North Shore Views
Archive for the 'Real estate' Category
Would you let your children watch television in your basement if you knew they were being exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive gas? Would you work in your home office or let your teenager sleep in the basement knowing that you had unhealthful levels of radon gas in the basement? Of course not. No one would knowingly expose loved ones to potentially fatal health risks that can be easily and inexpensively identified and remedied. But, if you don’t test you don’t know.
The State of Illinois passed the Illinois Radon Awareness Act in 2007. The Radon Awareness Act “strongly recommends” that every homeowner and home buyer test their home for elevated levels of radon in the home, to protect the occupants from radon-induced lung cancer.
Radon is a radioactive soil gas that is drawn into the home through the cracks of your foundation, plumbing and electrical penetrations, floor drains, wall cavities, crawl spaces and sump pumps. Radon gas is caused by the decay of uranium in the soil on which a home is built and you can’t see it, smell it, or taste it.
Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that 21,000 people in the United States die each year from radon-induced lung cancer. The EPA has determined that levels of 4 pC/L (picocurries per liter of air) or greater put a homeowner at risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer.
For years a myth has persisted that Chicago’s North and Northwest suburbs don’t have elevated levels of radon. Validated statistics show there are elevated levels of radon throughout these communities and one home can have minimal levels of radon while a neighboring home has elevated levels. While the number of homes with high levels is smaller in Evanston and Wilmette, the number grows as you move north and west. Here’s a sampling of those communities and the percentage of homes testing greater than 4 pC/L: Glencoe – 17%; Highland Park – 23%; Arlington Heights – 31%; and Glenview – 32%.
Don’t leave the health of your loved ones to chance. The only way to know if your house has elevated levels of radon is to test it yourself or to have it tested by a radon measurement professional, licensed by the State of Illinois. The cost is less than the services of a plumber for an hour. If your home has elevated levels of radon (>4pCi/L) a mitigation system can be installed in less than a day at a surprisingly reasonable cost.
Mark McCaffrey is a licensed home inspector on Chicago’s North Shore. He also performs radon testing in the Northern and Northwest suburbs. For more information call 847-363-9733 or visit www.hominspect.com.
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- New Lead Paint Law
Indian Hill is a posh Winnetka golf course community bounded by Ridge Rd. on the east, Locust Rd. on the west and Hill Rd. on the north. It was developed in the 1920′s and named Indian Hill because the club stands on the site of an old Potawatomi Village. In fact, the tenth tee is the high point on the grounds and once used as the look-out point.
87 acres of land for the club was acquired in 1916 from the Alles family, who were early settlers to the area from Germany. (The family sold their remaining land in 1936 for the building of Saints Faith, Hope and Charity Church on the other side of Hill Rd). The Club was designed by architect Donald Ross and built in 1920.
The Indian Hill Club anchors the community and many of the homes front the golf course, though residence in the community does not guarantee you membership in the club. You have to be put up for and approved for membership, then make your way to the top of the waiting list before gaining entrance to the club.
An interesting factoid about the club is that actor Bill Murray and his brothers (who grew up in Wilmette) caddied here as teenagers to help pay their way through school at Loyola Academy. The movie “Caddyshack” was written by Murray’s brother, Brian Doyle-Murray and was supposedly based on (or at least inspired by) his experiences caddying at Indian Hill.
Most of the homes in the community were built in the 1920′s and 1930′s, with some later additions in the 1950′s. During the real estate boom some original houses were torn down to make way for new construction. All of the homes in Indian Hill are large, with four to six bedrooms and lush, beautifully landscaped lots. Most are traditional in style (Tudor, Colonial, etc.), though there a few contemporary houses. The homes typically sell for between $2,000,000 and $4,000,000, though as the market has weakened, a few of the more “modest” homes have been sold for as little as $1.200,000.
A couple of years ago I counted eight homes for sale as my dogs and I walked the circuit around Indian Hill. Today there are only two homes on the market. If you would like up to date information on homes currently for sale in Indian Hill, go here. Or give me a call at 847-687-5957 if you would like to see one of them.
Home sales slowed for the month of October, declining 15% vs. year ago across the North Shore of Chicago. Only two towns showed sales increases: Northfield (+20%) and Highland Park (+11%).
The median price of homes sold in October increased 5% overall. The only two communities that experienced a decline were Winnetka (-7%) and Highland Park (-37%).
Market time for those homes sold decreased 16% to 183 days. Wilmette, Winnetka and Kenilworth were the three towns with increases, but Wilmette’s market time is still lower than the North Shore average, at 170 days.
Year to Date Data
Looking at a single month can be misleading, since the numbers can bounce around from month to month. The year to date statistics give a much better idea of what is really going on.
For the ten months through October, home sales on the North Shore were up 31% and all but one town (Glencoe) had double-digit increases. Highland Park and Lake Forest showed the greatest improvement over last year (+50%).
The median price for North Shore homes sold was up 3% vs. the same period last year, though results were very mixed across the different communities. Evanston, Wilmette and Glenview improved, while Northfield and Highland Park were down vs. last year.
Time on market for homes sold decreased 7% to 199 days. Evanston and Wilmette had the shortest market time at 141 and 147 days, respectively. All the other markets are still over 200 days.
This old Scottish prayer could just as well be the home buyer’s prayer. Because, despite strict disclosure laws in most states, home buyers sometimes end up with more than they bargained for. While sellers must disclose material defects in the property, most states do not require them to disclose information such as whether a murder or suicide has taken place in the home, or whether there is rumored paranormal activity.
The Illinois Real Property Disclosure Report form requires a seller to answer 22 questions about known material defects on the property. A material defect is defined as a condition that would cause substantive adverse effects on the property’s value or pose a significant hazard to future occupants of the property. The disclosure form includes questions about structural problems, mechanical and electrical defects, flooding, lead paint, radon, presence of an underground fuel tank and even whether the property has been used as a meth lab. (The manufacture of methamphetamines leaves behind invisible residue to which exposure can lead to organ damage, cancer and other health problems, especially in children).
Whether things like murder, suicide or the presence of ghosts and poltergeists constitute material defects is the subject of much debate. True, they are not material defects: they have no effect on the functionality of the house. However, the presence of one or more of these “stigmas” can reduce the property’s perceived value in the eyes of the public. Therefore, ethically you have a responsibility to disclose it.
Realtor Magazine offered the following advice for home owners who may have a “stigmatized” property to sell: “After you’ve confirmed that the reasons for a stigma are factual, ask yourself if knowledge of the stigma would affect the willingness of a reasonable person to buy the property or would change the amount that person was willing to pay. Stigmas aren’t always easy to classify, so use your best judgment.”
Besides, for some buyers, being haunted actually increases the desirability of a house.
Many people are feeling stuck in their homes. They are reluctant to sell because the value of their home has dropped dramatically since the market peaked in mid 2006. They are thinking, “maybe if I wait til spring, prices will come back and there will be more buyers for my home.”
But, there are some very good reasons why NOW is actually a very good time to sell your North Shore home:
1. There may be fewer people out looking for houses as the weather worsens and the holidays approach. BUT, the people who ARE out looking tend to be serious buyers, not lookie-lous. The fact is that people buy houses at any time of year for all sorts of reasons.
2. Since most would-be sellers think that nobody buys houses in the winter, they wait til spring to list theirs, so there’s 15-20% less inventory this time of year. That means you have 15-20 % less competition for those serious buyers if you sell now than if you wait til spring to list your house.
3. Another reason you will have less competition now is because of the recent suspension of sales of foreclosed homes. That means that many of the distressed and discounted properties are temporarily off the market. So not only is there less competition, but less low-priced competition.
4. Just when you think that mortgage interest rates can’t go any lower, they do! And buyers are smart enough to realize that this can’t last forever. If they have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for prices to drop even further, they have probably seen the recent data that North Shore prices have begun to stabilize. And if they’re smart, they’ve done the math that shows that a one point increase in interest rates will give them 9% less purchasing power. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that NOW is the time to buy.
5. Finally, if you are moving up to a bigger or better house, you can actually come out ahead, EVEN if you sell your current home for less than it used to be worth. Here’s how that math works: let’s say your current house is worth 20% less than it was three years ago. The bigger, better house you want to buy is also worth 20% less than it was three years ago. So you gain more on the purchase of the new house than you lose on the sale of your current home. You can read more about how this works here.
In an interview this past August, University of Illinois economist Dr. Geoffrey Hewings identified several factors which should drive positive trends in the Illinois housing market in the coming months:
- Lower mortgage interest rates
- Higher rental rates, which will ultimately cause people to purchase a home vs. continuing to rent
- New home construction is at an all time low, which means fewer new homes in the pipeline
- Pent-up demand from retirees who want to move but have stayed put hoping for prices to rise again
- People relocating for jobs
But these days, the new mantra seems to be “price, price, price”, and there’s no doubt that price is what’s on everyone’s lips.
But the mantra really should be “value, value, value” because, in the sale and purchase of anything, whether it’s a house, a car or a pair of jeans, it’s always been about value. In other words, the quality you get for the price you pay. It’s really a very simple formula:
Value is the subjective assessment which the customer and/or the market makes about the overall worth of a product or service based on its quality and price.
There are three components of quality when it comes to buying a house: features (square footage, # bedrooms, etc.), location and condition (is everything in good repair, is it updated, does it show well?). If the buying public perceives your house to be the best house at its price point, then the house will sell. If it’s not, it won’t. Simple as that. You can’t settle for “as good as” other similarly priced houses (which, are not selling, by the way); it must be the BEST house at its price point (and you need to force yourself to be objective about this). If other competing houses are more updated or in a better location or have better features, then you’d better make adjustments until it IS the best one.
Since you can’t change the location and you can’t (easily) change the floor plan or other permanent features of the house, you have to take control of those things you can control: the condition of the house and the price. In most cases you can improve the condition by making repairs and inexpensive updates and staging the house to show it off to its best advantage.
But that may not be enough. If you’ve fixed and updated and staged and it still doesn’t measure up to the other comparably priced houses, then it’s time to adjust the price, until it is the clearly BEST value on the market.
If you follow this formula, your house WILL sell, even in this market.
Not long ago I included the Schweppe Mansion in my post about the top ten priciest properties for sale on the North Shore.
What I didn’t mention is that the Lake Forest home was, at one time, reputed to be haunted. With Halloween right around the corner, it seemed like the time to tell its spooky story. Here’s the background: The house was built in 1917 by John G. Shedd (president of Marshall Field and Company and founder of the Shedd Aquarium) as a wedding gift for his daughter, Laura, upon her marriage to Charles Schweppe. But Laura died in 1937, leaving a lonely and tormented Charles to roam the 33,000 sq. ft. mansion for the next four years. Charles ultimately killed himself with a bullet to the head, and the house stood empty for the next 47 years.
Although ghosts have never actually been sighted here, rumors of Charles’ ghost haunting the master bedroom spread throughout the area. and the abandoned mansion had all the makings of a haunted house, especially some its more bizarre features. One was a lone window overlooking the driveway, which never needed cleaning, even when the rest of the house was covered in dirt and grime. The other strange feature , discovered by Donna Desplenter when she bought the house in the 1980s, was the “doorway to hell”, an entryway in the basement that led only to narrow, black corridors turning into other dark, winding passageways, leading only to dead-ends and desolate rooms.
The house was finally purchased and completely renovated and restored. No paranormal activity has been reported for many years. The house is for sale now and can be yours for a mere $15,000,000.
Affordable housing for seniors is not easy to find on the North Shore, but it does exist. One affordable senior building in Wilmette is the Village Green Atrium, a 35-unit condominium building for seniors 62 years or older. Located at 800 Ridge Rd. in Wilmette, the building contains 25 one-bedroom units and ten two-bedroom units. It’s in a good location, too. The Treasure Island is right up the street, as are dry cleaners, a bank and the Ridgeview Grill. The PACE bus stops nearby. And, last but not least, the police station is right next door, making residents feel secure.
To maintain their affordability, the units are bought and sold at a formula price below market value. There is no income cap, but priority for units goes first to Wilmette residents, then to former Wilmette residents or parents of Wilmette residents, and last to non-Wilmette residents.
To receive an application, view a unit or get more information, you can call Erika Fabisch at the Community Development Department at (847) 853-7522.
Another condominium building with affordable units is Mallinckrodt in the Park. While most of the 81 units sell at market rate, 12 are formula-priced to keep these units affordable.
HomeGain just released the results of its 3rd quarter survey of real estate professionals and homeowners for the state of Illinois.
Just about all the agents and brokers surveyed said that home values decreased in the last year. No surprise there. My only question is where does that 2% live who saw home prices increase? I want to go live there!
When asked if prices will continue to fall in the next six months, 69% of real estate professionals said yes and 25% said they expected prices to stay the same.
This is a nifty piece of research. But, as we all know, real estate is local, so how well does this data reflect what’s going on here on the North Shore? Well, I don’t think there were any agents represented from this neck of the woods given the response to another question further down in the survey, which was: what’s the average home price in your area? Only 4% said it was >$500K and 0% said >$800K, so they’re probably not from the North Shore.
I think we’re in better shape than other parts of our state. Our median price (for detached single family homes in nine North Shore markets) for the latest three month period (July-September) is actually up 6% vs. year ago. Does that mean we’ll see a steady increase from here on out? Probably not, but at least we’re not in negative territory.