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Q & A with your Chicago Real Estate Expert

A loyal reader writes and asks:

Brokers, have you ever bought a property (as an investment, to rehab and flip) for yourself from someone who came to list with you or company you work for?  Do you consider yourself to be to an advantage then others, since you get to it first? Is it fair, ethical and legal? If a client comes in to list their property and you want to buy it from them, who interested are you looking out for? Or if you don't buy it for yourself, did you have a preferred buyer who was counting on you to notify them of hot properties?

Here in Illinois, according to my Real Estate Broker Class Instructor at the Real Estate Education Company, it is ILLEGAL to buy your own listing.  A conflict of interest is created that Illinois License Law will not accommodate any resolution of this conflict.

So, Realtors, if you want to buy a piece of property that you go and see on a listing presentation, it is imperative under the law that you decide whether you want to try to purchase this property before taking the listing.  In fact, during the listing presentation process, it is frequently customary for a seller and the prospective agent to discuss the situation that has brought about the sale.  It can be interpreted under Illinois License Law that the use of this information by the agent in negotiating on the home would also be illegal.

Of course, I am always out there looking for prospective properties to purchase.  Lots of agents do this.  But my first source of property information is usually the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and then popular websites that contain lots of For Sale By Owners (FSBO's.)

It's best to wear only one hat when out conducting business.  When I am on a listing appointment, I am wearing the hat of Marketing Specialist and Real Estate Agent for my company. 

When I am looking at investment properties, I make my phone calls and I introduce myself as a prospective buyer WHO ALSO IS A REAL ESTATE AGENT.  It's best to let people know right away that you are a Realtor when calling on properties that you might be interested in buying.  I have been in court accompanying other close friends who were sued for not disclosing that they were Real Estate Agents at the first point of contact, even though Illinois License Law states that you must list your licensee status on a contract on a piece of property.

And yes, if I go out and list a property that is perfect for one of my clients, I usually call them from the car in front of the house as I leave with the signed listing agreement.  I think that's good service to both the seller and the buyer.

Realtor Bouquet – seen in Evanston

Hung from the service door to the Evanston Galleria

Bringing you up to speed on Your Windy City Guide

Loyal readers will note the absence of posting by your guide for Three Whole Weeks - an unforgivable eternity in the blog posting world.  We hope you can forgive us our transgression and hope to retain your loyal readership.

The reasons have been threefold:

1.  I have not had an original thought in my head for a solid two weeks out of the last three.  The heat of the Summer must have gotten to me.  Perhaps too strong a desire to go sailing rather than think about anything real estate related. 

2.  On a positive note, we have been crazy busy.  Listing like crazy.  Wrote some contracts.  Listed some more developments.  Not the thing to do in the lazy dog-days of summer.  On top of that, our Trusty Management Expert - Steve West - also got busy.  He took over the management of a 100 unit complex in Old Town which led to a 50 unit mid-rise in Old Town, and a couple more projects coming on line in the next few weeks.  Poor Steve, work is getting in the way of his summertime fun, too.

He'll have some excellent stories to tell from the Property Management side of the business soon, though. 

3.  I have contracted with a technologically superior web-guru to overhaul the website AND this humble blog.  I thought the project would be completed by now, but each day brings a few new wrinkles to the plan.  Before another day went by, I thought I had better get back on the bandwagon before my dearest friends forgot I was here.  Or worse - started removing links.

Boys n girls club statue park 003 

But this week while driving home from my latest listing at 3753 West Dickens (single family home for $359,900) I drove past this odd sight on Palmer out by Kedzie.  How fun is this?!

Boys n girls club statue park 001

Such a weird thing to see inside what appears to be quite an ordinary kiddie playground next door to a school.  It turns out to be the BARNET HODES Sculpture Garden. 

The centerpiece of the Logan Square Boys and Girls Club’s Barnet Hodes Sculpture Garden, this sculptural bench and fountain project holds the distinction of being the city’s first freestanding, community-built artwork-- a feat that involved the use of reinforced concrete, landscape design, and mechanical and electrical engineering. The undulating seats evoke the shapes of reclining figures: the glass mosaics in the fountain basin recall Taino designs and symbols. The form of the work was inspired by Pedro Silva’s Grant’s Tomb Mosaics (1972-1974) and Antonio Gaudi’s Güell Park ceramic-fragment-encrusted benches (1900-1914), as well as by the work of David Harding in Glenrothes, Scotland, who introduce the Chicago Mural Group to concrete as a community art medium in the 1970s.

Boys n girls club statue park 002

Hey, I'll take any inspiration that comes my way these days.  Here's hoping you find me traveling off the beaten path more often in the coming days.

Slightly better news for Chicago from R|E|A|L

From the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory, Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois on behalf of the Illinois Association of Realtors, some news that sales in May were slightly higher than in April.

Housing sales continued to decline in April and May compared to April and May of 2007, but the number of homes rose 17% in Illinois and a little less than 14% in Chicago from April to May, 2008.

Two main factors have been identified by the authors of the report:

An 11.5 month supply of homes are on the market.  The outlook appears grim as a large number of foreclosed homes are coming on the market and more are expected.  The report indicates that foreclosure filings were up 65% in April compared to April, 2007.  A survey of households indicates that the number of people planning to buy a home within 6 months has fallen from 3.4% in March, to 2.5% in April, to 2.1% in May.

The other factor is economic news.  The national unemployment rate jumped to 5.5% with the number of unemployed rising by 861,000 in May.  Economists and analysts were surprised to hear that the Illinois economy added 4,000 jobs in May, however.

With this news, analysts are kicking the projected real estate market recovery into 2010 rather than in 2009.


In Chicago, Demand remains tepid as falling prices hurt confidence

Your guides participate in and receive a survey from our friends at Credit Suisse (formerly from Bank of America) who ask 2,500 Realtors in the US top 20 markets about what they are experiencing in the Real Estate Market.  The survey shows trends on a month by month basis.

In Chicago for the month of May traffic remained unchanged at weak levels from April.

Agents said buyer confidence remains very weak as many potential buyers are overwhelmed by the combination of continued price declines and a deteriorating economic outlook. According to one agent, “People are waiting for prices to go down further, as they are convinced it will get worse before it gets better.” In fact, one of the only agents satisfied with current traffic levels dealt solely with foreclosed properties and has benefited as an increase in vulture buyers has accompanied rising foreclosures. We think improved affordability from a combination of lower prices and lower mortgage rates is needed before we see any sustained improvement in traffic.



This weekend in Chicago: The fests keep getting BIGGER…

So, weary festival warrior. You thought you might get a break one of these weekends.  But, NO!  The festivals keep getting larger.  This weekend brings you the two King Kong's of Chicago Festivals.


First up:

Opening Weekend for the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park.  Acres and acres of live music, crowds, food-on-a-stick, crowds, heat, crowds, all culminating with the HUGE fireworks display on the 3rd of July.  (Rain date, July 4th.) 


Umm, did I mention street closures?  Pretty much all the streets that go through Grant Park: Columbus, Jackson, Monroe, all the way to Balbo are closed. 

Check out the cool interactive map.

Taste of Chicago opens Friday, June 27.  Open Daily starting at 11:00 am for you downtown workers.


The 39th Annual Gay Pride Parade in Lakeview.  Join nearly a half-million of your closest friends and mob the sidewalks along Halsted, Broadway and Diversey to watch Chicago's largest parade on Sunday, June 29.  The parade (theoretically - you know the gays) starts at Noon at the corner of Belmont and Halsted. 

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Look for your guides on the @properties float which should attract your attention with an ear-splitting sound system.

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Keep your eye out for @properties founder, Thad Wong, as the consummate attention junkie will be found running alongside the float handing out hats, beach balls or at least his business cards.

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The crowds paralyze East Lakeview starting at 10:00 am on Sunday, so don't even think about trying to drive across the neighborhood.


Honorable Mentions:

  • BAM ! Fest in Roscoe VillageRoscoe Village will celebrate its 2nd annual Belmont Arts & Music Festival (BAM!) as it livens up the neighborhood streets on June 28th and 29th. Bursting with local artwork, music, food and spirits along Belmont Avenue running west from Damen, BAM! is a reflection of the diverse and vibrant arts scene in Roscoe Village.  (Belmont to Roscoe, near Damen.)
  • White Sox vs. Cubs in the second half of the Crosstown Classic this weekend on the South Side at US Cellular Field.  Go Cubs!
  • Fifth Annual Randolph Street Festival:  Formerly known as the Chicago Antique Market, this European-style indoor/outdoor fair showcases antiques and vintage collectibles from more than 200 dealers along Randolph Street, between Ada Street and Ogden Avenue.

Get out there and have some fun!


Street names in Chicago. K-town; and why there’s no Q-town.

K-Town, Chicago
K-Town, Chicago

Did you ever wonder how all the streets got named in the section of Chicago where all the names start with the letter 'K'?   Otherwise known as K-town? 

Starting at just west of Pulaski, and extending for one mile, all the north-south street names begin with the letter 'K'.  And immediately following, all the streets start with 'L'.  There's also an 'L' section and and an 'O' section.  But no 'Q's.  (We could make a claim for copyright infringement against the unfortunately named Boy Band "O-Town."  Don't follow the link. It's bad.)

Even more interestingly, the plan was to start naming the north-south streets with the letter 'A' at the Illinois-Indiana border.  Each letter was supposed to be used for one mile, and then the next letter would begin.  On the south-east side of Chicago, there is a section of Chicago with several streets starting with the letter 'A' - primarily in Hegewisch.

But residents that lived in the older sections of Chicago that would have had to change the names of their streets to begin with the letters 'B' through 'J' objected, and the plan was not implemented in those neighborhoods.

How handy to know that when you hit Kostner, you are 11 miles west of the Indiana border.  12 miles when you hit Landers.  13 at Mango (I am not making this up.)

Alas, the letter Q would land west of O'Hare Airport in an undeveloped forest preserve and partly outside Chicago.


Hey, where did the seasons go?

Time sure flies!

I should have been paying attention.  Season's change.  It takes a while to sell out a development.  I took the photographs for the Mansions at Leland Hall back in January.  I wish someone would have reminded me how ridiculous the snowy building shots look on a nice sunny June Summer Day.

Here's what the place looks like today:

Leland Summer 010 

At least from the photo below, you can see the whole building without all that pesky foliage blocking the view.  Who needs leaves anyhow?

3100 Leland ext2 (Large)

Please bring this to my attention the next time you see this happen on my website?


Bad Real Estate Photos – a continuing series



I have not changed these photos in any way.  These are for a property that is currently for sale in Chicago and these are the marketing photographs that the listing agent uploaded into the MLS for publishing to the web.


Open House on Saturday, June 21

942 North Fairfield

The Fairfield Greystone

Open House on Saturday from 11:00 to 1:00

Two beds from $255,000 and one duplex left for $325,000


2034 West Arthur & 6504 North Seeley

The Warren Corner

Open house on Saturday from 11:00 to 1:00

1 bedrooms from $135,000

2 bedrooms, 1 bath from $155,000

2 bedrooms, 2 baths from $215,000


Your Guide
Your Guide

Robert Darrow

In Chicago:
3101 N. Greenview
Chicago, IL, 60657
(312) 965-1552

In South Florida:
Keller Williams Realty
3696 N. Federal Highway
Ft. Lauderdale, FL, 33308
(954) 446-9001
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