One of the best ways to get a taste of a neighborhood you’re looking at is to look at some blogs from real estate professionals in the area.
Real estate agents are getting savvy about using the blog to talk to you – people who are interested in moving to their community — about the community. At their very best, these blogs are like local newspapers, without the obituaries or scintillating reports from the local public utilities commission.
Of course, the agents would LOVE to eventually represent you in a sale, but they also know that if they’re too salesy in their blog reports, you’ll bolt. The hope is that if you like the blog and find it a valuable resource for learning about a neighborhood, then you’ll like the agent as well and maybe want to talk business.
So we’re going city by city to find the best real estate blogs. I try to find sites that have a low sales quotient, and give you a good insight into the community that agent represents. The more ‘insidery’ the better.
First up: Let’s look at Chicago and the best blogs in the Windy City (in no particular order).
Robert Darrow’s Your Windy City Guide excels in all the types of information that’s important to new residents: some numbers and analysis of local real estate market with some good insight for buyers, and with just the right amount of local color – interesting stories and great pics.
He also does a very nice job of discussing a variety of neighborhoods and then making it easy for you to search them with precise tagging (that’s not something you’ll find on all of the Chicago blogs).
Definitely worth your time if you’re looking to move and buy in Chicagoland.
Fran Bailey’s Chicago Metro Real Estate is also first-rate, and she has some good war stories from the Chicago real estate biz — personal stories like these help you get a feel for a real estate agent’s personality and knowledge.
As you read these blogs, think about whether you could mesh with them as you go about your real estate hunt. I’ll ignore the post on ’5 Good Reasons to Buy a Home now’ — agents, please avoid the obvious pitches on buying a home; if I’m on your site, just assume I’m already pretty serious about buying a home.
However, bonus points for her post on finding Chicago rentals, a classy post that shows she wants to help people moving to Chicago, not pitch her listings.
Chicago Real Estate Local from Eric Rojas offers a really good insight into life in Chicago with a good overview of the types of property in Chicago and some amusing insights on properties and neighborhoods, as well as discussion of the overall real estate market in Chicago and in particular neighborhoods. It’s the kind of stuff that gives you a feel for the city and some insight into where you might be looking to live.
Chitownliving.com is also a good blog about life in Chicago. Check out its neighborhood lists for some good insight into various Chicago neighborhoods. The Real Estate Lounge Chicago is good, but I’d like to see more information about neighborhoods in there.
Jennifer Ames’ Live and Play in Chicago is probably the best-looking blog in this group, and has a lot of good information on neighborhoods on the north side of Chicago if that’s an area you’re interested in. Definately should be on the list of blogs to check out if you’re interested in Chicago.
Closing on Real Estate is more about the financial side of the equation, but the lawyer-author does a really nice job of focusing on issues that a first-time buyer might face. Here’s an example:
“I represented a buyer earlier this week at a closing and we used this to sock away $5k just in case there’s a special assessment in the next six months. In my particular situation a review of condo board minutes over the last year suggested a couple big projects may be happening soon so I just wanted to protect my client. But in a soft real estate market, why not use this as the default position on the Buyer’s side. Protect your client for another year.”
This is good stuff to know if YOUR real estate agent isn’t thinking about stuff like this. Bonus points for not using legalese like ‘pursuant.’
Finally, Arc Chicago isn’t a real estate site, but it’s an interesting compendium of real estate architecture in Chicago and some of the interesting architecture by neighborhood. Not that you should pick your new neighborhood by the archicture, but it could be a factor.
Any I missed? Of course there is! So why not help out our community and leave some other Websites that are worth a perusal?
– Tim Johnson, Relocation.com Editor