Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tag I'm it....or Meme I'm it?

Suddenly I feel like I'm playing a game of tag. Yes, I totally felt like a grade school kid running around the playground when I got memed the first time by, Eric . So I started putting some thoughts together. It's hard to think of things that people don't know about me. I'm an open book. And then I get memed by Geno....I got the hint, so here goes....

1) I'm half Italian and I don't like to cook. I know, I know, you say how could that be, all Italians like to cook? Well, I grew up in a kitchen, literally. My family owned a restaurant in West Dundee and then later moved to Chicago. So what happened to me, I'm not quite sure, maybe overexposure. If you have any ideas, let my husband know, he's hoping the "cooking" genes kick in one of these days.

2) I'm a total animal person, cats, dogs, whales, otters, whatever. Ok, birds aren't high on my list. I have cats now, but used to be a dog person. In high school/college, I lost two dogs back to back, both at very young ages, 1 1/2 and 3 1/2. After that I couldn't bring myself to get another dog, I felt jinxed. So after a few years with just some fish to entertain me, I decided to try cats and haven't looked back. I will admit one cat Puc, thinks he's a dog.

3) I played competitive tennis throughout high-school and some of college. To this day, I'm the only person I know that managed to make tennis a full-contact sport, well with the court at least. I chased down everything and I mean everything. During a doubles match, the other team lobed a ball over my partner's head to the opposite corner of the court. Hell-bent that we would not lose this point I chased down the ball and returned it. The problem was, I couldn't stop and I was heading face first into the court. I curled into a ball and rolled over 3 times before I finally stopped. Needless to say all the matches around us came to a stretching halt. Did we win the point? No, don't get me started.

4) At three years old I was diagnosed with leg perthes disease, which basically means that the ball of the hip joint was not forming into bone properly. Thanks to the doctors at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago I am able to walk without any signs of the disease. The only sign left it that in x-rays the affected hip is more square than round.

5) Ok, most people know I like football, but don't know that I didn't know much of anything about the game until about 12 years ago. My family just didn't watch the games at all, so when I met my now husband Chris, who lived and breathed football from birth, I was bored out of my skull. Tight pants only go so far. Since I wanted to spend Sundays with him I decided that I was going to learn football. I didn't want to just understand that a touchdown gets you 6 points, I wanted to be able to discuss football intelligently. Slowly I started to put all the pieces together. Right now I'm working on how to understand if the offense is showing run or pass and how they determine pre-snap reads. Sorry girls. Don't hate me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chicago ranks #2 on worst city commutes

When I'm out with clients one of the first questions that arise in a location that they're not familiar with is, how close is the bus, the el, or the expressway. Yes, Chicago real estate and transportation, public or private, are connected at the hip. And it's no wonder. According to the US Census Department, Chicago is #2 of the 10 longest commutes by city. Excuse my rant, but how are we possibly ahead of Atlanta and Los Angeles? If you've spent any time in either of those cities, you'd understand. I think it was FIXED! Unfortunately, the results don't necessarily account for lifestyle choices, which I think would have a big impact on the results. I was recently working with a seller who had decided to move to Huntley as they were pregnant and were looking for a lifestyle change. While she would be working in the area, he would continue to keep his current job in Chicago's Loop. As a result, he was anticipating an hour and a half commute one-way, not bad considering that even without traffic, it's an hour drive. So are we stretching our commutes for lifestyle or is traffic just getting worse? Probably a bit of both.

On the humorous side of the issue, the good ole Chicago Tribune had this great article on how much we are irritated by how our neighbors drive and vice versa....our neighbors being Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan. While there is no evidence that our driving patterns are different, I don't think you'll convince many otherwise. My husband's family calls Chicago's expressways and highways, raceways, yes, raceways and don't even get me started about driving in Ohio or Kentucky.

Here's some commuting resources, helpful whether you are thinking of buying or have already bought:

IDOT (Illinois Dept of Transportation) just launched a great all-in-one website, drive less, live more, that not only provides commuter calculators, but also a central location for travel updates including Metra and CTA (limited at the moment). Now if only we could actually work from home.

I love the for their great CTA updates and CTA Tattler for their updates and commentary about Chicago's beloved public transportation. And of course you can go directly to the source.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It's all about the VIEW....and other requests

I've had several clients this past year whose #1 priority was the view. Forget granite countertops, marble bathrooms, those were bonuses, but what was the view. Chicago real estate offers plenty of view, it just depends on what view you're looking for. Take your pick....lake views, city views, lake and city views, park views, Chicago River views, Wrigley Field views, and less desirable building and living room (when you can watch your neighbor's tv from your living room) views. I even had someone ask about zoo views. I'm not kidding, they wanted to know if there were buildings that looked into Lincoln Park Zoo, not your typical request. For these clients the view is almost priceless.

Here's some other interesting "requests" that I've had....

* Have dogs, need to be near a park, just not a dog park necessarily, dogs love people just not other dogs
* South Loop one bedroom with parking and I don't want to see more than 15 units - we did it in 10
* I want to walk less than 15 minutes to work (55 W Monroe) - thank god for office building converting to condos and how does a half a block away sound to you
* I want a new construction single family without a lower level - forget it, it doesn't exist
* No cats can have ever resided in the condo, I have terrible allergies - can you say new construction

So you could care less about view as long as it's not a garbage dump. Got it. So, what's your #1 "request?"

Photo courtesy of me from 1529 S State

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Recent Headlines

House prices are heating, cooling, freezing, holding - (
As much as the media would like to portray imminent doom of the housing market as a nationwide event, Ken Harvey does a great job bringing reality into the local real estate picture. Some markets have double digit appreciation, while others have the dreaded depreciation, while others like Chicago have a modest & positive 5.2% appreciation

It's all about the pricing for those seeking a timely sale - (
In today's market, and in any market for that matter, pricing correctly will always be key to selling a home, as I've mentioned in previous posts. The last thing any seller wants to have is their property sitting on the market day after day without any interest. This article, in a quick snapshot, touches on many of the same things I discuss with my clients before taking the listing.

Fresh start at Cabrini-Green - (
To be fair they really should say the former Cabrini Green. The few buildings that are left are coming down quickly, dinosaurs of another time, another hope. It will be interesting to see what will become the new face of what was Cabrini Green and if the mixed-income project will continue to bear the burden of the past.

J. Hancock Center gets no love - (
It seems not only do consumers love new construction, but so do businesses, at least that's my speculation since I haven't done any scientific studies. After 9/11 businesses vacated "high-risk" buildings like the Sears Tower and John Hancock, but within a few years the Sears Tower at least was again filling those vacant offices. With the availability of new construction in the Loop, and businesses like IBM abandoning their flagship building, it seems that the John Hancock has also fell victim to this trend as well.
Picture from Tewksbury Borough Council

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

New home valuation website enters Chicago market

As if Zillow was ever a "wonderful" valuation tool(I've already share my thoughts on that one!), a new to Chicago real estate tool has entered the market thanks to Altos Research. Altos has begun providing "real-time" market snapshots for five specific geographic regions. "Real-time" is relative as some of the real estate industry sources they use have as much as a months lag time. Overall, I think it has some really interesting tools that can be helpful to the consumer. I particularly like the days on market, market action index, and inventory measures. No, it won't tell you how much your neighbor's house or condo sold for, plus or minus 7%, but it has the potential to provide a gauge of what's happening at a truly local level. Did I say that it's information is updated weekly at the zip code level, yes zip code. The days on market, market action index, median-home price trends and price per square foot tools are all free. And if you're really into the nitty-gritty you can pay $15/month for weekly updates on market conditions.

I am excited to see how accurate their stats are, though on my first try to download the free report, I didn't have much luck. Apparently they're still working some of the bugs out.

Graph courtesy of Altos Research

Friday, December 01, 2006

How to NOT get towed in Chicago when it snows

Not to state the obvious, but the the winter snow season is apparently upon us. When I went into office today, I discovered that my usual parking area was, at least for the moment, an illegal spot. It had one of those lovely "No Parking when snow is over 2 inches" zones. While it was actually debatable if there was actually two whole inches of snow on the ground, I didn't feel like making any contributions to City of Chicago's Department of Revenue today.
The other favorite winter parking ban which year after year seems to come as a shock to so many, is the overnight ban that starts midnight December 1st and ends April 1st. Rain or shine, please god whatever you do, don't park there from 3am-7am. They'll tow you faster than you can possibly imagine, or maybe you can imagine, so feel free to add your own cliche.

1) Check the whole block for signs....the city won't have any sympathy for you if the sign was all the way down at the other corner....speaking from experience here.
2) If there's snow on the ground in a "2 inch" zone, don't park there, period. I personally don't want to leave it open the City of Chicago's interpretation of 2 inches.
3) Just because there are other cars there, doesn't mean you won't get towed. It just means more revenue for the city.
4) Sitting in your car might increase your chance of not getting towed, but that doesn't mean that you still won't get a ticket.....speaking from someone else's experience.

Here's the nitty gritty on Chicago's overnight and snow related parking bans.

Have any horror stories about getting towed in this wonderful city? Please share, I'm sure others can learn from your experiences too.

Photo thanks to