Christian Chase knows foreclosures. He should—his past seven homes have all been foreclosures that he bought, cleaned up, and (except for the one he lives in now) put back on the market.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense to buy something on the retail market when you can buy a [foreclosed home] so far under the market,” Chase says. And these days, deeply discounted distress-sale properties are virtually everywhere in the Chicago area and at all price points.

Last week, Chase’s foreclosure-shopping site launched a function where you can search for foreclosure and short-sale properties in any Chicago-area zip code, neighborhood, or town. Right now, for example, there are properties listed in pricey Streeterville, Lake Forest, the West Loop, and Beverly, as well as dozens in Lincoln Park. Naperville has nearly 80, priced from $82,000 for a one-bedroom condo up to $2,599,999 for an 8060-square-foot house.

The listings include both bank-owned foreclosed homes and properties that are up for a short sale, a lender-approved deal in which the sellers offer the home for less than they owe on it. Some distress-sale vets, Chase included, advocate going for foreclosures only, as short sales can be more complicated and emotional deals. At his site, you can shop for one or the other, for both, or for all types of properties, including conventional listings.

The site also tracks the downward march of a property’s asking price. For instance, the asking price for a property in Lake View that I wrote about last September has been cut to $2,250,000, off its high of $2.5 million (with a few upward ticks thrown in). It’s being offered as a short sale.

Along with the useful website, Chase has a full-spectrum foreclosure brokerage based in Naperville. The brokerage provides buyers—both investors and homeowners—with help on calculating the total cost of buying and rehabbing the property, or on setting up a limited liability company for asset protection. (That’s for an investor who plans to resell or rent the property, rather than a homebuyer.)

They’ll also hook you up with a lender. “There are neat new programs from some local banks that are brand new for buying foreclosures,” Chase says, citing a packaged loan for both buying and remodeling.    Buying foreclosures or short sales has its downside. While the number of properties available is larger than ever before—43 percent of recent home sales in Cook County were bank-owned foreclosures, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday—it’s still only a fraction of the conventional listings, so “you can’t be so specific, like ‘I want a bay window in the kitchen,’ ” Chase says.

But thanks to his website’s new function (and the ever-expanding list of economic problems that keep the foreclosures and short sales coming), it’s possible to be pretty specific about where you want to buy. Chase notes that while a particular neighborhood or school district you’re shooting for might not have available foreclosures, the chance of finding something at least nearby is good.

“Buying a foreclosure can be a steppingstone,” Chase says. At the steeply discounted price, “it can get you into a neighborhood you normally couldn’t afford.”

Photo courtesy of Chase Real Estate