Howard Van Doren ShawOne of Chicago’s many strengths is its amazing architecture. The style and craftsmanship found in this city is like no other. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, architects from all over the world came to Chicago to help rebuild, laying the foundation for the eclectic skyline that we enjoy today.

But not all of the city’s architects came from afar. Case in point: the celebrated architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. Born in Chicago on May 7, 1869 to prominent parents, Shaw grew up in the fashionable Prairie Avenue neighborhood, which was popular before the development of the Gold Coast in the 1890s. He went on to attend Yale University and then MIT.

After finishing school, Shaw went to work for William Le Baron Jenney at the Chicago firm of Jenney & Mundie. Known as the builder of the world’s first skyscraper, Jenney became Shaw’s mentor. Shaw worked with him for several years, eventually leaving the firm to establish his own. After designing the Lakeside Press Building, one of his more famous structures, Shaw found himself taking on more and more prominent clients.

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Click to play Chicago Business Today videoLast Thursday I was featured along with one of my clients in a Crain’s Chicago Business video reporting on the recent rise in Chicago home sales.

I’d like to make one important correction.  The reporter states in the video that in September, I received three “offers” on the luxury properties I had listed for sale. Actually, I’ve had three multiple offers (i.e. buyers bidding against each other for the same property) plus additional offers on four more homes I have listed, for a total of ten offers so far in September.

The fact that there are once again multiple buyers vying for the same properties (in high price points, no less) is a major development. I am feeling very encouraged about our prospects for a healthy fall market.

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This is the first in a three-part series about cooperative apartments.

In searching for an apartment, you might find some described as “condos” or “condominiums” and others as “coops” or “cooperatives.”  While it is true that many (but not all) coop apartments are located in classically designed pre-War buildings, the term “coop” does not describe the style of the building but rather the ownership terms of the apartments.

With a condominium (or condo), you are buying a physical apartment (as defined by a legal description) as well as a share in the common elements of the building. A condo association, led by a board of directors, manages the building’s exterior and common elements, including landscaping, while the unit owners maintain the interiors of their individual apartments.

When you purchase in a cooperative (or coop), you are technically not buying real estate. Instead, you are purchasing shares of stock in a legal entity (usually a corporation) that owns real estate. Your shares of stock entitle you to occupy a specific apartment, as defined in the Proprietary Lease you receive with your stock certificate. So in the end, you have the same thing (a place to live), but how you achieve this is a bit different.

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PeekaCity knows it!
Top agents across the country, like my colleague Barbara Puff, can help you find great vacation properties such as this one in Arizona.

Around this time of year, many Chicagoans are ready for a vacation, my family included. In our case, however, with three children under four years of age, hotels are not a good option. Shuttling the boys to a restaurant and back for all their meals is anything but relaxing, and we need more than just a place to sleep.

In anticipation of this, we purchased a condo in the Colorado Rockies – an area that offers year round recreation. We head out there when we can to ski, fly-fish, hike, swim, and generally decompress. A couple days of clean mountain air and crisp blue skies is a fantastic way to recharge, and our boys love it.

If you are suffering from a bout of spring fever, you might also consider buying a vacation home instead of renting or staying in a hotel. Prices in many resort destinations have fallen significantly – far more than home values here in Chicago. There are some amazing opportunities out there. Someday, we will look back at 2009 and wish we had picked up an extra property or two when prices and interest rates were low.

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If you believe everything you hear on the news, you would think that hardly a single home sold in all of 2008, but that is simply not the case. Not only were there sales, but there were some pretty significant ones at that.

The highest price paid in Chicago in 2008 was for a single-family home on a double lot on historic Astor Street, 1425 N. Astor, which closed on December 30th for $13 million.

In two of Chicago’s most prestigious neighborhoods, the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park, 12 properties closed in 2008 with a sale price in excess of $5 million. Six were condos located near Michigan Avenue, and the other six were single-family homes, including three in the Gold Coast and three in Lincoln Park.

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Chicago’s new 758-unit Trump Tower made front page news again yesterday after a Sikorsky S-61 helicopter spent more than four hours in blustery conditions on Saturday delivering the building’s communications “spire.” Now, Chicago’s newest luxury hotel and condominium building is officially the second tallest building in the United States at 1,361 feet – just 90 feet shorter than the Sears Tower.

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It’s not every day you can see what $10 million will buy, but if you tuned into NBC 5 last Sunday morning, you had an opportunity to do just that!

I had the pleasure of showing my listing at 1524  N. Astor Street for LXTV’s new television series “OpenHouse Chicago.” You can view the three minute video piece here.

The one challenge with a show like this is that it’s merely a teaser. This one-of-a-kind Gold Coast home has been completely renovated throughout and offers exquisite Art Deco-inspired interior architecture. However, the segment does not afford enough time to cover all the cool details. For example, the koi pond with a running waterfall in the backyard didn’t make the cut!

Still, this home is one of my all-time favorites, and it’s located in an area that is near and dear to me. I lived as a child in a home just a few blocks away, and my grandparents lived two doors down from us.  Our family was friends of the prior owners of this home, and we enjoyed many a holiday party there. Still, it never looked this nice!

You can view our team’s full listing and brochure for 1524 Astor here.

I was recently asked what my favorite properties have been among the hundreds I have sold over the course of my residential real estate sales career. It was an intriguing question, and I was still thinking about it as I put my kids to bed that night.

First, however, I had to ask myself, “Just how many homes have I sold?” Was it hundreds? Thousands? Just for kicks, I checked.

Since I received my real estate license in 1994, I have sold 792 properties including 589 “attached” properties (condos, coops, lofts, and townhomes) and 192 single-family homes. In 63% of my sales, I represented the seller, and the buyer was my client for the other 37%. There were a small number of sales where I was a dual agent representing both sides in the same transaction. My average sale price to date is $771,574 which is quite high considering that when I started my career in the 1990s, prices were considerably lower than in recent years. To date, I have sold $612 million worth of homes.

But which of these 792 had been my favorites? I had to sit down and scan the pages of homes sold, remembering each one as I read down the list. Looking at the properties, I recalled each of my past clients – the persons or families who had sold or bought these homes. As I started to narrow my list, I realized that my favorite homes were the ones that best reflected the spirit of their owners.

Here are some that rank high on my list.

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1845 N. Orchard
The master bath at 1845 N. Orchard

I was interviewed recently by Chicago Agent magazine for their cover story on Chicago’s luxury residential real estate market. The piece discussed some interesting trends such as a shift towards smaller homes, younger buyers, and the demand for quality outdoor space.

The most significant shift I see among today’s luxury buyers is that they are looking for quality, not just a laundry list of expensive stuff dropped into a gigantic space. They expect their homes to be thoughtfully designed, meticulously constructed, and comprised of high quality (but not necessarily flashy) finishes. In terms of style, affluent buyers are embracing both traditional and contemporary finishes, provided they are well executed. Key “ingredients” include amenities that make people’s lives easier and more comfortable: smart home technology; functional, kid-friendly combination kitchen / family rooms; soothing, spa-like baths; elevators; plenty of storage; inviting outdoor space; snow melt systems; and parking for at least a couple of cars. There is also a keen interest in living on wider lots, a pushback against Chicago’s standard which is just 25 feet in width, lot line-to-lot line.

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