feel very passionate about helping families conduct a school and home search in Chicago, which is the focus of our website SchoolSparrow.com. To give you better look at what School Sparrow is all about we’ve interviewed a past client, here’s what they had to say:

SS: Why were you looking to move?

RF: The rent was going up in our two bedroom apartment and we were expecting a second child.

SS: How did you connect with New Urban?

RF: The first house we saw was suggested by friends. We saw two more with a realtor we didn’t really connect with. We stopped looking for a while, then my wife was put in contact with New Urban via the NPN network.

SS: How did you first encounter School Sparrow?

RF: With a 3 year old and a child on the way, finding a house near a good school was of prime importance to us. We were told Tom (New Urban Managing Broker) has special expertise in this area, and during our first meeting with him, he told us about School Sparrow.

SS: What was your reaction when you realized that School Sparrow could help you find a home while also educating you on quality public school options?

RF: We were lucky enough to already be engaged with Tom / New Urban. I used School Sparrow frequently to get school data for a given address far beyond what MLS and other online services could provide.

SS: How was working with School Sparrow different than working with other real estate companies/agents?

RF: We worked with Tom not only for his School Sparrow specialty, but also his LiveByTransit service. The two together was a very unique offering that met two of our most important needs in a new home.

SS: What was the greatest tool or asset which School Sparrow provided you with?

RF: School Sparrow’s greatest asset is its ability to minimize personal searching time while providing extremely thorough data about a school for a given address.

SS: What advice do you have for other parents navigating public schools in Chicago?

RF: We were amazed that there are actually people who act as consultants for navigating the CPS. Tom / School Sparrow saved us money, since its expertise provided during the house searching process.

SS: What advice do you have for other parents looking to purchase a home within the attendance boundaries of a Chicago public school?

RF:School Sparrow is a powerful tool for parents looking to purchase real-estate in Chicago. Its founder also has specialized expertise in matching real-estate to transit needs. I can’t wait for both those services to be merged, if they haven’t already.

Contact Tom Brown of New Urban Property Services today and find your next home near public transit or near a great Chicago public school! 312.502.8213.

There are benefits to purchasing short sales. First, let’s establish the difference between short sales and foreclosures. Unlike foreclosures, short sale properties are not owned by the banks. However, because the sale of the property will result in not enough proceeds to fully pay off the mortgage, the bank has to approve the sale. Therefore, short sales are a great way to purchase a property at below market value.

From the borrowers perspective, short sales are highly preferred because they have less impact on a persons credit than a foreclosure. Short sales are also preferred from a lenders perspective because they preserve the value of the property. For example, a person selling a short sale is not going to cause damage out of spite. Short sales also save money by avoiding foreclosure and eviction costs, and finally, short sales get the property off the banks books much quicker than foreclosed properties.

However, short sales do have a few downsides. The first one being, timing. Currently banks are overloaded with bad debts and it takes months for a short sale to get approved. The typical time span is usually 90-120 days. Next, after waiting all that time, it is possible the bank will not approve the short sale, or try to negotiate to a number that is not comfortable for you, the buyer.

The least desirable situation which can occur is the short sale property can get foreclosed upon while you are waiting. This means you have to start the process all over again since the bank now owns the property. This situation is tedious because short sale departments and foreclosure departments do not talk to each other. The bank walks down both paths at the same time and tend to whichever comes first. The good news you can avoid risk by doing your due diligence.

You can review court documents to see where the foreclosure is in the process, and if the seller is appropriately fighting the foreclosure. If the borrower does not put up a fight, a foreclosure can happen in the matter of a few months. If the borrower puts up a fight, he/she can drag it out for at least 18 months, and sometimes up to three or four years. Make sure your realtor is savvy enough to point you in the right direction on where the foreclosure is in the process,. Since you will need an attorney for the purchase always consult with him/her for their opinion.

New Urban Property Services can provide expert advice on navigating the purchase of a short sale or foreclosed property. If you have questions about the process or general real estate questions contact us today! 312.502.8213. You can also visit our websites which show case our other services Live By Transit and School Sparrow.

If you’re currently renting, know that it’s nearly impossible to time the end of your lease with the purchase, closing date, and move-in date of your new home. In fact, trying to time a purchase with the end of a lease can not only lead you to miss some opportunities, but also it can cause stress if your lease end date is near and you haven’t found anything yet. Renters tend to put too much emphasis on thelease end date, and while a lease is a contract that should not be taken lightly, the reality is you have options. Experienced and qualified realtors will be able to help you navigate through this part of the home buying process. Consider these possible scenarios:

  • You are about to close on your new home, but you still have a few months left on your lease. This is actually the preferred scenario! The Chicago Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance dictates that your landlord has to reasonably approve a subletter. The landlord will sometimes even release you as the former tenant, and resign the new subletter for a year while avoiding having to pay a commission to a rental agency. Some firms, such as New Urban Property Services will help you qualify a subletter at no additional charge. In today’s environment, the rental market in Chicago is strong, and marketing to tenants is easy with Craigslist and sites like Domu.com.
  • Your closing date is after your lease expires. Again, while this isn’t ideal it can be managed. The easiest solution is to go month-to-month, but landlords tend to avoid month-to-month lest they get stuck with a new vacancy during the winter. If your landlord insists upon you signing a full year, then you can always sign it up and sublet for a longer period of time.

With subleasing there’s always a risk that if the tenant doesn’t pay rent you are responsible. For this reason, it is a good idea to consult an attorney before entering into a sublet arrangement. Also, using a real estate professional to help you qualify the applicant will dramatically reduce this risk.

If you have additional questions on timing the end of your lease with the purchase of your new home please contact New Urban Property Services at 312.502.8213. New Urban is experienced with first time home-buyers and we will expertly help you navigate the process.

Compared to last year at this time, home sales in Chicago are up 32.2%. According to Chicagonow.com the percentage of homes including condos, townhomes and single family homes going under contract within two weeks of being listed is 41%. Well-priced homes in great locations are not only falling under contract fast, they are often receiving multiple bids and going for slightly more than the asking price.Family

What happened? Home buyers are suddenly confident, there is a shortage of inventory, and the Chicagoland area is experiencing the best real estate market in five years. Why? The belief is that the worst of the real estate decline is over, and those who have been waiting on the sidelines are coming out in droves to purchase before prices jump, and in order to take advantage of current interest rates.

While there is pent-up home inventory, many would-be sellers do not have their homes on the market. This is because they either don’t want to risk taking a loss, or they have renters in place which they are hesitant to disturb. The current lack of inventory has resulted in a price increase for high quality properties, in good locations. Together with the fact that homeowners have had time to pay down their mortgages, the result is that today might be the best time to sell in the last five years.

For questions on listing or buying a property in your neighborhood, in a desired school district, or near public transportation contact New Urban Property Services today! 312.502.8213.

I interviewed many Chicago moms in preparation for a new website that helps parents locate good schools in affordable areas, and one thing I learned is this:  if a Chicago family has a child in a Chicago public school, they probably heard about the school through friends or family.

When my wife and I were searching for schools for our daughter, we heard about all of the ‘usual suspects’: Lincoln, Burley, Bell, Audubon, Coonley, and a few others.   These were the schools that our friends were aware of, and although we did investigate a few additional schools on our own, we ended up moving near one of the ‘usual suspects.’ As of last September, our daughter is a very happy preschooler.

But, as it turns out, there were many other great options here in Chicago that my family didn’t even know about.  I’ve done some digging and have found a few strong CPS schools that are located in more affordable areas of Chicago.

Here’s an example: if I search for a home in north Chicago with at least 3 bedrooms under $250,000, and I rank schools by ISAT test scores, which are the top five schools that have homes for sale right now in this price range?  See Table 1 for the answer:

Table 1: The Diamonds in the Rough.

School Average Listing Price of Homes for Sale with at least 3 Bedrooms Least Expensive 3 Bedroom Home for Sale (click to see listing)
1. Sauganash $483,000 $185,000 minimum.
2. Oriole Park $333,000 $200,000
3. Canty $248,000 $115,000
4. Soloman $444,000 $200,000
5. Norwoood Park $567,000 $250,000

Admittedly, I do not know much about these schools other than students perform very well on standardized tests.  But looking back, I wish we had investigated them before making a decision on the neighborhood school our daughter now attends.  We love our current school and might have made the same choice, but certainly the five schools listed above deserved an initial look, especially given the financial implications of the drastically reduced housing costs.  A year ago, I didn’t even know these options existed.

So, how do the ‘usual suspects’ compare with these diamonds in the rough?

Table 2: The Usual Suspects.

School Average Current Listing Price of Homes with at least 3 Bedrooms Least Expensive 3 Bedroom Home for Sale (click link to see listing)
Lincoln $1,991,000 $300,000
Burley $992,000 $389,000
Bell $993,000 $325,000
Coonley $755,000 $185,000
Audubon $813,000 $375,000

Within these school boundaries, you’re paying for more than the school, you are also paying for the lifestyle and the brand name.

So as you’re searching for a new community for you and your growing family, keep in mind that there are many possibilities out there for parents who want a wonderful home and a stellar education for their kids.

I recently read a Crain’s Chicago Business article titled “The Parent Trap” that describes the plight of a young Chicago couple.  The couple bought their home before the economic crisis without regard to the quality of the neighborhood school (shame on their realtor), and now not only can they not sell their home, but also they are struggling with the question of where to send their kids to school.  These parents are reluctantly considering public school in Chicago, hence the title of the story “The Parent Trap”.

The reality is that the quality of many Chicago public neighborhood schools has increased tremendously in the last several years. Coonley.  Nettelhorst. Beaubien. Waters. These are just a few examples of K-8 public neighborhood schools that have seen a recent increase in the quality of education, in large part due to the parent community rallying together in support of their neighborhood school.  The effects of the parent community at one Chicago neighborhood school is documented in this book: How to Walk To School by Jacqueline Edelberg and Susan Kurland. The funds raised at charitable events organized by Coonley Elementary parents have been used to hire both a music teacher and spanish teacher at the school. Parents have made a difference at some Chicago schools in the last few years, and the timing comes none too soon with our current housing market and the unintentional Chicago residents it has produced.

Still, many Chicago parents find themselves in this uncomfortable situation where not only are they unable to sell their home, but also they are located in the attendance boundaries of a neighborhood school that does not work for their family.  Now what?  Private school? Play the selective enrollment lottery and hope for the best?  Short sale?  Rent? Do I want to be a landlord? This situation is anxiety ridden because it is hugely important.  We are talking about a child’s education after all.

I personally found myself in this situation…unable to sell our Wicker Park condo that my wife and I  purchased at the height of the market in 2007.  Once we had a child on the way, we tried to sell unsuccessfully and finally opted to rent out our condo and now we are renters in Ravenswood.  I think some parents consider moving from ownership to renter a downgrade, and this sentiment is repeated by Dennis Rodkin in this webcast. We rent out our Wicker Park condo for $2,650 per month, and our rent for a smaller home with the same number of bedrooms in Ravenswood is $1,825 per month.  We are $825 in the positive from a cash flow perspective, but even if we were paying a few hundred extra dollars a month, this expenditure pales in comparison with the cost of private school.  We alleviated the anxiety of the selective enrollment process; confident knowing that no matter what, our daughter had a great back up option when it came time to go to school. Becoming a landlord and renter is certainly NOT where I pictured things going when I purchased our condo in 2007, but now our daughter is in PreK at a wonderful neighborhood public school and we could not be happier.

My experience trying to find the right school for our daughter inspired me to build a website to address the pain points:  schoolsparrow.com.  SchoolSparrow integrates school performance reports, school boundaries, and available real estate information to allow Chicago parents to find a home for sale (or for rent) within their budget that is also located in the attendance area of a good neighborhood public school. SchoolSparrow will return the top 30 public neighborhood schools that have homes available right now with user’s specified number of bedrooms and maximum price.  SchoolSparrow uncovered for me several schools I wish I had considered because the real estate is affordable…consider this 3BD house for sale for $213,500 in the attendance boundaries of the very highly rated Sauganash Elementary School. With prices and interest rates near all time lows, some families might be able to rent out their home and actually purchase a new one.

SchoolSparrow is a free service to consumers, and the hope is that realtors will pay to have access to the SchoolSparrow search by multiple school district technology that DOES NOT EXIST for the realtor today. Please help me keep this a free service by registering on the site to be matched up with a SchoolSparrow partner agent.  SchoolSparrow agents understand the importance of a quality neighborhood school, and they have the tools to both identify quality public schools and find a home in specific school boundaries.