Chicago Real Estate: Selling


If you’re selling your place in this market then you’ve already been through the Real Estate ringer and likely been in Chicago for a while. It’s a whole different ball game to sell than it is to buy, however, and if you’re selling in this market then chances are you’ve got a reason to move other then making money. If you’ve built up equity and have created some decent cushion between the lower value the market has currently priced you at and what you originally paid then you should be ok. If you think you might have to bring money to the closing table then that will surely sting and you should consider your choices carefully. Still, life has given you a home you presumably enjoyed and sometimes being free from your mortgage is well worth the price.

What a seller needs to know is that selling real estate is hard work, even when it looks easy. If you throw your house up for sale on your own and land a deal right away, you might pat yourself on the back for saving on a commission, but if you sold your place for twenty thousand less then it was worth, suddenly you don’t seem so smart. There are various advantages to hiring an agent, with one clear flaw: you have to pay them. Check out my article on agents for more of my ornery advice.

Suburban Agents love lock boxes, computerized or mechanical boxes that attach to fences and door knobs and carry a key to your property inside. As a city agent I find this approach lazy on the part of the seller’s agent, but then again buyers usually feel more comfortable reacting openly to a property than having someone lording over them. Who doesn’t want to cry out how ugly that carpet is rather than stand there and have some salesman blow smoke up your ass about how nice the city views are from the roof top deck three floors up.

Still, sellers want to believe the agent is earning their commission and working hard to sell their place. What most home owners don’t understand is this has less to do with the agent’s pitch to buyers and more to do with the advice they supply their seller. A clean, uncluttered property goes a lot farther than a warm smile and a winning personality. You can hire a super model to sell your condo, but if it’s fifty thousand dollars over-priced, then no one is going to show up to see the damn thing.

Sellers love to see big fancy brochures, constant open houses and caravans of brokers dashing through their homes. NEWS FLASH: Brochures don’t do jack shit once the buyer has already been through your place, AKA the real deal. Open Houses are NOT for sellers, they are for your selling agent who wants to spend the day combing the market for lookie-lou’s who don’t yet have representation for their speculating asses. Broker opens and caravans are just as masturbatory, a bunch of bored professionals spinning their wheels, shooting the shit about the market and tossing out worthless little nuggets like “Oh, I have a buyer this just might work for.” Trust me, if they had a buyer for your place then they’d have already brought them there when your property came up on their very detailed and specialized MLS search.

All of these institutions are designed to make the seller’s agent look busy, but at the end of the day it’s about price, presentation and timing. First make sure your seller’s agent understands this, then make sure you take their damn advice. If they told you your property was worth a lot less then what you insisted on selling it for, don’t get mad at them when nobody buys your place.

There’s a thousand warm and fuzzy tips out there on cable television on how to make your home more appealing and I’m not going to get into them here. As far as Chicago is concerned I’ll give you a few pet peeves:

If you live in a garden apartment, call it a garden apartment. Tricking people into viewing your home isn’t going to land you a sale and there’s a small pool of buyers out there willing to live in a garden if it means being in a neighborhood they couldn’t otherwise afford. The same goes for living next to the L.

Don’t price your parking separately if it’s assigned to your condo. Deceptively putting yourself in a lower price bracket is only going to land you low ball offers.

If you’re selling a 3-flat or a 2-flat building and you have renters, then you need to look at your rents long term. Grandma might be fetching a great deal on the first floor apartment, but nobody wants to buy a place that isn’t going to cover a healthy dose of the mortgage with market rate rents. Time your lease agreements right or charge accordingly.

As I’ve said before, there’s a wealth of information out there on how to buy and sell property in Chicago and UPchicago is only here to offer a good start. The more you read and the more professionals you consult with the more tools you have at your disposal. Just make sure that you love where you live at any given moment and the rest will sort itself out (cue the theme music).

Check out David’s other Chicago Real Estate Articles
Chicago Real Estate: A Brief History
Chicago Real Estate: Agents & the MLS
Chicago Real Estate: Renting
Chicago Real Estate: Buying

David Frankel McLean

About David Frankel McLean

I’ve been thinking philosophically about Chicago since I was jaywalking the streets at the age of 10. I don’t root for both baseball teams and I don’t put Ketchup on my hot dogs. When someone says they’re a Chicagoan they are speaking of a heritage and a doctrine, not just a location. What that doctrine is I’m not entirely sure, it’s constantly changing with the growth of the city and I’ll spend my entire life trying to figure it out.

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