Two weeks ago, the Chicago real-estate agency @properties rolled out a cool tool for house hunters and sellers on its Web site. The @Report, as they call it, is built on the idea that real-estate markets are very, very local.
The eight-year-old agency has offices or agents working in 21 Chicago neighborhoods (most of the lakefront from Rogers Park to South Shore, plus a layer or two of inland neighborhoods for much of that stretch); this new tool puts the details on all those neighborhoods into nice capsule write-ups.
It’s like talking to an agent who works the neighborhood: You will find specifics on how prices have changed in the neighborhood at various price tiers, and what are the hottest-selling sections or developments within the neighborhood. There are also brief analyses of why prices went where they did. In its write-up of Hyde Park, for example, the @Report notes that the neighborhood has two major employers (the University of Chicago and its hospitals) that are recession-proof, a possible explanation for a steady pace of sales there in all but the highest-priced homes.
“As opposed to having someone tell you that average appreciation in Chicago was two-tenths of one percent, if you’re in Bucktown you need to know what’s happening right there,” says Thad Wong, a co-founder and co-principal of @Properties. “We’re not taking the temperature of the whole city; we’re taking the temperature of each neighborhood.”
He notes, for example, that single-family home prices in Bucktown jumped 12 percent in 2007, while in nearby Humboldt Park, they dropped 3 percent. This is the kind of information that both buyers and sellers need, particularly now, when the market is in such disarray. “Bucktown is doing fantastically well; Uptown is doing very well; some of the staples like the Gold Coast are doing well,” Wong says. “But you need to know exactly how well they’re doing or aren’t doing. We’re telling you what’s going on in the local markets.” (For the record: at Chicago magazine, we do the same thing annually—in our October issue—for every neighborhood in the city and more than 200 suburbs.)
Along with the immensely useful neighborhood write-ups, the report has a chart showing how prices and market times have changed for single-family homes or condos in the neighborhood. There is also a search function for finding listings in your desired size and price range; this isn’t limited to the 21 neighborhoods covered by the @Report.
In its debut form, the @Report only shows year-over-year changes in the 21 neighborhoods (Chicago’s annual report goes back to 1994), but Wong says the report will be updated with quarterly information beginning with the present quarter, which ends June 30th. Updates will be posted 30 to 45 days after the close of the quarter. He says the map that the report covers will expand in the next year, too.
Even when it’s quarterly, the data still won’t be the absolute freshest you will want if buying or selling. For that, you will still need to rely on a real-estate agent, who will have access to sales data for your neighborhood that is less than 24 hours old. But using the @Report will provide the framework of market insights into which that up-to-date data will fit.