Q: Dennis, I was hoping you could offer some advice on the sale of our condo. It is a 2Bd/2Ba that my wife and I purchased in October ’06 for $410,000. We are trying to make the move to the suburbs but are having a hard time finding a buyer. We have lowered our ask from $420,000 (aggressive) down to $350,000, which is where the last two sales in our sister building [next door] were.

My question is: do you have any tips on marketing or anything else for high-end ground units? It is very convenient with a baby stroller as we can stroll in and out, and we were thinking of adding “handicapped-friendly” to the listing. Any help would be most appreciated.


A: Aside from the fall slowdown in the market, there are a few other things that might be working against you, Justin.

The top one in my mind is that some buyers with small children are turned off by a street-level entrance because of their concern for safety.

Closely related to that is that your bedrooms have raised, partial windows—standard in a raised basement—and thus aren’t as sunny and bright as those on above-ground floors.

The third is that you have a two-bedroom, which for young families is less appealing than a three-bedroom. The third bedroom might be for grandparents and other guests, or more likely, it will be a place for all the toys and other kid stuff that start accumulating as your child grows.

Ground-level condo living, whether it’s in a “duplex down” or all on one level, is sort of a Grade B property. That’s not to say it’s not livable, just that now, when buyers can afford more, they’re less likely to settle for it if it seems less than Grade A to them.

But you didn’t ask what’s wrong; you asked how to market the property. My first suggestion is always price, because a good price will always bring in potential buyers. So first, I would determine how much farther you can cut it. The neighboring units sold when the market was a little frothier; you might need to get a little lower than they were. Not a ton, just a smidge. Buyers might then bid it back up.

Beyond price, I have a few suggestions. In your listing, I might demote the mention of the rooftop deck, because many owners find that when it’s not directly attached to their living space, it gets little use—and that’s particularly true for families with little kids, where the schlepping may not seem worth it. Also, you might want to use that higher part of the listing to put more emphasis on your very desirable neighborhood. You’ve got mention of Burley School in there and that’s good—although as I intimated above, I think it’s likely that your ultimate buyer won’t be a family—but you don’t have many other specifics other than the Southport Corridor. There are theaters and restaurants closer to you than Southport; maybe you could mention those, too.


What’s your Chicago real estate question? Ask me! dennis@rodkin.com