High Fidelity’s Favorite Articles of 2015

Chicago Winter Pic


Now that it’s the new year, we decided to take one last look at our favorite real estate and Chicago neighborhood-related articles we’ve shared via our Twitter page (@HighFidelityPM) in 2015:

23 Reasons Why Chicago is the Best Damn City in the World



Chicago’s Greatest Surviving Gilded Age Mansions, Mapped



Maps of Chicago Are as Varied as its Neighborhoods



What Makes a Neighborhood Successful?



What if Frank Lloyd Wright Designed Chicago’s CTA map?



What American Shopping Malls Looked Like in 1989



Where Chicago Home Prices Have Risen the Most



Why These 6 Out-of-State Startups are Thriving in Chicago



Of the World’s Largest Cities, Chicago is the Most Undervalued



Remember These Places? Some of Chicago Best Shuttered Businesses Come Alive in Videos



7 Tax Tips for Home Owners





The 2016 Real Estate Outlook For Chicago and National Markets

Housing Pic Chicago

2015 has been a strong year for Real Estate, but where is the Chicago and national market headed for 2016? We’ve been watching the market closely and have carefully tracked other experts in the market, as well.

Chicago Real Estate Market Forecast Predictions For 2016:

Economists at Zillow predict that the market will slow for Chicago in 2016…

“The economists at Zillow are making more conservative predictions for the Chicago real estate market in 2016. When this page was last updated, in September 2015, Zillow’s economic team was predicting a 12-month home prices increase of 3.6%. That’s half the amount house values rose over the previous 12 months (7.2%). So here again, we have a Chicago housing market forecast that calls for a more gradual rise in prices through 2016.”

Other real estate forecasts for the Chicago housing market in 2016 predict additional home gains, but will likely be smaller than 2015.

Predictions include:

1. Inventory will remain steady throughout the year.

2. Additional job gains could increase demand for homes in 2016 and put upward pressure on home pricing.

Read more: http://www.metrodepth.com/chicago/

National Real Estate Market Forecast Predictions For 2016:

A forecast, produced by the ULI Center for Capital Markets and Real Estate, predicts a healthy pace of economic expansion with somewhat slowing growth…

1. Mortgage rates will increase at the end of 2015 and into 2016.

2. The Western portion of the United States will see the highest home increases.

3. Home prices will rise more slowly in most major cities.

4. Outstanding student loans will prevent many Millenials from entering the home-buying market.

Read more: http://www.homebuyinginstitute.com/news/fresh-batch-housing-predictions-679/#ixzz3rfi3RtZx


Have You “Winterized” Your Property Yet?


Much colder temperatures are right around the corner, so if you haven’t taken care of “winterizing” your property for the winter months, NOW is the time. Addressing simple maintenance issues for winter will not only save you from larger near-term repair bills, it will save you substantial $$ on your energy bills.

A recent study (Yale University) found that simply reducing drafts in a residential unit can cut energy use by 5 to 30 percent—A commercial building can show even more savings.

We’ve scoured many of the best sources for “winterizing” tips and have vast experience with our own properties—Here are our top choices:

Inspect and Clean Your Heating System

Have you inspected/cleaned your HVAC unit or other heating system  for the season? Before the winter hits, it is a great idea to have any needed maintenance work done to your building’s systems. Change filters, drain boilers, etc. Otherwise, this could lead to substantial repair bills during the season when it’s very difficult to schedule emergency repair people.

Secure The Exterior

Many buildings experience energy-loss and building damage due to issues with the exterior of the building. Check the roof, weather-strip interior windows, calk/seal cracks, clear gutters, etc.

Secure The Interior

Substantial energy savings can be had if you address the following before the colder months: Calk areas around pipes, weather-strip interior windows, etc.

Looking for more tips? Please see the following resources:





John McGeown’s Mid-Year Real Estate Update


John McGeown Jameson Pic

Mid-year update… with gratitude

Like most people, I sometimes (often) have to remind myself why I love my job. Real estate can be a very challenging path and there’s certainly no shortage of tough times. Take for instance, when I started in the business in 2008 during the beginning of the US Housing Bubble.

The strong survive and each day I make the choice to strive for excellence; to stay the course. In addition to being a passion, like many of you, I see real estate as a path to achieve my lifelong goals. And it feels good to be in a place where I know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

This feeling comes with great appreciation and gratitude for my clients. 95% of my clients are referrals and I have a vested interest in their success. Helping others achieve their goals is extremely satisfying, especially those who have supported me.

With my highly competitive spirit, and the help of my amazing team, I’m thankful to have already topped last year’s sales and leasing volume… and we’re not done yet.

Market Analysis

With a huge demand for apartments, paired with the city’s employment growth and booming tech industry, the rental market is thriving and in turn, causing rents to raise and encouraging renters to buy. The combination of first-time buyers and limited inventory has lead to multiple offer situations in surprisingly budding markets like Pilsen, Avondale, Humboldt, and Albany Park.

For those of you who like stats, check out this Housing forecast from Multi-Housing News:

“Fueled by the steady employment growth, income growth, urbanization and a booming tech industry, the Chicago multifamily market is expanding at a fast pace. More than 3,100 housing units are scheduled for delivery in core Chicago submarkets in 2015, according to Colliers International, with an additional 6,400 units scheduled for completion in 2016. Multiple condominium developments are currently in the works…”

More info: http://www.multihousingnews.com/market-data/market-snapshot-chicago-multifamily-demand-to-outgrow-supply-in-2015/1004115966.html

Additional links for related articles:



In Closing

I’m excited to be working closely with a developer, overseeing the construction and sale of a new single-family home project that will be hitting the market next spring.

I’m also really thankful/proud/excited to announce I have recently become a member of the Certified Commercial Investment Management (CCIM) Institute, and completed my first class in financial analysis–allowing me to help clients make better investment decisions and apply analysis tools to quantify investment return.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress, and of share what I’ve learned for those who are interested.

For now, each day presents a new lesson, and every day is different from the one before – this suits my personality well, and I’m thankful for that.

If there’s anyway I can help you, or be a resource to your circle, you know how to find me.



What Should You Do To Get A Property Ready To Show For Market?

Declutter House

Whether you’re putting a property on the market to sell or rent, there are several simple essentials to make a property more desirable to a potential buyer or renter. Here are 6 simple ways to make a property its most appealing for showings:

1. De-clutter The Unit From Top To Bottom

This includes a thorough deep cleaning of floors, windows, walls, fixtures, cabinets, counters, appliances, etc. In addition, you can run a dehumidifier before showings to eliminate any negative odors, which might have a negative effect on showings. You will also want to be sure to thoroughly clean entryway common areas and make sure all landscaping is properly cut and appealing since this will be the first impression clients have of your property.

Eliminating clutter and too many personalized items from rooms is essential to making a property most appealing. Prospective buyers or renters want to envision how their own possessions will look in a place. Having too much clutter in rooms will give the impression of a very tight space.

2. Make The Unit As Bright As Possible

Replace all light bulbs, pull back curtains, open shutters, etc. Everyone loves natural light in a unit—make sure you optimize the light in each room.

3. Update the Bath

Replacing a toilet set, shower curtain, outdated towel racks and simple light fixtures can go a long way towards making the property more appealing, in general.

4. Painting 

Sometimes a unit requires a complete re-painting, sometimes just touch-up painting will do. However, simple patching of nail holes usually requires the entire wall to be re-painted to look best. In addition, paint over any bold color choices to a more neutral tone. This doesn’t mean you have to always use a white-based paint. Light greys can give a nice appeal without going to far over the line.

5. Floors

At the very least, a thorough cleaning of all floors is important. For wood floors, it may be necessary to buff out the floors to clean more in-grained dirt, and, in more extreme cases, it may be necessary to completely sand and re-stain the floors. A final polyurethane finish will add a strong protective coating to the floors and extend their life.

6. Staging

In some cases, moving furniture and other belongings temporarily into storage and bringing in newer, fresh-looking furniture and accent items will go a long way towards updating the look of the unit and diminishing the time a property spends on the market.

For more information, please see the following articles:




Tips On How To Win A Multiple-Offer Real Estate Situation

Multiple Offer Pic


This season, we have already encountered several multiple-offer situations with our clients in some of Chicago’s most sought-after neighborhoods. This situation can be very stressful for all parties, so know what you’re willing to do in advance to secure the property will give you a leg-up on competing offers.


Here are some general guidelines to follow for securing an advantage over other clients for the same property:


Get pre-approved, not pre-qualified—Pre-approval is a much stronger position to show to the seller than simple pre-qualification.


Be flexible—A flexible closing date can give you a large advantage over competing offers.


Personal Note From Buyer –A personal touch may make your offer more intimate and less business-like to the seller.


Have Fewer Contingencies—Fewer contingencies mean a stronger offer in the mind of a seller.


Make a Large Deposit and/or a Large Down Payment—Another option to show the seller you are coming in with a very serious offer.


Make a Strong Offer—An initial offer at or beyond the listing price can help your cause for the seller deciding to ultimately negotiate with you.


Escalation Clause–In your initial offer, you specify a base price you are willing to pay for the home, with the condition that your bid will escalate above a competing bona fide offer up to specified limit. The escalation clause insures that you’ve furnished yourself the opportunity to stay in the competition until your maximum bid has been met.


Here are a few links for additional info:








Chicago Neighborhood Spotlight: Logan Square


The 606/Bloomingdale Trail—A nearly $100M City of Chicago project that links Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park, the old elevated rail line is nearing completion into a paved bike and walking path with lighting, landscaping, fencing a park and trail project spanning nearly three miles.

Logan Square is no longer a hidden gem of a neighborhood—it’s become a bustling destination for great restaurants, live entertainment, shopping and some of Chicago’s most interesting Real Estate, old and new.

Here are 7 reasons why we personally love Logan Square (in no particular order):

1. The 606/Bloomingdale Trail—A nearly $100M City of Chicago project that links Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park, the old elevated rail line is nearing completion into a paved bike and walking path with lighting, landscaping, fencing a park and trail project spanning nearly three miles.

A particular highlight of the 606 is the 2.7-mile long Bloomingdale Trail, running east-west from the Kennedy Expressway to North Ridgeway Avenue–between North Avenue and Armitage.

2. Logan Boulevard—The architectural beauty of the mansions set way back from the street is stunning. It’s difficult to keep your eyes on the road and not the beautiful old homes when you drive through this stretch of Logan.

3. Congress Theater—Once a grand old movie theater, and later home to great live music events (Riot Fest, etc.), the Congress Theater is a classic Chicago building currently closed and undergoing a massive $55M renovation into a re-vamped venue for live music and more. The restoration includes an inn with 32 rooms and the redevelopment of the street level storefront area to include restaurants and retail. The new proposal will also include a rooftop lounge. 14 current apartments will be completely renovated and offered as affordable housing.

4. 90 Miles Cuban Café—On Armitage, the best empanadas in the city, PERIOD.

5. Lula Café—Everyone knows about this place, but it continues to impress. The food reminds you of all those great small college-town cafes where everything is fresh and the atmosphere is homey and inviting.

6. Logan Theater—Originally opened as the Paramount Theater in 1915, this beautiful old move theater has undergone a complete renovation back to its beautiful Art Deco façade. The theater has been upgraded with state-of-the-art sound and a classic cocktail lounge, as well.

7. The Mexican Food—The small street carts, bakeries and mom and pop restaurants are everywhere and the delicious, authentic food keeps us coming back for more.

Additional Information:





Tips on Buying Your First Investment Property

Where To Start?
​At first glance, it might seem fairly easy to locate and purchase an investment property with a strong cash flow/ROI. However, there are several important factors that first-time buyers need to consider before moving forward.


1. Location
The key to finding a perfect investment property is to pinpoint neighborhoods that are up-and-coming, not the ones where properties are already at peak value. Once you have established which neighborhoods meet this criteria, look for the best property on the worst block. (an older property in need of minor repairs/upgrades surrounded by brand new million dollar homes is a perfect example.) In addition, look for all the things that you, as someone who could potentially be living in the building would require including: close proximity to transportation, restaurants, nightlife, grocery stores, etc. Once you do this, look for red flags: does the building border a train line, is it next to a dog daycare common-area fence, do some of the buildings on the block look unkept? If you are seeing these red flags, walk away.


2. What Is The Condition of the Property?
Look for properties with “good bones.” This includes dry basements with high ceilings, newer roof, solid siding, good electrical and plumbing, etc. Even when you think something is a cheap fix, it almost always costs more than what you might think.


3. Do The Math
Understand all your costs associated with the purchase and ongoing ownership before moving forward. Costs include principal payment, interest on payments, taxes, insurance (PITA), maintenance, repairs, common area utilities, etc. A 2-4 or 5+ building is almost always a better long-term investment than a single-unit condo.


The Cap rate is the industry preferred terminology used to determine a rate of an investor’s potential return on a real estate investment property based on the expected income that the property will generate. This is done by dividing the income the property will generate (after fixed and variable costs) by the total value of the property.

Capitalization Rate = Yearly Income/Total Value

Do you need help buying your investment property or would like further information on up-and-coming Chicago neighborhoods ripe for investment? Please visit www.JohnMcGeown.com for more information.


Should You Hire A Property Management Service?


Many property owners are conflicted about whether to personally manage their investments or use a property management service. It’s a personal decision that is dependent on the available time and resources to the owner, as well as their market knowledge on how to best position the property to maximize its earning potential.

The main advantages to using a property management service is minimal vacancy and controlled costs. Many smart investors already know the value and use these services, but High Fidelity offers something the competition does not. Because of our small yet highly experienced staff size, clients have direct access to personalized attention and service. Our mission is to bring Chicago a fresh, competent and adaptable property management solution.

Since we work, eat, sleep, and breathe in the market, we know what market value can keep the units occupied for the highest rental rates. We also maintain timely reporting and funding with a proven track record of decreasing turn-over rates and collecting rent on time.

We also manage relationships and have an outstanding roster of accredited service providers that do excellent work at competitive rates so your investment will be preserved in top physical condition.

And if you need help in regards to buying, selling or leasing of properties, please also check out my sales and leasing website: www.JohnMcGeown.com



Reforming Traditional Policies: The Elimination of Tenant Security Deposits

The rental industry standard since the dawn of time has been to require a security deposit, usually equivalent to one month’s rent. This practice was put into place to protect the owner’s financial interest in case of damage, or if the tenant becomes delinquent on rent. For the first time ever in 2014, the new lease introduced by Chicago National Association of Realtors, advised Chicago landlord to stop requiring security deposits.

That’s because in Chicago we have one of the toughest landlord/tenant ordinances that most landlords would agree, overprotects tenants and is punitive to landlords. When collecting security deposits, a landlord is required to open an interest bearing segregated federally insured bank account for that security deposit, and it is to be returned to the tenant within 45 days of lease expiration, with an itemized list of all cost deductions due to repairs -normal wear and tear does not apply- with receipts.

Many say there is far higher a risk of liability when collecting security deposits, than the risk of destruction to the property and therefore the industry trend is moving toward collecting non-refundable move-in fees instead. Here is more interesting reading on the topic:

Chicago Tribune


Curbed Chicago


Legal overview: http://www.illinois-attorney.com/practice-areas/evictions-and-landlord-tenant-law/chicago-and-illinois-security-deposit-return-and-recovery/