The new world of Chicago housing

My timing was awful. Housing prices in Chicago plummeted as soon as I finished signing my name on our closing documents.

That was back in 2006, when my wife and I purchased our home in suburban Chicago. We managed the neat trick of buying when housing prices in the city and suburbs were at their highest point.

The housing market today is a lot different. Like so many others across the area, our home has lost value. I’d guess that I’m one of the nearly 25 percent of homeowners today who is underwater. This means that I owe more on my mortgage loan than what my house is worth. How much more? I’m not sure; I don’t want to pay for the appraisal that’d give me the bad news.

Not all Chicago-area housing stories, though, are like this. I have friends who live two suburbs over from me. They bought their house in the late ’90s. At the time, I remember being amazed that anyone would spend so much on a place to live. As housing prices skyrocketed, though, their monthly mortgage payments began to look downright tiny. This year, these friends celebrated the big day: They paid off their mortgage loan, and they did it early.

The housing market here, then, has been kind to many buyers. It’s all about timing.

The Illinois Association of Realtors recently released the latest housing sales statistics for Chicago, which you can read here. Basically, things are looking up a bit. Housing sales in the city rose 41.1 percent in April when compared to the same month one year earlier. At the same time, the median sales price of an existing home in Chicago hit $225,000, an increase of 3.2 percent in April from the same month one year earlier.

My goal for this blog is a simple one: I want to share the stories of Chicago-area homeowners who are dealing with this challenging real estate market. I’ll talk to the people who can’t sell their condos in downtown Chicago because there is such a glut of them on the market. I’ll talk with people who are struggling to get their mortgage loans modified so that they won’t lose their homes to foreclosure.

And, yes, I’ll talk to the homeowners like me who have watched as their home values fall.

But I’ll also talk to the people who are thrilled that they bought their Chicago homes when they did. They now own properties that are worth much more than what they paid for them, even taking the city’s recent housing slump into consideration.

Buying a home, like so many other things, is all about timing. I’m looking forward to talking with the real estate agents, mortgage loan officers and home sellers and buyers of the city. All of these people have plenty of stories to tell.



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