The Biggest Story of 2017: Will Rising Mortgage Rates Stunt Chicago’s Housing Market?


The last time we chattered about rising mortgage rates it was 2013 and 2014.

But then mortgage rates dropped again in 2015 and were a non-issue until the November election, which saw a quick spike higher.

Suddenly, the average 30-year mortgage rate is sitting at 2-year highs around 4.3%.

Many buyers were caught off guard, but those actually looking should have had their mortgage rate locked in.

From the Washington Post:

Several sources of data suggest that buyers are paying more attention to the threat of higher rates. The number of mortgage applications submitted this fall was about 20 percent higher compared with the same period a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry group. That could reflect the fact that more people are looking to buy even after the busy summer season. The number of home tours requested in October by users of the real estate Web site Redfin increased 34 percent compared with the same time last year.

But while some are moving more quickly to buy, others are feeling as though an opportunity may have passed.

Kradak Thomas, a 43-year-old chemist living in Potomac, Md., said he and his wife had recently considered moving their family to Virginia for a shorter commute. But moving from their home, where they have been for seven years, would have meant giving up a 3.25 percent mortgage rate.

The higher rates now mean they would need to find into a less expensive, potentially smaller home in order to keep their monthly mortgage payment about the same. So they have decided to stay put.

Heading into early 2017, those locks should either turn into actual sales or many buyers will have higher mortgage rates by January and February.

Here’s the history of January and February sales in Chicago since 2013 with the corresponding average 30-year fixed mortgage rate (as per the Illinois Association of Realtors):


  • 2013: 1521 sales – rate of 3.4%
  • 2014: 1383 sales – rate of 4.46%
  • 2015: 1348 sales – rate of 3.6%
  • 2016: 1363 sales – rate of 3.87%


  • 2013: 1411- rate of 3.49%
  • 2014: 1361 – rate of 4.32%
  • 2015: 1497 – rate of 3.68%
  • 2016: 1528 – rate of 3.6%

February 2014 was the polar vortex and near record winter snowfall winter. Was it the weather or the higher mortgage rates that caused the February slowdown that month? No way of knowing.

At what level do rising mortgage rates matter to sales?

Is it 4.5%?





And will it matter if salaries/incomes are also rising at the same time?

Or will mortgage rates retreat back into the 3s once again in 2017 making this recent spike nothing but an anomaly?

The Second Biggest Story of 2017: Will There Be an Apartment Bust?


We’ve chattered several times this year about the thousands of new apartments, many of them “luxury” that are being built all over Chicago.

Normally, this would be a good sign that the Chicago economy was strong and jobs were being created.

But the number of new apartments is well above current absorption rates while rents continue to rise.

In Logan Square, for instance, according to Curbed, there are 1500 apartments planned.

See more details here.

We know that “downtown” there are thousands of apartments under construction or soon-to-be under construction. Here’s the totals as we know them right now:

  • 2016: 3830 apartments
  • 2017: 4500 apartments expected
  • 2018: 4200 apartments expected

If everything is built, that’s a 39% increase in downtown apartments.

The 3830 apartments built this year was the highest rate since 2001 but, remember, the developers were busy building condos for most of the early 2000s so it’s been nearly 20 years since a lot of new apartment stock was built.

Still, there are already some cracks beginning to show in the rental market.

From Crain’s:

Landlords are starting to feel the impact of an historic building boom that is adding thousands of apartments to the downtown market. While rents are holding steady so far, the occupancy rate for high-end buildings fell in the third quarter to its lowest level in nearly seven years, according to a report from Appraisal Research Counselors, a Chicago-based consulting firm.

The occupancy rate at Class A buildings fell to 92.2 percent in the quarter, down from 94.8 percent in the second quarter and 93.7 percent in third-quarter 2015, according to the report. The Class A occupancy rate, which does not include buildings in their lease-up phase, hasn’t been that low since late 2009.

What’s going to happen with the apartment market in 2017?

Will some of these buildings be converted to condos, where there appears to be more demand?

Or will a hot economy fill up all of these buildings at their current rental rates?

The Third Biggest Story of 2017: Will the Luxury Market Continue to Sizzle?


2016 finally saw signs of life in the new condo market but most of the announced developments were luxury buildings.

And why not?

The new buildings, such as No. 9 Walton in the Gold Coast, are selling out as demand in the upper bracket remains strong.

Even the Ritz-Carlton, which first began marketing over 9 years ago, is seeing a surge in sales. From Crain’s:

Buyers closed on seven units at the Ritz-Carlton Residences from Dec. 1 through yesterday, according to Midwest Real Estate Data. That’s more than any building in the city, good news for any developer but particularly so at a project where only 26 out of 89 units were sold in the first nine years of trying.

Seven sales “would be happy-dance numbers for anyone,” said Karen Ranquist, a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group agent and partner in Ranquist Development, which has built several condo projects. She is not associated with the Ritz. Her firm’s building on Hubbard Street in the Fulton Market District has had two closings in December, and Ranquist said two more are scheduled in the building.

Hearing the Ritz’s December total, Ranquist said any developer “would be thrilled to have those closings in what is typically a slower time of year.”

Ranquist said the Ritz may be benefiting from the downtown market’s shortage of new-condo inventory during developers’ pronounced swing over to building luxury apartments.

“People look around downtown and say, ‘Where are there any condos?'” Ranquist said. Some high-end buildings are under construction now, but “you can’t move in until late 2017 or 2018.” At the Ritz, “you can buy and move in.”

Golden concurs. “We can sell and close sometimes in a week,” he said. “There’s definitely an advantage there.”

If you’re willing to wait, there are several prestige buildings under construction including One Bennett Place in Streeterville and the Vista Tower in Lakeshore East.

Will the upper bracket continue to sizzle in 2017?


Market Conditions: November Home Sales Were the Strongest in 10 Years


Sales were slow in October as Chicagoans obsessed about the Cubs but all that changed after the World Series and the election in November.

It was like a switch was flipped and buyers rushed out.

It was the second strongest November for sales in the last 10 years. Only 2009 was stronger but that was the year that the first time home buyers program expired at the end of November 2009.

The program caused a mass frenzy to run out and buy. You had to close by the end of November to get the deal.

If you remove that month, with its artificial stimulus, then this was the strongest November in the last decade.

From the Illinois Association of Realtors:

The city of Chicago saw a 13.2 percent year-over-year home sales increase in November 2016 with 1,881 sales, up from 1,661 in November 2015. The median price of a home in the city of Chicago in November 2016 was $260,000, up 11.3 percent compared to November 2015 when it was $233,500.

Here is the November sales data for the last 9 years (thanks to G for some of the data):

  • November 2007: 1859 sales and median price of $290,000
  • November 2008: 1093 sales and median price of $222,500 (16% short/REO sales)
  • November 2009: 1905 sales and median price of $215,000 (29% short/REO sales)
  • November 2010: 1144 sales and median price of $182,500 (39% short/REO sales)
  • November 2011: 1429 sales and median price of $157,000 (43% short/REO sales)
  • November 2012: 1750 sales and median price of $180,000
  • November 2013: 1844 sales and median price of $200,000
  • November 2014: 1638 sales and median price of $230,000
  • November 2015: 1661 sales and median price of $233,500
  • November 2016: 1881 sales and median price of $260,000

“The sharp uptick in both single family and condo home sales reflects consumers’ desire to enter the homeownership marketplace as opportunities present themselves, with the anticipated rise in rates and declining inventory boosting activity,” said Matt Silver, president of the Chicago Association of REALTORS® and partner at Urban Real Estate. “Buyers who’ve been watching from the sidelines and may have been distracted for a multitude of reasons, including the Cubs World Series run and the election, are being spurred into action, and both buyers and sellers are reaping the rewards.”

“With the election finally over, consumers appeared to have responded with a significant growth in sales (year-over-year),” said Geoffrey J.D. Hewings, director of the Regional Economics Applications Laboratory at the University of Illinois. “Supply continues to be a problem, but prices of both regular and foreclosed properties increased and the forecasts suggest that these trends will continue into the first quarter of 2017.”

The average days on the market statewide fell to 62 days from 68 days a year ago.

The 30-year mortgage rate averaged 3.77% compared to 3.93% in November 2015.

The 30-year mortgage rates have now spiked to around 4.3% but those new rates won’t be reflected in the data for several months yet due to buyers being able to lock in their rates.

Earlier in the year, we debated whether or not low inventory was depressing home sales, i.e. that there just weren’t enough properties out there that buyers wanted to buy.

November’s huge spike in sales, while inventory remains as low as ever, proves that theory to be incorrect.

How long will this rush to buy continue?

Could this momentum propel the Chicago housing market to new all-time highs in 2017?

Illinois home sales, prices gain traction in November [Illinois Association of Realtors, Press Release, December 21, 2016]

Is Renovated Vintage the Best of All Worlds? A 3-Bedroom at 5510 N. Sheridan in Edgewater


This 3-bedroom in The Renaissance at 5510 N. Sheridan in Edgewater came on the market in October 2016.

The Renaissance was built in 1927 and has 32 units along with extensive gardens and an outdoor parking lot with leased parking.

This unit has views of Lake Michigan from the 11th floor.

It still has many of its vintage features including barrel vaulted ceilings in the foyer and crown molding.

But the kitchen and bathrooms have been renovated to today’s standards.

The kitchen has wood cabinets and a large kitchen island with granite counter tops and luxury appliances, including a chef’s stove.

The master bathroom has a steam shower with double shower heads.

The unit has central air but there’s no washer/dryer in the unit. There’s coin laundry in the building.

This property last sold just 10 months ago, in February 2016. Back then, it took 10 months to sell from listing to close. It had the same renovated kitchen and baths.

How long will it take to sell this time?

Loren Connell at Baird & Warner has the listing. See the pictures here.

Unit #11B: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2200 square feet

  • Sold in September 1997 for $164,500
  • Originally listed in May 2015 for $475,000
  • Sold in February 2016 for $445,000
  • Came back on the market in October 2016 for $498,000
  • Still listed for $498,000
  • Assessments are $1243 a month (includes heat, cable, scavenger and snow removal)
  • Taxes of $6950
  • Central Air
  • No washer/dryer in the unit- coin laundry in the building
  • Leased parking available for $75 to $110 a month
  • Decorative fireplace
  • Bedroom #1: 16×12
  • Bedroom #2: 16×12
  • Bedroom #3: 10×9


Looking for a Massive Terrace? A 3-Bedroom Duplex at 1615 N. Wolcott in Bucktown


This 3-bedroom duplex up in the Urban Sandbox at 1615 N. Wolcott in Bucktown came on the market in September 2016.

The Urban Sandbox is an 8-unit mid-rise modern building originally marketed in 2007.

The architect was Miller Hull and in 2009 it won the Builder’s Choice Urban Infill Grand Award and Project of the Year.

See the architect’s website here.

It has an elevator and a heated garage.

This unit has 20 foot ceilings and floor to ceiling glass windows.

Two of the three bedrooms are on the main level along with the living room and kitchen.

The master bedroom is on the second floor with a family room.

The kitchen has Arclinea cabinets with Miele and Subzero appliances.

For those who love outdoor space, the unit has a 33×24 terrace with cedar decking, water and gas. The listing says it is also wired for sound.

It has central air, washer/dryer in the unit and it looks like up to 3 parking spaces can be purchased.

Originally listed for $1 million in September, this unit has been reduced $150,000 to $850,000.

This property is located in a prime Bucktown area,  near the shops and restaurants of Bucktown and Wicker Park as well as the Damen blue line stop.

With its prime location and 3-bedrooms, which is the preferred size for many buyers, why isn’t this selling?

Jason Finn at Baird & Warner has the listing. See the pictures here.

Unit #203: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, duplex up, no square footage listed

  • Sold in April 2009 for $872,165 (according to Zillow because the county site was down again)
  • Originally listed in September 2016 for $1 million
  • Reduced
  • Currently listed for $850,000 (parking appears to be extra)
  • Assessments of $468 a month (includes exterior maintenance and scavenger)
  • Taxes of $9297
  • Central Air
  • Washer/Dryer in the unit
  • Bedroom #1: 15×14 (second floor)
  • Bedroom #2: 9×10 (main level)
  • Bedroom #3: 10×12 (main level)
  • Media room: 9×6 (second floor)
  • Family room: 33×24 (second floor)
  • Terrace: 33×24

Live on the Mag Mile for Under $600,000: A 2/2 at 100 E. Huron in River North


This 2-bedroom corner unit in Chicago Place at 100 E. Huron in River North came on the market in August 2016.

Built in 1991, this building was the among the first of the “new” buildings that went up downtown in a wave of condo construction in the early 1990s.

It has 205 units.

While it’s address, and front door, is on Huron, the building also fronts Michigan Avenue and has the Chicago Place Mall at its base.

It is a full service building with an indoor pool, exercise room, grills and deck along with leased valet parking.

This unit has south and west views from its bay windows.

The kitchen has white cabinets, granite counter tops and white and stainless steel appliances.

There are hardwood floors throughout.

It has the other features buyers look for including central air and washer/dryer in the unit.

This unit has reduced $37,900 to $592,000.

Is this a deal for a 2-bedroom in this location?

Margaret Baczkowski at Jameson Sotheby’s has the listing. See the pictures here.

Unit #1906: 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1365 square feet

  • Sold in December 1993 for $299,000
  • Sold in January 1998 for $396,500
  • Sold in February 2002 for $580,000
  • Originally listed in August 2016 for $629,900
  • Reduced
  • Currently listed for $592,000
  • Assessments of $902 a month (includes heat, a/c, doorman, cable, internet, scavenger, exterior maintenance, snow removal, exercise room, indoor pool, sauna,)
  • Taxes of $7724
  • Central air
  • Washer/Dryer in the unit
  • Parking is leased and valet – not sure how much a month as the listing doesn’t say
  • Bedroom #1: 15×12
  • Bedroom #2: 14×12

Is It Hard to Sell A Middle Unit? A 2/2 at 1325 N. Dearborn Parkway in the Gold Coast


This 2-bedroom unit in 1325 N. Dearborn Parkway in the Gold Coast came on the market in May 2016.

It is on the second floor, which is the middle unit, of this vintage 3-flat building which was built in 1887.

The unit still has many of its vintage features including pocket doors, moldings, coffered ceilings and inlaid hardwood floors.

There is a wood burning fireplace.

The kitchen has cherry cabinets, granite counter tops and black appliances.

It is a rare vintage unit with all the modern features buyers look for including central air, washer/dryer in the unit and rare 2-car parking.

The unit has been reduced $46,000 since May to $729,000.

Is it difficult to sell a middle unit in a 3-flat building?

Emily Sachs Wong at @Properties has the listing. See the pictures here.

Unit #2: 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1700 square feet

  • Sold in March 2002 for $550,500
  • Sold in November 2007 for $725,000
  • Originally listed in May 2016 for $775,000
  • Reduced twice
  • Currently listed for $729,000 (includes 2-car parking)
  • Assessments of $450 a month (includes exterior maintenance, scavenger)
  • Taxes of $11,655
  • Central Air
  • Washer/Dryer in the unit
  • Wood burning fireplace
  • Bedroom #1: 23×14
  • Bedroom #2: 15×8
  • Office: 8×5



On and Off the Market for 6 Years: The Fugitive House at 336 W. Wisconsin in Lincoln Park


This 5-bedroom single family home at 336 W. Wisconsin in Lincoln Park first came on the market in June 2011.

We’ve chattered about it several times over the years, most recently in October 2015. See that chatter here.

It is known as the “Fugitive House” as parts of the movie The Fugitive, with Harrison Ford, were filmed there. The movie was released in 1993.

If you recall, it was built in 1981 on a larger than average Chicago lot of 32×126.

It has a lot of features you don’t normally find in single family homes including a sauna, an elevator and an indoor pool.

It also has a 3 car garage.

The kitchen has white cabinets and a stainless steel refrigerator.

There are 3 master suites.

The glass catwalk in the main living space plays a key role in the movie.

In 2015, it had been reduced to $3.5 million. It is still listed at $3.5 million.

After all these years on the market, will it finally sell in 2017?

Margaret Wilczek at Berkshire Hathaway KoenigRubloff still has the listing. See the pictures again here.

336 W. Wisconsin: 5 bedrooms, 5 baths, 6129 square feet, 3 car garage

  • Sold sometime before 1994 (?)
  • Originally listed in June 2011 for $3.95 million
  • Reduced
  • Was listed in March 2012 at $3.699 million
  • Under contract briefly in August 2012
  • Was listed in May 2013 at $3.699 million
  • Was still listed in 2014
  • Was re-listed in May 2015 for $3.65 million
  • Reduced
  • Was listed in October 2015 for $3.5 million
  • Currently still listed for $3.5 million
  • Taxes are now $52,664 (they were $54,188 in October 2015 and $48,774 in May 2013)
  • Central Air
  • Sauna
  • Elevator
  • Indoor pool
  • Bedroom #1: 15×19 (third floor)
  • Bedroom #2: 12×22 (second floor)
  • Bedroom #3: 13×16 (second floor)
  • Bedroom #4: 13×14 (second floor)
  • Bedroom #5: 14×18 (fourth floor)
  • Family room: 17×20 (main floor)

Get a 2/2 with Lake Views for $340,000 in the South Loop: 1464 S. Michigan


This 2-bedroom in The Marquee at 1464 S. Michigan in the South Loop came on the market in May 2016.

The Marquee was one of the last condo buildings completed in the South Loop before the bust hit as it was finished in 2008.

It has 214 units and a parking garage.

This unit, on the 21st floor, has east views of Soldier Field and the Lake.

It has 10 foot ceilings and hardwood floors in the main living area.

There are marble and stone bathrooms.

The listing says it’s a “gourmet kitchen” with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances.

It has central air, washer/dryer in the unit and parking is included.

The listing says the second bedroom is “lofted.” Any ideas what that means?

The listing also says its 1200 square feet but a listing for the unit as a rental says it is 1000 square feet.

This unit has been reduced to $315,000 with $25,000 for the parking from $399,900 in May 2016.

Is this a deal compared with rental prices in the neighborhood?

Akos Straub at Coldwell Banker has the listing. See the pictures here.

Unit #2103: 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1200 square feet (or 1000 square feet?)

  • I couldn’t find a prior sales price but the CCRD continues to be offline for me
  • Originally listed in May 2016 for $399,900 (not sure if this included the parking)
  • Reduced several times
  • Currently listed for $315,000 (includes $25,000 for parking)
  • Assessments of $431 a month (includes heat, gas, doorman, exercise room, exterior maintenance, lawn care, scavenger)
  • Taxes of ? (I can’t find them)
  • No pets
  • Developer controlled management
  • Central Air
  • Washer/Dryer in the unit
  • Bedroom #1: 14×11
  • Bedroom #2: 11×10
  • Living room: 13×18
  • Kitchen: 13×10