Fall in Chicago always looks good but now it’s also looking quite attractive for those in the real estate industry. According to a recent report from a local consulting firm Tracy Cross & Associates, new home sales were 3% higher this September than last. There was a decline however, but that was in the median price of new homes – a drop to under $350,000 in Q2 2018 and Q3 2018.
Tracy Cross’ EVP Erik Doresching explains this as being “from builders trying to gain some momentum [who were attempting to reverse a rather sluggish beginning to 2018, when year-over-year sales were down seven percent.”
Nationwide however, Chicago isn’t faring so well. In 2017 it was ranked 42 (out of 79 largest real estate markets) but this year it dropped to 49. Perhaps more noteworthy and concerning is that in 2016 it came in at Number 19.
Still, within the Chicago real estate industry there is some good news. For a mere $1, lots are available for purchase within the city. 4,000 of these are up for offer – spaces currently owned by the city throughout the South, Southwest and West. Thanks to the Chicago Large Lots Program (established by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015), 2,000 lots have already been sold which are being utilized to “create new social spaces and to grow flowers and vegetables.”
There have been some interesting new construction developments in the Windy City as of late. Here, we discuss three of them: Fulton Market WeWork, the Johnson Publishing Building and the Starbucks on Canal Street.
Randy Rissman of Tiger Electronics is in the process of completing a deal to purchase a six-floor office building located at 210-220 N. Green Street in Fulton. With a price tag of approximately $45 million, those selling the property (Shapack Partners, AJ Capital Partners and Shorenstein Properties) will make a tidy profit on what it paid originally – $6.8 million – in 2013.
The Johnson Publishing Building – located on South Michigan Avenue – is in the process of converting what has been office space to 150 apartments for rent. This should start in the beginning of 2018 by 3L Real Estate which just acquired the construction from Columbia College.
Although it already has the largest Starbucks in Chicago, apparently that’s not good enough for the coffee tycoon. Plans have been revealed to develop it to be more than double of its original size, adding 30,000 square feet in its 111 N. Canal Street building to cater to additional workers behind the scenes who are developing new concepts for the firm. Right now, its regional Chicagoan office is nearly 14,000 square feet, located at 564 W. Randolph Street.
Chicago will soon be home to the world’s largest ever Starbucks. In 2019, North Michigan Avenue will have a Starbucks Reserve Roastery measuring 43,000 square feet, spanning four floors, offering customers a “fully sensorial coffee environment dedicated to roasting, brewing and packaging.”
The Mayor is wholly supportive of this move, seeing the benefit of the city’s “Magnificent Mile,” which he said “brings in millions of visitors from across this globe.” Rahm Emanuel thus believes it to be the perfect location for a world-class coffee destination.” Further, for the economy as a whole it is a positive move, given that it is making a large investment in Chicago and will be of benefit to locals as well.
The development has been received by other business people as well. For example, Crate and Barrel founder Gordon Segal, commented that it will have a “unique way of becoming a beacon for a brand.” He added that he “can’t think of a better retailer than Starbucks to offer Chicago something new and exciting with its Reserve Roastery.”
Other developments in progress include: One Bennett Park (a 70-floor tower at 451 E. Grand that started building last spring) designed by Robert A.M. Stern, a New York architect; Optima Chicago Center II a 57-story tower at 220 East Illinois.
A new record was set in the top-priced, second-home market in November in Wisconsin. Lake Geneva saw three homes sell for at least $5 million. Lake Geneva is 80 miles north of Chicago. Here in Chicago, during the same month only one home sold in that price range, a Glencoe estate bringing in a cool $8.5 million.
If you add in the sale in September of the Lake Geneva estate which went for $9.55 million, it would not be an exaggeration to say “we’ve had a good season of top-of-the-market activity here,” as David Curry, a Geneva Lakefront Realty broker said.
Those four sales alone have already surpassed 2015. Last year Walworth County had just three homes that sold in this super-price range.
In the 15 years prior to that there had never been more than one sale per year in that price range.
Curry added that “If we had five more $5 million listings, I could sell them this year. People are knocking on doors.”
In one more of what has been a long run of high-profile sales, a New York investor purchased the Bronzeville building where Mariano’s grocery store recently opened.
Mariano’s opened the new store at Martin Luther King Drive and Pershing Road on October 11 this year. Just about two weeks later the building was sold for $34 million. The sale should not affect the grocery, which has a twenty-year lease with four five-year options to extend the lease. Rent goes up every five years.
Not too long ago another Mariano’s location in north suburban Vernon Hills sold for $36 million.
Chicago Neighborhood Initiative was part of the venture that developed Mariano’s. The Initiative is a non-profit that helps areas around Chicago where development is sorely needed. Other interests behind the development were Chicago firms WBS Equities, Safeway Construction, and Bartlett-based Abbott Land & Investment.
The total cost of the original development is not completely clear, but in 2014, when the CNI announced plans for the project they said it would cost as much as $24 million.
The iconic North Shore neighborhood of Lake Forest has one of slowest real estate markets in its peer group. Homes that were sold in May were on the market an average of 186 days. In the middle of June there were 97 homes which had been listed at least 6 months ago. Other areas with similar homes had less than 20 for sale that long. Hinsdale had 46 homes and Highland Park 57.
“It’s been slow up here,” says Marina Carney, an agent for Griffith, Grant & Lackie. “We’re all feeling it,” says Berkshire Hathaway Home-Services Koenig-Rubloff Realty Group agent Sue Beanblossom, in Lake Forest. “It takes a long time to get something sold in Lake Forest today.”
According to Midwest Real Estate Data, at the end of May Lake Forest had enough homes to supply sales for 14.5 months. In just about all its peers, such as Hinsdale and other North Shore suburbs, the inventory is quite smaller. For those other areas it was between three and 10.5 months at the end of May. A rule of thumb is that a healthy, balanced market has about six months of inventory.
Winnetka is a similar suburb to Lake Forest, but considerably smaller. Nevertheless, seven homes priced at over $5 million has sold in Winnetka in the past three years. In Lake Forest only four have sold.
Real estate agents say that the problem is three-fold: the age of the homes in Lake Forest; the extremely high asking prices; a long commute to downtown Chicago, combined with low-motivated sellers.
Several parameters have conspired to raise the price of homes in the Chicago area: mortgage rates below 4 percent; home loans are easier to come by; strongest job market since the recession; more people wanting to buy homes. And now, as the housing market enters the traditional season for home purchases, a shortage of homes has added more fuel to the fire of rising home prices.
The real estate website Trulia conducted a study showing that people across the country are finding it difficult to find a home they want to buy at a price they can afford. In Chicago and the surrounding area, and in Illinois in general, sales continue to rise, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors.
“Illinois continues to see sustained growth in sales and median prices, indicating the market is poised for a strong rollout for the spring selling season,” said Mike Drews, president of the state Realtors group, in a statement.
Home sales in the nine-county Chicago area rose by 6.1 percent in February, compared to last year, and prices rose by 7.1 percent. The median price for homes and condos sold was $187,500, compared with $175,000 in February 2015.
In Chicago itself things were even worse: The median price for homes and condos was up by 12.3 percent, to $238,000 from $212,000 in February 2015.
“There was a lot of movement in 2013 and 2014, but 2015 slowed,” said Carla Walker, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Koenig Rubloff.
Despite a downturn in the rate the rest of the country is taking out mortgages, the Chicago area has seen an upward spike in home loans at the end of 2015 as compared to the same time period the year before.
In addition, area re-financing also grew during the fourth quarter of 2015, rising at a rate of over double the national average.
Chicago-region buyers received 20,870 mortgages to purchase homes during the last three months of 2015, representing an increase of 3 percent over the last quarter of 2014 when 20,275 mortgages were acquired. In the rest of the country the national average of purchase mortgages fell by one percent.
The number of mortgages taken by home buyers is not a direct measure of the total number of homes purchased, since some people do not use a mortgage to buy a home, if they have enough cash. The Chicago area experienced a 6.6 percent overall rise in home sales for 2015 as compared to 2014.
Real estate is a popular investment vehicle and there are some useful tax breaks that investors should be aware of. One of those which has been becoming more popular over the past 10-15 years is known as a 1031 exchange, named after section 1031 of the tax code.
Here is the background: In March 2002 the IRS issued new guidelines called Rev. Proc. 2002-22. These guidelines were created to help buyers and sellers of real estate who were conducting 1031 exchanges. These special property sales were based on the exchange of the property for a “like-kind” property. This exchange allows the sellers to defer paying capital-gains taxes on the sale. In the broadest of terms, the investor is swapping (exchanging) one business or investment asset for another. Even though most swaps are taxable as sales, if you come within the parameters of section 1031, there will be either no tax or limited tax due at the time the exchange takes place.
Back in 2002 IRS ruling addressed itself to something called a Tenant in Common, or a TIC. A TIC allows investors to own just a partial interest in a 1031 property, which can be entities such as shopping malls office buildings, and other commercial properties. The ruling established the fact the TIC properties indeed qualify as a realistic option for 1031 exchanges.
Most sponsors, or firms which create TIC deals, demand relatively high minimums, usually around $250,000. In the past there have been some firms with considerably lower minimums, however. Some niche firms set the limit as low as $50,000, such as Rob Hannah’s Strategies Group LLC, a company that specialized in structuring and then selling shares in TICs.
There are a few caveats when considering the use of a 1031 exchange to defer taxes.
A 1031 exchange is not allowed for personal use, only for investment and business property.
A 1031 exchange does not always have to be real estate, although it usually is. It is even possible that the sale of a work of art can be considered qualified for a 1031 exchange.
The definition of “like-kind” is wide. The terminology here can be misleading so check before you make any deals.
You are allowed to do what is known as a “delayed exchange.” Because the chances of immediately finding someone with the exact property you want who also wants the exact property you have means that most exchanges are delayed via three party (Starker) exchanges. This type of exchange requires a middleman who holds your cash after you sell your property. He then uses that cash to buy your replacement property on your behalf. This three party trade is considered a swap.
There are two important timing rules to keep in mind when conducting a delayed exchange. Once you sell off your property the third party intermediary gets the cash, and within 45 days of the sale of your property you have to designate the replacement property in writing to that same third party intermediary. The second restriction is that you must close on the new property you are purchasing with 180 days of the sale of the old property.
As soon as you receive the cash for your property, it is taxed.
There are a few other rules to be aware of. As you can see, 1031 exchanges are not simple things, and we recommend getting advice from a professional before jumping in to this potentially lucrative tax benefit for investors.
Considered by many as Chicago’s First Great Hotel, The Palmer House is up for sale.
The historic hotel is probably most famous for the on-the-premises invention of one of America’s most beloved confections: the chocolate brownie. Bertha Palmer is responsible for our added waistline inches and dental caries, all of course well worth it. She was married to Potter Palmer, the man responsible for the success of the grand hotel. Here is how it happened:
“Bertha Palmer, who was president of the Ladies Managers of the World’s Fair, was doing box lunches for all the guests but she wanted something other than piece of pie or cake. So she came to the hotel and charged the chef to make something like a cookie. Denser, like a cookie, but chocolatier. She loved chocolate. And ergo, the brownie,” Palmer House historian Ken Price said.
It is not just brownies that has made Palmer House special. Less than two weeks after Palmer House opened on September 26th, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire left the hotel nothing but a pile of ash. From the ashes rose the second incarnation of the hotel two years later, setting several precedents for their new establishment.
Price explained: “First, totally fireproof building. Second, is first utilization of Edison’s invention the lightbulb, Bell’s invention of the telephone, and actually this contraption called the vertical railroad, which became the Otis Elevator.”