North Wells in Old Town: The Hottest Street in Chicago

Forget about Astor Street.  East Lake Shore Drive?  Ho-hum.

The hottest street to live on in Chicago right now is North Wells in Old Town.  Property values continue to rise there, with some buildings rivaling the prices paid to live in top neighborhoods like Streeterville and the Gold Coast.  And it doesn’t seem like the values will be dropping anytime soon.

Take 1414 N. Wells.  Built in 1995, the building is a rather plain but solid brick mid-rise right in the middle of the “prime” part of Wells.  You can walk right out your door and go to a dozen restaurants.


The building also has parking and remarkably low assessments (there is no doorman which helps to keep assessments down.)

Unit #311 is currently on the market. 



Unit #311: 2 bedroom, 2 baths, 1400 square feet

  • Sold in October 2005 for $228,000
  • Sold in May 2003 for $485,000
  • Currently listed for $680,000 (includes the parking)
  • Assessments of $398 a month

The kitchen and baths in the unit were remodeled a few years ago.  The unit also has a large terrace off the back that runs the length of the unit (probably around 20 feet.)

Do you think $680,000 is too high for that building and that area?  That’s a pricey $485 a square foot (including the parking).  Unit #312, a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, sold for $675,000 in September 2007.

Jacqueline Martinez at Koenig & Strey has the listing.

Or if you want something more modern, you can take a stroll right across the street to the four unit building at 1445 N. Wells.  There, you can have an elevator that opens directly into your unit.







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

  • Sold in June 2006 for $602,500
  • Currently listed for $659,900
  • Assessments of $200 a month
  • Listing states one car parking but I don’t know if this is deeded and/or included

Mary Robbins at Baird and Warner has the listing.

The Spire Sales Center is Open!

By now,  I’m sure many of you have seen yesterday’s Chicago Tribune article talking about the opening of The Spire’s sales center.  The Spire was also featured on some of the local tv stations.


There were some interesting stats in the article, though, which I thought I’d post here. It seems that interest in The Spire is pretty high:

Already about 600 people have made appointments to visit the sales office at 455 N. Cityfront Plaza.

“In this market, for the Spire to get several hundred contracts to move ahead with construction will be difficult,” said James M. Kinney, president of Rubloff Residential Properties, a Chicago-based, high-end broker.

“If they introduce 600 units priced at $2 million or more, that’s a 71/2-year supply for the downtown Chicago luxury market,” Kinney added.

But sales are slowing in the downtown Chicago condo market:

Through the third quarter of last year, buyers signed contracts to purchase 3,312 newly built downtown condominiums, a decline of 35 percent from a year earlier and off 52 percent from the record year of 2005, according to Chicago-based Appraisal Research Counselors.

“This year we expect sales to fall further from the strong level of 2004 through 2006,” said Gail Lissner, vice president at Appraisal Research. “There is no segment of the market that’s immune from the slowdown.”

But as sales fall, the downtown housing market will be inundated with new units.

This year, the delivery of new condominiums will rise to 6,300 units, up about 50 percent from two years ago, she noted.

We have also already seen some of the new units close and then come back on the market in the form of flips- which is also adding to the inventory.

The Spire’s sales will be watched closely.  Stay tuned.

But, just admit it.  You want to make an appointment to go and see The Spire’s sales center.

I thought so.  Me too.

The 1960s weren’t too bad either: 1000 N. Lake Shore Plaza

Built 11 years after its sister building to the north, 1000 N. Lake Shore Plaza (not to be confused with 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive) was designed by the same architect and has the same great lake views and gold coast location.


According to Emporis, 1000 N. Lake Shore Plaza, at 55 stories, was actually the tallest building in Chicago to have balconies until Park Tower, near Water Tower Place, was built in 1999.  It is also the tallest building furthest north in the city. 

Prices are ritzier in the Plaza building than in 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive, but it still seems like a deal given the views and the location.

Apparently others think the same thing as there is at least one flip in the building.





Unit #34C: 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths,  2100 square feet, Southwest facing (no lake view)

  • Sold in July 2007 for $525,000
  • Currently listed for $869,900
  • Unit has central air
  • Assessments of $1,502 a month
  • @Properties has the listing

Then there are other units that seem downright affordable given their views and location.





Unit #49A: 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths (was a three bedroom originally), 2330 square feet, lake views

  • Sold in November 2006 for $750,000
  • Currently listed at $898,000
  • Assessment of $1,716 a month
  • Central air
  • There is a contingent contract on this unit
  • Koenig & Strey has the listing

The most expensive unit in the building currently is Unit #43 a 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath duplex priced at $965,000.  Listing says it is sold “as is.”

“Potential” Short Sales: 400 N. LaSalle

In case you haven’t noticed, short sale listings have grown in popularity in recent weeks.  In fact, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t see at least one short sale listing.

In some buildings, prices are dropping so fast that some sellers – and their mortgage holders – don’t have any choice (or face foreclosure.)

But some are more interesting. 



Take these two listings at 400 N. LaSalle an apartment to condo conversion building in River North that is not yet sold out.

Units #4303 and #4403: studios, 534 square feet

  • Both were bought in June 2006 for $218,700
  • Both are currently listed for $254,900
  • Assessments of $254 a month

The listing states:


Clearly- an investment gone bad.

But how can it be a “potential short sale” if the current price is above what the buyer paid for the unit? Unless, of course, the buyer “took out” over $36,000 in each unit and is now underwater. A short sale, by definition, means that the bank is letting the seller sell for less than that owed on the property in order to avoid foreclosure.

These prices don’t seem like a deal for the building.

Unit #1103 is currently the cheapest studio on the market in the building. It is listed for $212,000.

Another studio, Unit #1006, is upgraded and is listed at $215,000.  It’s cute.




Christina Delgreco at Coldwell Banker has the listing.

@Properties has the listings for Units #4303 and #4403.

By the way, at least one company is promoting short-term corporate rentals in 400 N. LaSalle (with a 30 day minimum stay.)  One bedrooms from $119 a night and two bedrooms from $146 a night.

The 1950s weren’t too bad: 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive

With all the new construction going up around the city, sometimes older buildings get overlooked.  The gorgeous vintage buildings of the 1920s have held their own.  But anything built between, say, 1932 and 1970 is usually much maligned. 

But location still matters and 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive has it in spades.


Located at the end of Michigan Avenue, where Lake Shore Drive, Oak Street and N. Michigan meet, the 23 story building is located right across the street from what many consider to be the best beach in Chicago, Oak Street Beach.  World class shopping and dining is only blocks away.

But 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive, built in 1953, doesn’t look like much from the outside.  In fact, you’ve probably walked right past it dozens of times without looking up.

The units are big.  No 11 x 13 master bedrooms here.  Instead, they’re 12 x 18.  The building appears to allow in-unit laundry and there is valet rental parking. What’s not to like?

Some of the units are priced at or less than one bedroom condos in the new lake shore drive high rises such as 600 N. Lake Shore Drive.  And you get much more space.





Unit #1005: 2 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 1800 square feet, direct lake view

  • Currently listed for $589,000
  • Laundry in the unit
  • No Central Air (only window units)
  • Assessment of $1,292 a month
  • Century 21 Sussex & Reilly has the listing

The smallest two bedroom units seem affordable (but don’t have lake views or have only a slice of lake.)




Unit #2201: 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1200 square feet

  • Currently listed at $334,500
  • Assessments of $1038 a month
  • No central air (window units)
  • No in-unit laundry
  • Koenig & Strey has the listing

There are also some interesting units in the building.  Currently there is a 4 bedroom,  4 bath combined unit with 2400 square feet and a 700 square foot terrace for $699,000


John Baer at Coldwell Banker has that listing.

Chicago Housing Market: Development to Slow in the South Loop

The South Loop, as most of you know, has been on a building boom for over 10 years.  It has been named the #1 fastest growing neighborhood in the United States.  At least a dozen new high rises are currently under construction in the neighborhood, as well as townhomes and lofts.

But apparently the nationwide housing market slowdown is even affecting the South Loop.  The Chicago Journal reports:

Dennis Beninato, real estate tax lawyer and president of the Greater South Loop Association, said development will decrease due to a number of reasons, a few being that loans are harder to get and prices are slow.

“Lending institutions are being much more careful and much more selective as far as who their giving loans to,” Beninato said. “And developers may be waiting until they can sell the units for a higher value.”

Even some developers are sounding the horn that things will be slowing in 2008:

Developer Rick Cavenaugh, president of Fifield Cos., said people are likely to stay renters rather than buy in 2008.

“For people who might be tempted to go from renting to ownership, it’s going to be very difficult to get financing in the future, and cost of financing is much higher than it was two years ago,” Cavenaugh said.

This year will be harder on condo buildings trying to sell units, he said, and developers will likely hold off on other projects.

“I think it’s going to be a cautious year,” Cavenaugh said. “Developers will have to have really good reasons to build new projects. You won’t see some of the marginal deals getting off the ground as you did when we had a real strong market.”

Will more buyers turn into renters in the South Loop? There are some mighty good rental deals in the South Loop right about now.  Stay tuned.

Development Boom Expected to Slow: More ‘green’ development could sprout up [Chicago Journal, 1/9/2008]

Flipper Alert: Park View East at 828 W. Grace in Lakeview

There are rarely new buildings built in Lakeview so when there is, you can bet that it sells quickly.

Such was the case with Park View East at 828 W. Grace, a 17 story high rise only a few blocks from Wrigley Field.



Closings started in 2007 and there are several flips in the building.  Currently there are 9 units for sale.  Four of them are developer’s units.

Two penthouse units were recently on the market.





Unit #1710: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths

  • Sold in November 2007 for $662,000
  • Currently listed for $724,900 (parking is extra at $29,900 a spot)
  • Assessments of $430 a month
  • Quest Realty has the listing

Unit #1701: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths

  • Sold in August 2007 for $608,425
  • Currently listed for $769,900 (plus $29,900 for parking)
  • Assessments of $475 a month
  • Quest Realty has the listing

This two bedroom unit looks like it has been staged.  I couldn’t find a prior sales price.




Unit #509: 2 bedrooms, 2 baths

  • Currently listed at $389,000 (plus $29,900 for parking)
  • Assessments of $249 a month
  • Koenig & Strey has the listing

Park View East at 828 W. Grace [website]

Got Cash? This Lake Shore Drive Vintage Building is for You

Foreclosures in a building can be worrisome.  They can bring down prices in the entire building.  But there is a solution.  In Chicago, you can buy in a Co-Op building that requires the buyers to purchase in all cash.

Yes, cash is still king in certain cases.

And apparently there are some buyers who have it.

1540 N. Lake Shore Drive was built in 1929 and, if you recall, that wasn’t exactly the best time to be building a luxury high rise.  The 17 story building originally was made up of two 8 room apartments per floor.  Today, there are 28 units in the building.


The building went into receivership during the Depression.  In 1947, the residents bought out the building and returned it to its co-op status.  Apparently, they learned from that time period because they now require all cash in order to live there.

Two units sold in 2007:

  • Unit #11N and Unit #4N: both 3 bedroom, 3.5 bath units
  • Each sold for $1.2 million






Unit #3S: 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths

  • Currently listed for $2.2 million
  • Assessment of $4,377 a month (includes taxes, heat and cable)

There is no parking with the building but washer/dryers are allowed.   And you get the tree top views:


Sure, the assessments are steep.  But if you’ve got the $2.2 million in cash, what’s $4,300 a month?

Rubloff  has the listing.

In this market, what are comps anyway?

It might be easier in one of the big highrises to determine the comp on a condo as there are obviously more units coming onto the market.

But what happens if you live in a smaller condo building that hasn’t had a sale in over a year? 

Such is the case with the 433 N. Wells in River North.  This was a new construction boutique building in 2002.  There appears to be about 10 units in the building.


One unit is currently on the market.







Unit #601: 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 4,100 square feet, 2 car parking

  • Sold in May 2003 for $940,000
  • Currently listed at $1.45 million (parking is extra)
  • Assessment of $960 a month

Nothing sold in this building in 2007.  The last unit to sell was Unit #602 in December 2006.  It looks to be a sister unit to #601.  It also has 3 bedrooms and 3.5 baths.  Its sales history:

Unit #602:

  • Sold in May 2003 for $968,000
  • Sold in December 2006 for $1.575 million

Going off of that comp, #601 seems priced correctly.

But the market in 2006 was very different from the market in 2008.  How do you price this unit?  What comps do you use?  Currently, it’s priced at $353 a square foot.

Gwen Stark at Koenig & Strey has the listing.

Rent v. Own: Modern Mansion in Logan Square

Thanks to the tipster who directed me to this modern single family home at 3150 W. Schubert in Logan Square.


The house is 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths with a three car garage.  It is 4,500 square feet.  I’m assuming it is newer construction as I couldn’t find a prior sale price for it.

From the listing:

Rare opportunity to own a spectacular 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath contemporary home in Logan Square. Sunny oversized corner lot with Traco floor-to-ceiling windows. Solid brick construction with limestone accents. A six foot high solid masonry wall surrounds the property with lush vegetation and privacy. Open floor plan with custom steel and maple stairway. Maple flooring and custom solid maple doors throughout. Elegant.

You can buy it for $1,450,000.

Karen Peterson at Coldwell Banker has the listing.




Or you can also rent it.

From Craigslist:

This home is perfect for the individual or couple who appreciate high design and quality.

* Unbelievable kitchen with Viking, Subzero, granite, cherry cabinets, etc.
* Open floorplan–great for entertaining.
* Huge glass entryways and windows and Southern exposure equate to great natural light.
* Two master bedroom suites.
* Huge home office with two built-in workstations.
* 8′ tall solid maple interior doors.
* Maple floors, slate and designer carpeting throughout.
* Full three car garage.

Rental price? $3750 a month



Yes- there is a difference between owning a home and renting one.  But just from a financial perspective, this seems like a pretty darn good rental deal to me.