hello again

February 3, 2010

This was originally just a travel journal of the time I spent in Maine a couple of years ago, but a new adventure is at hand and I want to document it here.  Last week I did something slightly crazy – I bought a foreclosure here in Chicago.  About a month ago Ms. Katie Mac herself phoned and mentioned that she knew about a really great opportunity:  a one-bedroom condo in her building had recently gone into foreclosure and now it was up for sale.  Cheap cheap.  “You should buy it.”

I know her building.  I like her building.  In fact, I think her building is awesome.

I called up my real estate agent – “could you get me in to see this?”

She could.  We did.  Here’s what we saw:

Hardwood floors encrusted with grime.  Walls and ceilings stained brown with what looked and smelled like years of cigarette smoke.  A hole in the bedroom floor.  A busted in front door.  A kitchen in which nothing is salvageable.  Light fixtures that didn’t work.  A tiny bathroom that could be worse, but why is it hot pink?  And why did someone hook up the ceiling vent to blow directly into the hallway?  There are reasons why it’s Cheap Cheap.

Here’s what else we saw: original walls and floors that could be easily primed, painted, sanded, sealed.  Original architectural arches into the living room and dining room.  The original cast iron bathtub from the 1930’s.  All original doors.  Good room sizes.  A great layout. A good solid building.

It’s just really, really dirty.

Next step – I called a contractor that I’ve used once before, Chris, and asked him to come look at it with me.  He did.  He agreed with my initial impression that it’s a LOT of work, but great possibilities.  He gave me an estimate to do the work.  Not Cheap Cheap!  But he’s good and I trust him and I really like his work.

Then began the “school of real life” lessons in how to buy a Chicago foreclosure: 3 harrowing weeks of contractual negotiations with the agency that was handling the sale on behalf of the bank.  Here’s what I learned: buying a foreclosure is not like buying a normal piece of real estate.  Throw out all the rules and throw in some really shady agents who will bury you in addendums and demands for more earnest money.  Get a good real estate lawyer.  Understand that the rules of this game mean that they can deal with you for weeks and then give it to someone else who turns up at any time with more money.  Try not to get emotionally involved.  The entire process is a messed up game where both sides spin around as fast as they can and the first person to not fall down wins.

I didn’t fall down.  I cried a few times and had a few heart attacks, but I didn’t fall down.  Last Friday I went to the title company, produced a check, signed a lot of paperwork and now I’m the proud owner of one big mess.  A filthy, dirty, beautiful mess.

living room

view from LR into hallway

dining room

dining room

kitchen sink

Where the refrigerator should be

view from the dining room into kitchen

One of the original doors, w/glass knob



  1. When can Rachel and I move in?????

  2. …With the dog.

  3. april 1st…pack your bags.

  4. Can’t wait to see the demo photos!

  5. Congratulations and it looks super spacious!! Hi to Katie and the crew! (will they come back to podcasting so we can hear all about the remodel?)

  6. This place is gorgeous! Yeah, I can see it’s dirty and that the kitchen needs redoing, but this is WAY nicer than what you described. I especially love those doorways…beautiful architectural detail.

    Nice buy, lady!! Very excited for you!

  7. oh i have seen worse…. much much worse.. as in you are lucky to have drywall and all of your conduit intact. congrats! it will look perfect when you are done:)

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