Monday, September 11, 2006


Chicago Housing Inventory plus House Hunting Experiences

I ran across a some interesting figures while reading through the copious amount of information at the Housing Bubble Blog.

Called Housing Tracker, you are given housing inventories plus 25th, 50th (Median), and 75th percentiles of housing prices and housing inventories.

What is HousingTracker: HousingTracker is an attempt to gain a more realtime understanding of the national housing market. For the most part, all we have to rely on the quarterly Realtor reports to get a sense of how the last quarter played out. HousingTracker data is compiled weekly from MLS listings which contains asking prices as opposed to the Realtor reported sale prices. HousingTracker gives you the 25th percentile, 50th percentile, and 75th percentile asking price for the metro areas covered. Additionally, the number of homes for sale (Inventory) for the metro area is reported.

I have no idea where they get the inventory numbers but I assume it is compiled from the MLS. The second set is from a larger set of data. The Chicago statistical metropolitain area which goes out well beyond the boundaries of Cook county. Both sets convey the same message: increased inventories and stagnant prices.

On the house hunting front my wife and I went to an open house in Evergreen Park to give us a chance to see what we could get with our money. The house we were going to look at was on (9400 S. Albany) and the agent specified she would be there from 1 pm to 4 pm. We arrived at 3.10 pm and there was no one in sight. I took it as a sign that the housing market is very weak. ;-) Fortunately there was another open house down the street at 9336 S. Albany so we went to look at a that. The house was one of three new houses lined up with each other one of which was occupied; the floor plan is not on that link. The person at the open house worked for the company that built the house and they were asking $370k. They were nice but they are the most expensive homes on the block and if it isn't a real estate rule it should be- never buy the most expensive home on the block.

After this I decided to drive by a house that I had liked mainly because it had a inground pool in the backyard. It just happened that the agent for the house was there for an open house. He showed us around a little and gave us agent speak for the fact that the price was negotiable. "The seller has moved so he is highly motivated to sell." I said we weren't thinking of buying until next spring which is sort of true. Actually, I want to wait until signs that prices are at least 20% lower and that prices have stabilized and inventories shrunk. But my wife has a say and a new addition to the family might change our plans. By the way, I am not hinting at anything. About the house at 10115 S. Turner: it needed renovation. Tacky carpeting all over, old wall paper, and the major bathroom which was very small and old. My attitude is that I would never pay close to $300k in Evergreen Park for a house that needed a lot of work. Plus the pool in the backyard took up the entire area. There was barely enough room to set up a grill and chairs. We decided a pool was not a good use of space. When we were leaving I told the agent that I was happy that we were lucky to be shopping for homes in a buyers market and he invoked the spirit of bubble markets with bidding wars so that we wouldn't wait too long and lose this opportunity. Yeah, I'll take the chance that the bubble doesn't return next year.

While hunting online I came across a great real estate website. You do have to register but it has many great features. A stylized street map upon which listed houses are placed. When you pass the mouse over a house a picture of the house appears with the number of bedrooms and price. A quick way to access the offerings in a particular area. Also, you can easily move from one area to another, many of the houses listed have photos and/or virtual tours, you can easily pull up a satellite map from google of a particular house, and search for housing based on features, recent listing, etc. The interface is not extremely easy to figure out but it is worth the effort. We found a wonderful house, which I will keep to ourselves, and we are thinking about seeing it next weekend. However, as I learned, it is a bad idea to get too excited about pictures before you actually visit the place. The one thing my wife and I have taken from all of this is that we now have a good idea of what we both want and that should make finding a mutually satisfying place much easier.


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