Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Elderly coming back North...cater to them!

Another good piece from the Times from 2/26/07 regarding its analysis of Census data that shows more elderly leaving the "South" and coming back to the Northeast, Midwest, West to live. The piece speculates that more people want to be nearer to their children/grandchildren rather than the balmy Florida weather.

That's a big group of potential buyers.

Freddie Mac tightening subprime guidelines

A piece in the Times today about Freddie's tightening of its lending standards and its unwillingness to purchase loans below certain borrower credit limits. Just another chink in the trend we're seeing.

My favorite line from the mortgage guys is, "oh, he/she is just going to refinance anyways." I.e., don't worry that the loan's interest rate goes up to 15% in the second year and there's a balloon payment after year 15. No one ever loses a job or gets sick, ect., ect. that would not allow them to refinance would they, right.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The correct role of an agent in a residential real estate transaction...

This is something I'm grappling with right now and I'm curious about other peoples view. Just a snippet about my situation...I think the Buyer's agent (our firm represents Buyer as lawyer) is too active. She's beating up the Seller's agent with calls about repair requests constantly and I think this bitterness is filtering through to the Seller and it hurts our Buyer because the Seller was less willing to make various repairs that got raised in the property inspection report.

This is my lawyer's perspective in the "typical" transaction where my first involvement comes when we get a signed contract sent to us. I don't want to hear from agents about what repairs they want done nor about contract modifications that they want done. My fiduciary duty is with the client. We go out of our way to keep the agent in the loop absolutely but to be receiving constant calls from an agent I think hurts the transaction and it quite frankly wastes my time. I think an agent can be useful in terms of meeting inspectors and repair people at the property and doing a final walk-thru.

I don't mind speaking with agents but at the end of the day the only thing we (lawyers) are selling is our time and talking with agents about issues that need to be discussed with a client anyways to be frank is a waste of my time.

Senior real estate resource

Maybe an option for seniors involved in real estate transactions, Seniors Real Estate Specialists,

Do you (Buyer) need an agent?

Well, if nothing else I guess the folks at BuySide Realty have been doing a nice job in their PR office because I keep see articles about them popping up in major newspapers including Sunday's Trib. Their business is serving as (limited) real estate agents for buyers and then refunding 75% of the buyers commission.

What's the view on this company and bigger picture, when is/isn't a buyer's real estate agent necessary?

My thought is that if you're going just use BuySide, why use an agent at all? Right? It sounds like all they are is an agent you can call when you're buying a home and essentially they'll put an offer in for you. If that's your only need, use a lawyer only. Most lawyers are charging $500-$750 as fees...that's going to be less than what BuySide does even with their refund. Interesting concept though getting $$ through the commission. I suppose this could be pretty profitable to you as a Buyer. There have been some stories about "real" agents refusing to pay BuySide agents their share of the commission.

It's hard to generalize about when a potential buyer SHOULD use an agent. If I'm buying a home in the community I live in or much of the Chicago area that I'm very familiar with I doubt I'd use an agent. But when we relocate to Portland, OR (might happen) and I just know a bit about the area I think the use of an agent might be wise. I think it's a lot like lawyers in real estate, you need to make sure you're adding value to every transaction to dispel some of this garbage that real estate agents are just these overpaid do-nothing people.

She's back...

Mary "Zillow" Umberger returned in her February 18, 2007 column.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act options

I'm not going to go into too much detail regarding the specifics of the above, but I just want to put it out there if you or your clients are or potentially might be be active-duty service members. As you may know, the above Act is a federal law (50 App USC Sec. 501 et. seq.) that gives a whole slew of protections to active-duty military people. IL adds to it with the IL Patriot Plan (PA 94-0635).

But just keep it in the back of your head because the Act allows great protections in terms of terminating leases, avoiding evictions, and stopping foreclosures. And if you're on the "other side" of these cases, it's tough to go forward against an active-duty military person.

Friday, February 16, 2007


I felt some level of vindication when I opened the Sun-Times real estate section in today's paper. The lead story is entitled, The Perfect Shock, and it's a tale of a handful of Chicago condo conversions where owners have faced special assessments of up to $100,000. I'd posted here previously about my view that condo conversions are the worst type of property to purchase. Some people had questioned the statement.

Interestingly, and something for those of you out there, most of these suits are related to many of the South Loop loft condo conversions. I have a good friend who lives in one of those buildings who just paid a $25,000 special assessment.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Stories from the field...

Speaking for myself, things in the real estate field have been getting very busy the last month or so...lots of new contracts in the office. A couple stories/learning points:

A. Don't be the tacky lawyer who doesn't approve something with the title company pre-closing and then you're forced to do a "dry" close because a document wasn't done right!

In my situation this wasn't a big deal, our buyer was already renting the unit and now he bought it and everyone was friendly. But the lawyer had signed the deed using a power of attorney. Yet the property was held in the Seller's living trust. I don't think there's a hard/fast rule on this, but if the title company requires the Sellers to sign the deed, do it!!

B. Prepare your condo association for your sale...especially if it's self-managed.

This comes up a lot and we're battling one right now on the Seller side. Without getting into specifics, we may lose a Buyer because this condo association is a pain in the butt in terms of getting disclosures and explanations about various things like municipal violations (not to mention the fact it's been horribly financially managed). If you're a Seller, make sure you have your association contact prodded and ready to get you disclosures when a Buyer asks.

New bill introduced in General Assembly...

I saw this little nugget:

Radon test before sale Senate Bill 659 (Clayborne, D-E. St. Louis) amends the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act to require that the seller must have residential property tested for radon before the sale. If it is above a certain level, the seller must mitigate, repair, or alter the premises to reduce the radon level or give the prospective buyer notice of the right to terminate the sale agreement without loss of any earnest money or down payment.

I don't know enough about the prevelance of radon so it's hard for me react. It would clearly increase transactional costs. Right now a Buyer certainly has the right to conduct a radon test at her expense but I don't see it often and it's not mandatory.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Has this ever happened in Illinois?

Look at this 'blurb from one of my out-of-state e-mail newsletters on TX real estate:


TEXAS (San Antonio Express-News) – Texas regulators have ordered title insurers to reduce their rates by 3.2 percent effective Feb. 1.The order, signed by Texas Insurance Commissioner Mike Geeslin, will cut the cost of title insurance for a typical $100,000 home to $843, compared with $1,023 in 1998.

In the last eight years, Texas has cut title insurance rates by 17 percent, including a 6.5 percent reduction in 2004, the department said in a news release.

I'm not sure this has EVER happened in IL. Of course we have slightly less regulation in IL too. The state doesn't set the rates here.

New West Loop development

Interesting blurb about a new West Loop/River North development in today's Trib. The location is bounded by Kinzie, Clinton, Halsted and Wayman Streets.