Reality bites back in Condoshark listings
By Mary Ellen Podmolik
The Chicago Tribune
October 16, 2009
If you're selling a home in certain Chicago neighborhoods, you can take the listing of your property on Condoshark.com one of two ways: Either it's great visibility as you try to sell your home, or it's confirmation that you so inaccurately priced your property when it was first listed for sale.
Regardless of the conclusion, one thing is certain regarding the development of online sites like Condoshark: the local real estate market is being driven by price, price and price as much as it is by location, location and location.
Matt Garrison, a Coldwell Banker agent in Chicago, started Condoshark last month and the online tool is a bit of an eye-opener about what's going on in the city's once-red-hot neighborhoods. For each of seven neighborhoods -- Bucktown, the Gold Coast, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, River North, West Loop and South Loop -- the site lists the top 10 biggest price reductions among condos, single-family homes and two- to four-flats.
Tracking what Garrison labels as "financially distressed properties," although some aren't technically in distress, the information is based on data from the local multiple listing service and updated nightly. Separate lists are maintained for homes being sold traditionally and for those that truly are distressed sales, such as foreclosures and short sale listings.
If a property is on the list one day but not the next, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's sold, just that the size of its price reduction got topped by one that was even greater. The percentages shown demonstrate just how much the asking price has dropped since the original active listing but don't take into account changes if a property was on the market, taken off a while and then re-listed at a lower price.
Some of the reductions can only be labeled as doozies. On a recent day, the lists included a 27 percent price cut, from $925,000 to $675,000, on a condo at 175 E. Delaware in the John Hancock building; a 24.5 percent drop, from $2.35 million to $1.775 million on a single-family home at 2530 N. Burling in Lincoln Park, and price cuts of at least 30 percent on distressed condos at 10 E. Ontario in River North.
Getting on the list isn't really a badge of honor in Garrison's eyes.
"It's not necessarily a great reflection of what their price was," Garrison said. "The fact is only the best-priced properties are selling now. If you look at the properties that are on the market right now, the vast majority of them on the market in the fourth quarter aren't going to sell."
"Most sellers don't start at a super lower price," he added. "They follow the market down."
While the site offers pictures of properties and addresses, it does not specify unit numbers in condo buildings.
Garrison said he considered setting up the site so visitors would have to register in order to access the data, like so many other sites do, because it'd be a source of future business leads for him. But he decided against it, and acknowledged that instead of contacting him directly, there's nothing to stop a consumer from pasting an address from the list into their favorite search engine to find out more about the property or which agent has the listing.
"You have to add real value and just give the information to people and by virtue of that, some of those people will contact you," Garrison said. "Transparency is what's going on. Rather than fight it, we chose to embrace it."
When he's not selling homes, Garrison's other ventures include Select Energy Partners LLC, which helps companies select energy vendors; South Street Capital, a real estate investment firm; and Boilercribs.com, a Web site for student housing at Purdue University.
Garrison said he'd rather be too busy selling hundreds of condos -- he says he sold 762 units in 2006 -- than thinking up the development of a site like Condoshark, but that's not where the market is right now.
"This is a way to adapt to the market conditions," he said.
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