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TRUE GRID (Chicago Style)

Chicago Aerial Grid Photo

In the early 1900s, Chicagoan Edward P. Brennan proposed a city street system that generally lays out as follows:

* Every 8 blocks equals 1 mile and house address numbers are assigned at a rate of 800 per (the exception being a handful of blocks in the Printers Row/South Loop area between Congress Parkway and  Roosevelt Road.

* Every 4 blocks is a major secondary street.

* Even numbered addresses are on the west and north sides of each street.

* Odd numbered addresses are on the east and south sides of each street.

* The intersection of State Street (0) and Madison Street (01) is generally considered to be Chicago's topographic 'Ground Zero.'

* Several 'diagonal' streets -- Clybourn, Milwaukee, Elston, Clark to name a few and a couple random meandering roadways -- Sheridan Road, both Wackers (Upper & Lower) and Lake Shore Drive (LSD lol) -- screw it all up and can have your navigation voice quickly speaking in digital tongues.





A Few Thoughts From the Horse's Mouth...

Geno Petro | Chicago Realtor

You Only Need One Realtor


Every couple months or so the same scenario unfolds in my real estate life: a prospective Buyer happens across my Chicago MLS search engine (usually by means of a long-tail Google real estate search, i.e.,'Wrigleyville MLS search,' 'Uptown Chicago neighborhood property search,' 'Pet Friendly Chicago Rentals,' etc.); they proceed to log on and register; they 'Favorite' several listed properties; and then, usually after a repeat visit or two, request either a 'showing' or 'additional information.' My immediate response to these new registrants is always the same: "Are you currently working with another Realtor?"

^ And here's why >>>: 
You. Only. Need. One. Buyers. Agent., period.

^ And here's why >>>: The. Listing. Agent. Always. Represents. The. Seller., period.
(unless its a Dual Agency situation, in which case, a very narrow and specific set of real estate laws apply in Illinois.)

^ And here's why >>>: Because while legal in this state, Dual Agency dilutes the negotiating power of both the Buyer and the Seller while simultaneously restricting the powers of the designated Realtor. Period.

**[Things get even hairier when the Buyer has reached out to multiple Realtors during the same property search. It's also worth mentioning that while most web sites (mine included) provide consumer access to every listed property on the MLS--99.9999% of those are NOT the personal listings of the web site owner. So its feasible that the Buyer has not only been in touch with the Listing Agent and possibly their own Agent, but also the Agent(s) whose website(s) they are surfing, and any other part-time licensed relative with a real estate opinion willing to jump into the mix.]

Now of course, there is no law that dictates a buyer must use a Realtor (or even have a Buyers Agent at all) to purchase a property. This is still America, for crissakes. If you are a consumer and feel you are well-versed in Cook County tax pro-ration arrears lingo; closing cost line items; city, county and state tax stamps; all contingency clauses and the earnest money protocol with each; as well as lines 181 through 261 of even the simplest CAR real estate purchase contract (assuming, of course, you have access to such a contract), then by all means...Proceed. With. The. Process.  Otherwise, a clear understanding with your Realtor of choice and a signed Buyers Agent Agreement may be the safest route down that tricky path.

Just understand this: once you open up a specific conversation with the Listing Agent on your own--even at an open house-- 'implied agency' (representation) may occur at any future step and you may find yourself in a 'procuring cause' situation that won't permit you to start using your own Realtor later even if you want to--or at least your own Realtor who expects to be paid for their services. Remember, the Listing Agent directs the distribution of commissions and 'representation' does not automatically dictate 'compensation' in Illinois. It's a fancy way of saying 'you dance with the one who brung ya.'

**So if you want to see things get unsavory quickly, just have three different Chicago Realtors show up at the same closing table for the same deal, expecting to get paid--and have one of them be me. (lol...but not really.)


Lakeview Blue HouseWisconsin Blue House

One Zero Makes All The Difference 


Look up. No really... look up at these two very similar blue houses. For starters, they both are blue; in fact they both are ’starters.’ One is on a tract of land that is 33×50 (feet that is), the other is on a half acre. Both have basements. Both are described as ‘Peaceful’ and both are located in Midwest states –the heartland of America, if you will.

Perhaps you can see where this is headed. One of these blue beauties was a past Lakeview listing of mine offered for $624,900 and placed under contract after 120 days on the Chicago market. The other is an E-Flyer offering I  received in my Inbox from an agent in Beloit, Wisconsin (less than 2 hours north). List Price: $71,900. Oh… and we both dangled the ubiquitous $900 at the end of our real asking price in typical REALTOR® fashion.

I had to look twice when I saw the ‘pop-up’ photo as they do appear similar at first glance. And on paper they are only separated by a single digit…one seemingly meaningless decimal to the right. A lone, hollow zero.

So, what's in a zero?

Answer: In this case, over a half million dollars ($553,000 to be exact)! Paradoxical, huh? An extra zero on a spreadsheet is worth a cool half mil. Or to be more specific, $5,475 for each mile between Beloit and Chicago, all 101 of them. And to be fair, one does need to look closely to see the beauty in either of these two examples. Perhaps the real beauty is in fact, on the inside (as in equity).There’s really not much more of a point to be made in this example except that while a picture might indeed, be worth a thousand words, a picture in the right location is worth all that plus a half million dollars in the kitty! Now, look up again and tell me…which is which ?


Chicago Real Estate Forecast

by Geno Petro (re-post of my February 3, 2015 article)


Alas, 2015 is the ‘Year of the Sheep’ and in Chicago, buyers and sellers alike are itching to shed their winter wool and follow the housing herd into greener real estate pastures. March, April, and May have traditionally been the wheelhouse months for heightened property sales in this section of the country and the upcoming spring season looks to be one of the busiest ever. Here are a few reasons why:

1) Timing

Unless forced to by a job relocation or extreme personal or financial crisis, no one in this corner of the Midwest cares to move (or even think about packing, for that matter) in the dead of winter. Folks in these frigid parts prefer to wait until after the annual polar vortex cycle has run its course before pondering such lofty household decisions. Historically, April 30th and September 30th are the two busiest moving truck days in Chicago, generally pre-booked months in advance. Also, 80% of all downtown leases end on one of those two days, thus opening the barn door to a whole new bevy of first-time buyers each spring and autumn.

2) The Cost of Money

Mortgage interest rates remain low in Chicago (hovering around 4% for a 30 year fixed loan) while Chicago rent prices continue to soar. Even a plain vanilla 1,000 square foot apartment leases for a minimum of $2,000 monthly plus another $200 for parking. This, of course, is assuming a person is lucky enough to find one in the first place. The combination of these three factors–low borrowing rates, high lease demand, and low inventory–once again make purchasing, rather than renting, a viable option.

3) ‘Pent-Up Demand’

Consider the family who’s expecting its third child in five years and can’t postpone ‘upsizing’ any longer; or the empty nester couple who pushed back retirement a few years so they could cushion the Schwab account a little before selling outright and heading south for good; the new corporate hire whose job wasn’t even on the economic radar a year ago; and the young professional who is now making bank and can’t tolerate another lease cycle in a room mate or studio apartment situation. These are all examples of pent-up buying demand that are about to spill into the marketplace after several stagnant selling seasons in a row.

4) Supply

But what about ‘supply’? The local ‘distressed property’ inventory is greatly diminished compared to even a year ago and while this is a generally a good thing for sellers, it does limit the number of overall available units for sale. Buyers will need to be ready to offer once they find a place that meets their requirements.

The good news for sellers is equity continues to appreciate in traditional owner-occupied properties; homes that were previously tethered to other bad ‘comps’ in the neighborhood (or building, in the case of condos). In other words, prices should continue to rise and many sellers who couldn’t afford to take a loss a few years back are now in a break-even position or better. They will finally be able to negotiate, sell, and move on with their lives.

Supply Ready to Hit the Market

In addition, there’s also a secondary batch of non-owner-occupied units (the majority of which are condos) due to hit the market in the coming months. Most of these were once ‘under water’ and thus, unmarketable—even as recently as 2014. These are properties whose owners could not sale at the time and were forced, out of financial necessity, to become rental units instead.

Once this inventory (mostly in high rise buildings) re-enters the market and the proxy landlords exchange expired leases for recorded deeds, even more renters will be on the street looking to purchase. Case in point: the same $2,200/monthly outlay required to rent a modest downtown condo with one parking space can now be used to service principle, interest, tax, and insurance on a pretty sweet brick bungalow–with a yard, ample storage, and two garage spots–just a few miles to the west or south.

New Construction 

And finally, there is the revitalized new construction sector; a citywide spattering of nearly completed condos, high rises, and single family houses just waiting for the ‘last draws,’ as it were, to become move-in ready. Once the weather breaks and the finishing touches are applied, expect to see another surge of upward movement in the marketplace, especially on the Near North and West Sides of Chicago.

So...where is this all headed?

Of course, the established ‘anchor’ neighborhoods of Streeterville, Gold Coast, and Lincoln Park always come to mind but the savvy Shetland will probably stray from the herd and look elsewhere. As referenced in earlier posts on this subject, there is still value to be found in Edgewater select areas within the ‘Bungalow Belt,’ Wrigleyville, and even parts of trendy River North (where a 2 bed/2 bath condo can still be had for the low $300,000s if you are diligent in your search efforts).

Sheep and Wolves

Still, first-time buyers need to proceed with caution. Where there are sheep, there are wolves and the promise of renewed opportunity invariably attracts not only the usual carpetbagger suspects in the industry, but a new wave of inexperienced agents, over-zealous loan officers, and questionable appraisers. A real estate transaction is complicated, rife with legal consequences, and usually involves hundreds of thousands of dollars. Always seek the advice of known professionals and remember, when in doubt…Google is a pretty good friend.

And for the rest of you old real estate goats out there–hemming and hawing and stomping your hooves on the sidelines–let me remind you once again…it’s only a buyers market if you’re actually buying. Oh yeah, and it’s 2015!



First Time Real Estate Buyer Q & A

Q. Is the Internet really 'all that' when it comes to the initial real estate property search

A. Ironically, we are communicating right now via the Internet so my answer is yes, indeed. When a website such as mine logs over 50,000 visits a month then it pretty much goes without saying that maximum exposure can only be achieved though the internet—and its real time and accessible 24 hours a day, every day of the year, anywhere in the world.

Q. What about listing with a 'discount' broker?

A. Of course, this is just my view but I would not consider using a discount attorney for the biggest legal matter in my life nor do I suggest using a discount broker for the biggest purchase of your life. Statistics prove conclusively that property listed with a full service REALTOR® yields significantly more bottom-line money to the Seller than if one is not used (F.S.B.O.), or the listing is simply 'posted' the on the MLS by a discountâ broker. The internet has thousands of related articles on this subject. Google is your friend in this instance; there are thousands of articles, forums, and discussions on the subject.

Q. Okay, ahem...what is a F.S.B.O.?

A. For Sale By Owner.


Some Helpful Hints...

22 Steps To Purchasing Property In Chicago

1) Initial Consultation: Screen / Interview Buyers Agents (No Fee To Buyers Agent)

2) Mortgage Pre-Approval / Or Proof Of Funds (Cash Deal)

3) View Prospective Homes / Identify a Property / Write Offer

4) Present Purchase Contract To Listing Agent

5) Initial Earnest Money: $1,000-$10,000 (Due On Offer Acceptance)

6) Negotiate Offer (Counteroffer, Price, Terms, Close Date)

7) Acceptance Of Offer By Seller / Final Signatures & Initials

8) Contact, Fax Documents To Attorneys (Attorney Fee $600 - $1,200)

9) Contingency Periods Begin: 30-90 Days from Accepted Offer (Non-Cash Deal)

10)  Attorney Period Begins (Usually 5-10 Business Days From Accepted Offer) 

11)  Professional Home Inspection ($300-$500)

12) Both Attorneys' Approval on Modified Contract (5-10 Business Days)

13) Balance of Earnest Money Due to Listing Office / Or Attorney Trust Account 

14) Await Appraisal (Non-Cash Deal)

15) Loan Commitment: 30-45 Days (Non-Cash Deal)

16)  Acquire Homeowners Insurance Policy

17)  Interview With Condo/Co-Op Board (Usually In High Rise Buildings)

18) Await Closing (UP TO 9 MONTHS IF A SHORT SALE)

19) Transfer Utilities & Change Of Address / Schedule Movers

20) Estimate Of Funds Needed At Closing (+ $200-$500 Move-In Fees)

21) Final Walk Through Or Punch List (New Construction)

22) Closing (Usually 30-90 Days From Signed Acceptance)



Sources of Data (by category)




Population density

Population change

White %

Black %

Asian %

Native American %

Other %

Hispanic %

Male %

Female %

Median age

High school grad %

2yr degree %

4yr degree %

Grad degree %

Household size - persons

Average income per cap

Household median income

Single %

Married %

Divorced/separated %

HH with children %


·         Census Bureau estimates and projections of population characteristics at various levels of geographic detail, including the latest estimates of population at the county and city level

·         Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates and projections of employment by industry and occupation at the county level

·         Medicare eligible population counts at the ZIP code level, including population by sex and 5-year age cohorts, provided by the Health Care Financing Administration of Social Security. These counts provide a very accurate local count of the population aged 65 and higher.

·         Internal Revenue Service statistics on tax filers and year-to-year migration

·         The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, which provides detailed demographic breakdowns and enables a thorough longitudinal analysis of demographic trends

·         Economic Census data of NAICS and SIC groups by states, counties, cities, metros, and zip codes.

·         Consumer Expenditure Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics




School profiles

            State and Regional Education Boards and Districts

            National Center for Education Statistics

School test scores


State departments of education




Annual predominantly sunny days

Days with precip > .01 inch

Rainfall - inches

Snowfall - inches

Relative humidity (afternoon mean for July)

July mean high temp

Jan mean low temp

Average wind speed

Days < 0 deg.

Days < 32 deg.

Days > 90 deg.

National Weather Service, Regional Climate Centers

Missouri Climate Center

U.S. Geologic Service

National Hurricane Center

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

National Climatic Data Center

Comfort index

UV danger index

            Sperling’s BestPlaces



Costs of Living

Cost of Living Index

Constructed indices uses data of the Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (published and unpublished), with health costs from Medicare and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Consumer Expenditure Survey (BLS), Current Population Survey (BLS), Department of Energy, the Federal Travel Directory, National Association of Realtors, Home Price Index from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, median home sales prices from state Realtor associations and county deed records, Coldwell Banker's Home Price Index, and our own research. ACCRA (Association of Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association), Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index

Median home price    

Home price appreciation

Property tax – effective rate

Freddie Mac -Conventional Home Price Mortgage Index

National Association of Realtors

            National Association of Home Builders

Coldwell Banker - Home Price Index

            California Association of Realtors and other state Realtor associations

Housing Affordability Index

            Sperling’s BestPlaces



Economy & Jobs


Recent job growth (one-year)

            Bureau of Labor Statistics

Future job growth (10 years in the future)

            Sperling’s BestPlaces analysis

Household median income

Household income growth (1990-current year)

Average family income

Technical/professional/sales % (white collar)

Blue collar, clerical % (working class)

Census Bureau

Current year estimates – Sperling’s BestPlaces analysis

Sales taxes    

Income taxes   

            State and local taxing agencies



Health and Health Care

Air quality index

Watershed quality index

            Environmental Protection Agency

            Analysis by Sperling’s BestPlaces

Crime rates – per 100,000 capita

            FBI Uniform Crime Reports, state police agencies

Physicians per capita

            Department of Health and Human Services

Hospitals, hospital beds per capita

Allergy and Pollen index

            Sperling’s BestPlaces analysis




Commute by auto

Commute by mass transit

Work at home or telecommute

            Urban Mass Transportation Administration, DOT

            Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Census Bureau

Current year estimates – Sperling’s BestPlaces analysis



Update periods

All categories are updated at least once annually, though at different times during the year.  Quarterly updates are released during the year.

New data appearing each quarter include employment, cost of living indices, and home prices and appreciation.





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