The Reality of My Estate

The Brain Dump of a Chicago Real Estate Consumer

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Beginning

About a year ago, my wife & I bought a house in Chicago. Actually, I should say "another house" because it was our second Chicago real estate purchase. My wife's avocation is rehabbing and restoration, and she comes by the title "rehabber" honestly — she does not "fix and flip" for a fast buck, nor does she make minor cosmetic changes to a property. Her goal is to find distressed properties that are sitting on the Fence of Viability and bring them back to a desirable state (i.e., one in which others would actually desire to own them). Time and "holding costs" are less of a concern than the quality of the outcome. Certainly she does not choose projects that will lose her/us money, but her selection criteria reflect a certain amount of altruism mixed with capitalism — she wants properties which deserve in some manner to be preserved and enjoyed by successive generations. She's sort of a free-market landmark preservationist, if you will.

Anyway, we bought this house in, truth be told, what used to be considered by the residents (and is still considered by outsiders) to be a Bad Neighborhood. We both knew it was going to be a longer-term project so, to negate the power that Holding Costs usually exert over rehab projects, we moved in. Let me tell you, there is no experience like the reality check you get from moving somewhere that none of your friends or family will visit. We very, very quickly realized this was going to be a project like no other. Neither our northside Chicago property nor our non-Chicago properties prepared us for this.

Now, because of what I do for a living, I have at least a passing acquaintance with a diversity of real estate topics in addition to involvement with my wife's projects. Many (all too many) years ago I spent some time as a lowly temporary employee at the National Association of Realtors, and I look back on that now with a certain amount of wonder at how inauspicious my introduction was to the business of real estate. And, in fact, I have seen a huge amount of both good and bad since then with regard to that business. Property purchases, for most people, are some of the most momentous (though usually infrequent) transactions in which they will engage during their life, and it absolutely stuns me how relatively difficult it is for many people to get good, solid, DISINTERESTED reference material to peruse when it comes to the subject.

That may seem an absurd claim but, in case you hadn't noticed, "disinterested" is the operative word in that sentence. Try going online and doing a search for "real estate" and look at the domain names of the sites that come up. How many of them are real estate agencies, agents, brokerages, or industry-driven sites (e.g., Realtor.com)? Versus, say, news articles, government guides, or websites with how-to content relating to property purchases and other matters?

So, I'm starting this diary, blog, or whatever you want to call it, both for my own self-serving purposes as well as for the edification of anyone who might one day happen to stumble across this and find some bit of informative content they might not be able to find elsewhere.

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