One of the important takeaways from Appraisal Research Counselor’s (ARC) most recent quarterly Downtown Chicago Residential Benchmark Report is that market conditions are robust enough to encourage condo sales. But there's not much new construction going on, and there aren't many condo conversion candidates in the Loop, says Gail Lissner, ARC’s Vice President of Condominium Development.
That means, with resale prices approaching 2008’s peak levels, interested buyers will want to act decisively on good values when they surface. Here are five Loop listings that could be a good invenstment—and have a touch of panache.
The bulk of the Loop’s unsold developer units belong to The Legacy at Millennium Park, at 60 E Monroe. It's the second largest condominium construction between Roosevelt and the River in this decade, behind only 235 W Van Buren.
The average unit measures 1,650 square feet—nearly twice the average size at 235. Correspondingly high prices and a weak market help explain why roughly 80 of Legacy’s 355 condos are still in the developer’s lap. According to Baird & Warner agent Kim Jones, “re-sales are consistently priced below developer units.”
Jones holds a few of those listings, and her most modest is arguably the most seductive: a 45th-floor West-facing two-bedroom with one-and-a-half bathrooms and nearly 1,200 square feet. The $620,000 asking price equals the developer’s floor price for two-bedrooms anywhere in the building, and a bathroom ledge with Jacuzzi tub makes for a good signing bonus.
A negligible number of downtown spaces have been converted to condos since 2007, but adaptive reuse was all the rage in the early aughts and before. Throughout the Loop, titanic examples of 19th-century office and manufacturing design have gone to renters and homeowners. One example is William LeBaron Jenney’s Manhattan Building, erected in 1891, and now Chicago’s oldest surviving steel-frame skyscraper.
Inside, a warm-hued third floor two-bed/two-bath with 1,400 square feet of living space came on the market February 26—asking $319,000. It last sold in December 2005 for $297,000, and the present seller tried for $369,900 in 2011, unsuccessfully. The unit is a good entry into Printer’s Row habitat, a land of extra-sturdy structures where ornament is the main frill.
Architect Howard Van Doren Shaw’s 1906 sequel to the original Mentor Building, at State and Monroe Streets, went condo in 1999 after the previous building owner sat on 14 floors of office vacancy for 14 years. Today, floors 6-17 sport moderately priced real estate.
Case in point: a duplexed two-bedroom penthouse with two-and-a-half bathrooms. The condo’s layout does a lot with 1,600 square feet, which saves space with a spiral staircase, open kitchen, and in-closet laundry. The building has a roof deck and a gym—more amenities than you find in most vintage conversions.
Prudential Rubloff’s Cathleen Walker acquired the listing last July when the seller sought an even $500,000. A November price reduction brought the asking price to its current $485,000. Judging by the neighboring three-bedroom duplex’s April 2013 closing price of $625,000, dramatic downward action is doubtful.
Dearborn Street Realty has a listing for a 2,000-square-foot two-bedroom loft in the landmark Peterson Lofts building at 523 S Plymouth Court. The $525,000 price tag outstrips past sales for some similarly sized units, but this is special: There’s not another custom job with these all-window garage doors, a blue mosaic kitchen floor, exposed piping, exposed brick, hardwoods, and a “portable” steel box fireplace.
At eight stories, the former Hotel Normandie at 1142 S Michigan Avenue is one of the smallest buildings left standing on historic Michigan Avenue, and a remnant of a human-scaled downtown.
Unit 6A is one of two half-floor units in an address that’s otherwise one homeowner to a floor. Gary and Carrie Huff bought the 1,800-square-footer in 2004, but, a few years ago, decided to move down one floor and double their space. Now, 6A is for sale, with 46 feet of lake-facing frontage, great natural light, hardwood floors, marble kitchen counters, fireplace, and a bedroom balcony. Coldwell Banker’s Jennifer Ames carries the listing, currently priced at $695,000.