Musings from a life of chances and changes
You've decided that you want to buy a home. You do all of your research to find the properties that seem like a good fit. You go online and search every possible website, drive through your preferred neighborhood in case you missed any houses that are for sale by owner, and devote your weekends to visiting open houses. All this work has saved you the cost of a real estate agent. But is that true? No, it is not true. If you use a real estate broker to buy your home, in most situations you are not charged a commission, and it is the agent's duty to fully represent you.
Will a buyer's agent find you your dream home? No guarantees, but why would you run yourself ragged when the listings will be found for you and sent to you with your preferred criteria. Tours of the homes will be customized to save you the time and headache of seeing nightmarish places. When you sign a buyer's representation agreement, it binds the broker to you and your best interests. The agent should be able to listen to your needs and be a liaison between you and the seller's listing agent. Explaining the entire process of home buying to you will be first. But when you have narrowed your choices down to the house, the agent will make a well-reasoned offer. The offer will be formulated with the most critical component...the "comps" or the sales of comparable houses sold in the area. Without the ability to put together these numbers, you may make an offer that is not in line with what the house is worth. It's not only a matter of paying too much for the house, it may also mean that your offer is too low to reflect the market value of the house. In today's real estate market of low inventory and significant demand, the deal will not close if the purchase offer is out of line. Once the offer is determined, an agent will negotiate the price and resolve other issues so that the offer is accepted. The agent's goal is to protect you so that you do not end up with buyer's remorse. No broker's fee is too high when you buy the house of your dreams, right? Oh, never mind...it's free!
For those of us with high school seniors, May 1st is decision day; the deadline to decide where they will move to begin their college education in the fall. No more waiting and wondering to see which school will see the merits of accepting our children. The results may be disappointing or elating, but the suspense is over. Now, it's crunch time. And where are we, as parents, in this process? Many of us travel through this journey with our kids, literally and figuratively. We visit more college towns than we care to count, and the tours seem to blend together. The campus guide's hyperbole suggests to us that a fabulous future awaits this final decision. As we walk through the maze of buildings to observe and listen, we make an honest attempt to figure out the best fit for our teenager. Glazed over from endlessly weighing the pros and cons, we look at valid and frivolous considerations. Having gone through this marathon four times does not make me an expert, but it does clarify my perspective. I am a sucker for the setting and ambiance of each campus...and of course, the value of real estate investments in the surrounding college town.
I am not alone in the fascination of investing in college towns. It is becoming trendy. Some make the investment because they contemplate the expense of student housing for the next four years, while others simply know that college towns contain a built-in housing demand and want to capitalize on it. Whether the choice to own real estate is for the next four years, or as a long-term investment, numerous questions arise. Who is selecting the tenants? Who will maintain the property? Who will deal with repairs and how much should be budgeted for these costs? How realistic is it to be a long distance real estate investor? Sarita Harbour provides some insight on the topic of buying real estate in a college town. As she concludes, "with a desirable college neighborhood, a strong current and/or future rental market and a child with years of school ahead, investing in college properties may make financial sense."
Although I have had the pleasure of analyzing the real estate investment potential in many college towns, I will give you my top five reasons for investing in a college town that is near and dear to my heart...Evanston.
1. Location, location, location
Evanston is home to Northwestern University which is arguably one of the most beautiful campuses in the Midwest. Stretching along Evanston's eastern border, Northwestern occupies some of the most valuable real estate in the city. Lake Michigan's sandy shore and all of the beaches, boating and swimming provide an exceptional setting. With magnificent historic Victorian lake view mansions to new high rises and rehabbing existing housing, the property selection is varied and in demand. The New York Times featured Evanston as a "surfacing" destination and Politico.com declared its downtown to be "increasingly hip. Anyone who spends any length of time in Evanston understands the vibe is not typical North Shore, in a good way. https://vimeo.com/149798614
2. Proximity to Chicago
Evanston is no slouch when it comes to fabulous cafes and restaurants, bars and breweries, (nearly 100). More than twenty-five art galleries, museums, and concert halls create a cultural hub, but as you look South you see Chicago beckoning you to explore. If you hop on the "L", take a Metra train, or drive along Lake Shore Drive, you can be in the Windy City and all that it offers within about 30 minutes.
3. Pedestrian friendly environment
The walking or biking ability to all things necessary for a balanced life is the benchmark of the Evanston lifestyle. When Evanston redeveloped its downtown, it focused on providing its residents with a quick walk to buy groceries, use a dry cleaner, watch a movie, get a spa treatment, exercise inside or outside, relax at a collection of parks, or commute by train or bus in order to reduce the need for cars. A healthier lifestyle is obvious with less congestion due to the lack of a car-centric environment. http://www.cityofevanston.org/assets/Bicycle%20Network%20Posters.pdf
Although not as diverse as Chicago, one of the unique aspects of living in Evanston is its diversity, both racial and economic. City government has made an ongoing commitment to combat prejudice and strengthen the relationship between the diverse population. "Evanston continues to be a very diverse community and it is this diversity that helps define us as such a wonderful community in which to live, work and play,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl.
5. Real Estate Opportunities
Evanston has seen the addition of nearly 1,200 new condominium units since 2000. Many of these buildings have retail on the ground floor and are located within a half a mile from transit stops, making it ideal for commuters who are tired of traffic nightmares. But contemporary condo buildings are by no means the only housing with investment potential. The historic quality of many of the multi-family apartment buildings and single family homes offer unique real estate opportunities in neighborhoods walkable to classes at Northwestern and beyond.
For those of you that are moving forward and thinking of real estate investment potential, Evanston clearly has a steady flow of students, professors, faculty, and administrative staff needing housing. And for Baby Boomers, the National Association of Realtors has found a preference for post-retirement moves into college towns. I would like to hear your top reasons for investing in Evanston and college town real estate. Please let me know and consider BergerBroker.com for your real estate needs.
Judi Berger is an attorney and real estate broker who is blogging as she begins a new chapter in her life.