Thursday, February 28, 2008

Miami Courthouse Closed..."Smells" Like the Cook County Recorder of Deeds

The Miami courthouse situation reported yesterday...

A federal judge has closed portions of Miami's historic downtown courthouse after a report identified widespread mold infestation and ongoing water leaks, with one part of the basement termed "disgusting" by inspectors.

got me thinking about the basement of the Cook County Recorder located in City Hall in downtown Chicago. That place reeks! I don't get down there a lot but occasionally I'll combine trips to Daley Center with recording something or doing a quick title search over there. All I can say is hold your breath once you go down to the basement.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Proving There's a Special Interest Group for Everyone...

Enjoy the offerings of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association. The Sun-Times wrote about them here.

I Need My Mokki

Nothing particularly relevant to "closing real estate in Chicago" but I like this article about a retired professor who needed his space so he built a mokki (cabin in Finnish) in his backyard w/o his wife finding out about it until it was completed. As a fellow introvert and wanna-be writer, I sympathize w/ the sentiment. Although I'm planning my mokki for the Oregon coast.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Good Deals and Good Values

Habitat for Humanity is opening a "Restore" store in Chicago Heights.

The store, at 180 W. Joe Orr Road, will sell new or gently-used building supplies, furniture and appliances to professional builders and "do-it-yourselfers."

Environmentalism is NOT New

But this Green Home Chicago Website does have some useful info. Its goals:

To help building professionals understand the market need for energy efficient buildings of the highest possible quality, and

To help home buyers understand what truly constitutes a "green building."

But please don't tell me that this is somehow THE FUTURE!!

While we're talking Green, Natural Home Magazine's top 10 Eco-Friendly Neighborhoods.

Sears Tower "Sprinting" for a New Tenant

Wow, first Chi-Town became the U.S. choice for the 2016 Olympics and now the U.S. Olympic Committee may be coming to town. Come, come, we're a midwestern, backwater town...not international nor cosmopolitan.

Plus the Olympic Training Center remains out in Colorado Springs. Well, I do think the Chicago Accenture triathlon is the largest triathlon in the world. That's the extent of the regions involvement in Olympic sports.

On a related point, is there a better sports movie than Miracle? (Again, Again...)

Friday, February 15, 2008

My First "Disclosure of Information on Radon Hazards"

So I got my first radon disclosure this week pursuant to the Illinois Radon Awareness Act. Not a lot to it...Seller must give Buyer some informational pamphlet and disclose any "knowledge" and records she has of elevated radon concentrations.

What's "elevated"??

Well, just don't test and don't acquire "knowledge" and you're fine. Of course there is the cancer thing. This deal we got the disclosure on had some real high radon levels...out in the far western suburbs on the Fox. I've never asked for "radon mitigation" on the Buyer's side before.
Maybe I should be be re-thinking my grand plan to buy a little home on the Fox...I mean the communities are quaint and I love the bike trail.

Free CLE: February 18th

Yeah so Monday's another one of those dead President court holidays so instead of spending your morning slugging it out at Daley, come and break bread at the Loyola School of Law, Protecting the Rights of Chicago Tenants - 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Seriously, you've got to know your Chicago Residential Landlord and Tenant Ordinance if you practice in this field and that's the gist of what this about.

I'll see you there.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Not a Bad Week...

Hey we saw two new residential contracts in the office this's been a while since that's happened.

Should Ya Be a "Mortgage Walker"??

The WSJ had an Op-Ed on the subject Friday. The point of the article is essentially that an increase in people just leaving homes once they get behind on a mortgage is sort of the proper flow of the "market." In the author's view it's rational behavior:

Borrowers acted rationally in response to market forces and incentives during the bubble: Buy a house because prices always go up; you can't lose. Many are acting rationally now: Mail the keys back and un-borrow the money, because prices are sinking fast while the debt isn't. When the house was purchased not as a first home but as a rental investment, the decision is even easier.

If it's not a place you want to live and you don't expect the price to ever bounce back (can you say Detroit), I think the wise move is to leave.

Feeding the Combine: Part IV

Well, ya knew it was coming right? Of COURSE the Chicago City Council passed the $3 increase to the Chicago Transfer Tax. Who wouldn't say no to Mayor Daley's pleas about not having bus and train service if the tax increase isn't passed? Of course the $$ is going towards the CTA's pension fund for employees, not that bus route you take every day.

The increase to $10.50 per $1,000 (from $7.50) takes effect April 1st.

What to do?

I'd suggest pushing any near April 1 closings to before April 1. We just have one Chicago contract in the office right now but I think it's expected to close in March...I better take a close look at the file Monday.

How does this impact a transaction where a Buyer now can't afford to close? How do you get out of that contract? I thought my law school contracts book had some "public policy" cases but I thought the person arguing "public policy" always lost.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What if my Lender Closes or files for Bankruptcy??

Ummm...checkout this new publication from the Federal Trade Commission, "How to Manage Your Mortgage If Your Lender Closes of Files for Bankruptcy."

Know Thy "Care Contracts"

Jane Adler's always informative 55 Plus column had a nice overview of the various types of contracts out there that are being signed by seniors moving into "continuing care" communities. I'll say this, I'm no expert on these arrangements, however, we probably get one call a month about this general topic and it's important to have a basic working knowledge of these set-ups.

The piece details three typical contractual set-ups:

90/10 - Pay an upfront fee that's 90% refundable when you leave. Continuing-care projects usually offer some kind of refund, with 90 percent of the entry fee fairly standard. The refund is made when the unit is resold. Generally, the bigger the refund, the smaller the health-care benefit. For example, Friendship Village in Schaumburg has several contracts. In one building, the entry fee for a one-bedroom apartment ranges from about $162,000 to $197,000 for a 90/10 contract. Under this arrangement, 90 percent of the entry fee is refundable and the 10 percent is the discount on assisted-living and nursing care. All residents at Friendship Village receive 90 days of free health care.
*Personally, I see this set-up most often*

50/50 - Under a 50/50 contract, the entry fee is higher, ranging from $181,000 to $216,000. This contract refunds 50 percent of the entry fee and provides a 50 percent discount on assisted-living and nursing care.

50/0 - A 50/0 contract has the lowest entry fees, ranging from $95,000 to $130,000. Half the entry fee is refundable, and there's no discount on health care.

The Chicago Public Library Presents:

Home Buying 101...hey, and all its branches do have free WiFi. I'll get out of the office once-in-a-while and work at the Harold Washington Library downtown...but I digress:

The Chicago Public Library is hosting two sets of free programs on home buying at various branches around the city.

The first, Money Smart, is offered by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to explain the process of home buying:

*Feb. 2, 1 p.m, at the West Englewood Branch, 1745 W. 63rd St.
*Feb. 2, 2 p.m. (in English and Spanish), at the Humboldt Park Branch, 1605 N. Troy St.
*Feb. 9, 10 a.m. (in English and Chinese), at the Chinatown Branch, 2353 S. Wentworth Ave.
*Feb. 16, 11 a.m., at the Legler Branch, 115 S. Pulaski Rd.
*Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m., at the Archer Heights Branch, 5055 S. Archer Ave.

The second, Law at the Library, a monthly series on legal topics presented by the Chicago Bar Association, will focus on how to avoid common mistakes in buying and selling a home:

*March 4, 7 p.m., at the Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave.
*March 8, 2 p.m., at the Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted St.
*March 24, 12:15 p.m., at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St.

Visit or call 312-747-4300.

Sweet...another Way for a Buyer to Terminate a Contract!!

Saw this interesting case (Muir v. Merano, No. 5-06-0626, IL 5th) recently interpreting provisions of the Residential Real Property Disclosure Act...a case of first impression looking at a Buyer's ability to terminate a contract when a Seller didn't provide the required disclosures. The full case is a MUST read if you're involved in Disclosure Act litigation and/or in residential transactions.

So the Act essentially provides that a Seller of residential property (4 or less units) is required to disclose information regarding 22 items as listed in section 35 of the Act. We've been involved in litigation regarding misrepresentations on the's a nice Act to sue under because there are attorney fee shifting provisions, although the statute of limitiations is only 1 year. However, the above case did not deal with the "typical" case; it dealt with a Buyer's right to terminate the contract when Seller did not provide the required disclosures. This right is covered by section 55 of the Act:

Sec. 55. Violations and damages. If the seller fails or refuses to provide the disclosure document prior to the conveyance of the residential real property, the buyer shall have the right to terminate the contract. A person who knowingly violates or fails to perform any duty prescribed by any provision of this Act or who discloses any information on the Residential Real Property Disclosure Report that he knows to be false shall be liable in the amount of actual damages and court costs, and the court may award reasonable attorney fees incurred by the prevailing party. (Source: P.A. 90‑383, eff. 1‑1‑98.)

In the case above, it was unique in that the Buyers moved into the property pre-closing and it was during this period that they actually discovered some of the "defects" in the property. They made numerous pre-closing requests to the Seller to produce the required disclosures but he did not comply. Prior to closing on the property, the Buyers terminated the contract and sought return of their $10k earnest money...that was the eventualy judgment, $10k plus court costs.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Feeding the "Combine:" Part III

Well the real estate crowd finally started attacking the proposed Chicago transfer tax increase late in the week.

Where have you guys been?

We've previously written about this here and here. Hmmm, we could have come out against this bill before it got passed in the General Assembly OR when it was voted on again after the amendatory veto when Blago added the senior free rides OR after the bill was passed and only the Chicago City Council had to approve the transfer tax increase (yeah Daley loses a lot of votes in the Council).

You guys need a new lobbyist??

Free Mortgage Advice...Fast

Here's a press release and their site.

Gone Fishin'

Field & Stream's top 20 fishing towns in the U.S. Minocqua, WI is great!

Ok so the Patriots WON Again...Now, it's Real Estate Season!!

Alright I'm posting this pre-Super Bowl so if it helps you win $$ here's my address. Giants fans, well, that's a good year for you guys. But the real importance of Super Bowl Sunday is that it's the start of the "spring" (we just got dumped in snow here so I use that term lossely) real estate season. Here's an overview piece.

Some of its tips:

--Fix all the small stuff and replace lightbulbs;
--Get rid of the clutter (storage space?);
--Interview real estate agents.

You don't need to contact your lender...48 hours or so for a payoff letter; not 48 days.