Chicago is not the most corrupt American city. It's the most theatrically corrupt." S.T.

Geno Petro

image by some artist my wife won't let me hang in the living room

Friday, October 31, 2008

Boo to You, Scooby Doo...

Enough of the doom and gloom financial market
Tricks, already. How about an evening of sugar coated Treats instead? My wife is dressing up in a mini skirt as the Real Estate Witch of Forest Glen this year so BEWARE all you short little sellers looking for some cheap bargains on Balmoral Avenue. The Hound of the Baskervilles has her back (see above) so there'll be no fooling around on this eerie Chicago eve. You might just get bit in the butt by who know who, Rooby Roo..... (once again, see above)

ps...Don't grab with both hands (the candy) and remember to say thank you, Mrs Petro. Oh yeah, and if you insist on being unreasonable in these slightly scary times, then at least bring your highest and best trick. In other words, No Contingencies!


Geno Petro

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Doctor's Loan: Part 3 in a Series

A Treat...not a Trick!

Bank of America's Doctor's Loan Mortgage is an excellent financing option for physicians whether they recently graduated from medical school, in residency, or who have been in practice and already established in their servicing community. (Chris Hahn here in Chicago is the man I refer my real estate business to in these situations.) I've previously written about this here and here.

Many new medical school graduates are searching for loans with low interest rates and little or zero down payment. They don't care to use their student loan debt in the qualifying debt ratio and hope to project future income into the scenario, even before they start their first assignment. Chris and I, over the past months, have discussed at length a variety of programs that address such needs for this specialized condo and new home buyer.

Unfortunately, all standard Fannie Mae loans would outright deny such scenarios and most candidates using more traditional financing vehicles, would fail to secure and lock down the best rates once a potential property is identified. A lot of lenders try and work through these deals as non-conforming loans (with higher rates and rather static terms.) Chris Hahn offers a very competitive (if not the best) rate, little (sometimes zero) down payment, and does not include deferred student loans in the young (or old!) doctor's debt ratios. There is no Private Mortgage Insurance requirement (which allows for more of the monthly payment to go directly toward Principle and Interest) and once again, the physician or resident can qualify based on future income even before actually received.

Whether you are considering buying real estate here in Chicago or in any municipality across America that offers health care to its community, Chris Hahn can accomodate your post medical school financing needs. You can Subscribe to this Blog by registering in the sidebar and you can Search the Entire Chicago MLS (Multiple Listing Service) by simply following this link.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Yikes Stripes!

So I was standing on the sidewalk in front of my 33 E. 26th Street Chicago real estate listing watching the tow truck yank a late model Crown Victoria from the front patio of my client's residence. The vehicle (driver?) somehow (drinking?) managed to leave the roadway, jump the curb, carom across the sidewalk and crash through the iron fence before coming to rest a few feet from the sliding glass door, the gas guzzling beast left teetering above the sunken patio. My showing appointment was due in 15 minutes and I was hoping (praying) that at least the car would be gone by then. From what I was told it had been dangling there for hours. Passersby couldn't help stopping for a gander. Unbelievable, really.

A man and a woman walked up to me and announced that they lived in the next building (same project) and that they too, may want to go on the market in the Spring; or so I think I understood them to say. I could barely interpret their broken (shattered) English. My guess, if I had to put money on it (from all my dining experience), would be Mainland Chinese. Chicago's Chinatown neighborhood, after all, is only a few blocks away.

"Ours on top floor. No car." They smile very wide. "Joke."

"Yes, it is very funny," I say. "I get it." And it is. Funny. Sort of. If you don't actually own the condo. And if it's not your Listing. And if you didn't have a showing in 15 minutes.

I ponder my options and decide to keep the showing appointment as I wave goodbye to my new friends next door. They wave back animately. I wait for 30 minutes. I get blown off. Yet again. So much for advertising on Craigslist.

(On a side note, check out my latest post on Bloodhound Blog.)

Geno Petro

pix by mike drury and me.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

God F.S.B.O. in Chicago

I suppose it's how one defines 'Good News' (or even God, for that matter). Personally, I'm getting mixed messages here. As I snapped these shots I couldn't help but feel a little put off that The Owner chose not to use a realtor or more critically, that He didn't see this whole economic downturn thing coming in the first place. And what's more, He's trying to save a few points on the commission by selling it Himself. Good luck with that Master Plan, Big Guy.

Also, since He created everything to begin with, one would think He'd have picked a better location to set up shop but maybe this is just sour grapes on my part. I haven't been feeling the Love lately even though people have mentioned to me from time to time that I am a 'miracle' although quite possibly, tongue in cheek. I gave the number on the F.S.B.O. sign a call just for the hell of it (pun) and some guy named Peter picked up. Hmmm...

For Sale By Owner. Makes perfect sense to me. As I've mentioned many times over the years, I was a real estate consumer long before I was ever a real estate professional. And since moving to Chicago 13 years ago (OMG...I mean OMF.S.B.O., has it been that long already?) I've negotiated more than my mortal share of deals on both sides of the property fence so I don't begrudge Someone trying to save a buck or two by selling it Himself. Just be careful. There are a lot of unsavory characters walking around this Earth but then again, I suppose that would be preaching to the Choir, telling Noah about the flood, Jonah about the whale, et al...

Geno Petro

ps... Happy Birthday Dad. There's a UPS box on your front porch. I hope.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I think I thought (I saw you try)

'That's me in the Corner'

My voter registration card came in the mail this morning, just under the wire as usual. And rightly so. I don't know what I think about politics these days, I really don't. It is one of those subjects I've always mentally deferred to the pundits who are supposed to know better than I---specifically politicians, elected officials (the actual winners, please), and those who objectively report and editorialize on the red, blue and green concerns of this culturally divided country. (Isn't there some uniform 'Objective Oath' everyone in the Media is required to take after journalism/modeling school? Maybe not. Maybe I ditched that day in high school and am just experiencing a time released Poli-Sci hallucination.)

Same thing, I believe, holds true with the medicine/health care industry that everyone is always yapping about. I just assume the doctors and everyone else involved in that profession--nurses, administrators, pharmaceutical salesmen--know what's new and shiny in the field and their word is, well...up. Word up, Doc. There is an Oath they all pledge to, I'm almost positive (although maybe not for the salesmen). In other words, I've always relied on sources outside my own subjective cranium (thick head) for the real, unfiltered, 'down low' (Oprah) on what is swirling around me in this universe of billions and trillions (population and national debt respectively).

For reasons too personal to delve into here, my own 'first thoughts' are usually self-motivated and thus, make me lack the objectivity needed to execute clear, unfettered judgments in areas where voices must be heard and votes counted. This is why I skim over 30 to 40 blogs each day--many more on a slow Chicago real estate day--for other peoples' opinions and insights (hey, I'm a fast if not totally retentive reader with a relatively short attention span and a fairly open mind...I think.). Oh, and I've always read into musical lyrics more than is actually there. Ah Music! Nature's muse....the true opiate of the peeps. 'Like a hurt lost and blinded fool, fool...'

Most bloggers (some professional but many more amateur and apparently lonely) I read are so out of their minds over one candidate or the other that the noise is just confusing me even more. I have to say, I'm a little worried about more than a few of my fellow scribes given the subjective, party line diatribes I've been perusing these past few weeks.

November 4th, 2008, will be the 14th presidential Election Day of my life; 13 of which I have at least a passing (vague?) recollection. And quite honestly, nothing much besides fashion, technology and music has changed from this man's vantage point. My own personal time traveling bubble that has been hovering 5 feet 10 inches above this Earth since the mid-1950s still can't push through the rhetoric and the political buzz that surrounds such red letter events as Election Day; dull, stale, and obtuse as its always been....

When I was four years old, there was a Kennedy family who lived in a custom Levittowner at the top of our drive. The father was a steel mill supervisor who wore a suit and they had a hundred kids running around their expanded, single level asbestos sided American Dream. In my small mind I remember thinking it was him everyone was talking about, this Mr. Kennedy. He was a man who lived at the top of our hill and just got elected President, whatever that meant. I remember wondering why my own father wasn't the one who got elected although he only wore a suit on Sundays. Maybe that was it, I thought. My wife told me she wondered the same thing about her own father when she was a kid. Ironically, the two most decent and honest men we both know are not on the ballot this year and never have been.

'Losing My Religion?'

Perhaps. I think Sarah Palin is cute (especially the Photo Shopped versions) although I've known much cuter, and Barack Obama is handsome and alert. Joe Biden and John McCain, both strained and blurry through these weakening eyes, somehow remind me of two old college fraternity rivals reminiscing back to a time when everyone wore coon skin hats and big Varsity letters on their sweaters. A Tom Collins society. Wing tips and tie bars. Mad men from another era. Someone is yelling into a megaphone..."Go Harvard! Go Yale!" No Ivy League child left behind...

There is incongruity along party lines. Both sides are mismatched, I observe. And I'm pretty sure at least one of the four in this presidential spotlight isn't even a real politician. (Guess who.) So my question to the universe is: Why do I even have to order off this menu at all? Chicken or Fish? Hmmm. Can I get back to you on that?

"Honey, don't RSVP my cousin's Vinny's wedding just yet. The first two times he got married the food was outstanding. But this time, well..."

"Maybe the loan sharking business is feeling the crunch too," my Honey retorts.

"Hey, don't be judgmental," I quip. "The politically correct term is Sub Prime. That side of the family is sensitive."

"Anyone offering only chicken and fish to registered gift-toting guests is not sensitive," she says. "This I do know, political, familial, or otherwise."

"They're Democrats," I whisper, not even knowing what party I belong to anymore. And by the way, where exactly have you gone, Joe The Plumber DiMaggio? (sorry, had to slip it in.)

'Just a dream, just a dream'

a) How has my life changed since I've been a voting adult?

... and...

b) How much of this 'change' do I attribute to government interaction?

The answers in order are:

a) A lot.


b) Zero.

I make the money I make. I pay the taxes I pay according to the tax code that's in place at the time. I either do or do not have health insurance on any given day depending on who I go to and who choses to participate in whatever plan I subscribe to. I basically do what I'm told (not really) as mandated by the rules of life in general.

What I'm saying is I just don't feel strongly one way or another about any of the choices on my ballot this go-round. I'm not so sure those running for office do either. I've watched every debate with as objective a mind as someone who doesn't give a crap can. I'm telling you, juxtapose the sound bites and distort the voices and I'll be damned if they're not all proclaiming the very same thing--Utopia. Opiate. Bullshat....

I go back to the mail on my desk. I look at the voter registration card I just received and study the front. My name is misspelled. I glance at the wedding invitation tucked between the pages of a half read article about Cindy McCain in The New Yorker. The accompanying illustration makes her appear prettier than she really is. I pull out the makeshift bookmark and examine it. Chicken or fish? I finally come to a conclusion:

When improperly prepared, fish can actually taste like chicken. And what could possibly be worse than that? The opposite, I suppose. I check Will Not Attend and throw it back on top of the pile of other undecided rhetoric on my desk. Note to self: 'unjam the shredder.'

Geno Petro

assorted lyrics by R.E.M.

photo courtesy of C. McCain's medicine cabinet

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stat, Stat! (Doctor's Loan Part 2)

Stat: –adverb Medicine/Medical Informal. Immediately.

Like many people my age (teenager in the 1970s), M*A*S*H* reruns are forever ingrained in sepia, stored in the back of my mental media vault. The familiar theme song--something about painless suicide (how romantic), the helicopter landing with stretchers and MDs scurrying, that blond actress with those fat (hot?) lips made it all so glamorous to be an unshaven, martini sipping surgeon in 1950s Korea. I know of at least three guys (including my oldest cousin) who were directly affected by that series and went on to study medicine. I couldn't cut up the frog in Biology so I headed off in another direction (while still having notions of one day at least playing a doctor on TV). As we all know, I ended up in sales.

But for those who wish to follow their Socratic dreams and also possess the grades and wherewithal to back it up, there is one fabulous perk at the end of the journey; Home Mortgage Assistance in the form of a so called Doctor's Loan. And for those blessed Medical Residents who have been sacrificing precious time, money and energy for an 8 extra years, Bank of America is the preferred provider of such a benefit in my book. Chris Hahn, a good friend and personal client (as am I to him), is the B of A man behind this very special plan for Medical Residents, Medical Doctors, Licensed Dental Surgeons specialing in oral and maxillofacial surgery, and full-time Medical Instructors who are also Medical Doctors.

Turn on CNBC (or any financial channel for that matter) this week and you see what we all see--the world Banking System in shambles. Except for Bank of America (and one or two others perhaps), lending institutions across the board are looking to bigger, rock solid suitors for infusions of Capital. Chris Hahn's company is just such a suitor. Bank of America is a beacon to which all other financial institutions turn in dire financial times. And for those in the medical profession, it is the only ship in this housing port with it's low money down programs (5/1 and 7/1 Adjustable Arms as well as 15 and 30 Fixed Rate vehicles). There is no income restrictions and even an allowance for undocumented income is permitted in certain situations. These programs are available for both Purchase and Refinance.

Hawkeye Pierce spent the entire war reminiscing and waxing poetic for his beloved Crabapple Cove, Maine and the quintessential American Dream that it embodied. The House. The Wife. The Kids. And while Chris Hahn and myself can't do much about the latter two, we've both got you covered on the former; The House, and more specifically, the Doctor's Loan that goes with it. It's right up our respective Chicago alleys, so to speak. I personally only do business here in Cook and surrounding counties (Chicagoland) but Chris can originate loans anywhere in America. Just click on his link above or in my sidebar to the right under Mortgage Guru.

So all of you Maxwell Q. Klingers out there, get out your party dresses. It's almost Saturday night. Don't waste all your energy trying to prove you shouldn't be in the Army (or buy a house at the bottom of a market). Dance with the ones 'who brung ya'... (that would be us).

Stat. Stat. It's happy hour at the 4077. The war is almost over and a pristine Cape Cod is waiting for a buyer in your personal Crabapple Cove. (Oh yeah...MDs need only apply.)

Geno Petro