Broker: "Condos are not a good deal"

Here’s something we don’t often hear from Chicago real estate agents: “Condos are not a good deal. It’s one of the biggest wastes of money you could ever do.”

But that’s what Tom Caravette, owner of BBC Realty in Wicker Park, told us yesterday. “My advice to a lot of these guys who are looking for condos is bypass this stuff,” he said. “Get a single-family home.”

We called Caravette to quiz him about the market in Wicker Park and Bucktown, where condos are pretty pricey. In 2007 (through August), the median sales price of a condo was $405,500 in these neighborhoods, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois. In Caravette’s view, it’s a mistake to spend that much on a condo, which he argues won’t appreciate significantly. “Show me the money,” he said. “Show me where your clients have made 10 percent return on their condo. Show me where they made 5 percent.”

For the price of a Bucktown condo, you could buy a bungalow on the Northwest Side, he said. He acknowledged that you don’t get the same hipness or nightlife, but he argued that you do get some pretty nice neighborhoods and probably a higher resale value down the road, especially if you put some work into the property or expand it.

For buyers who are dead set on buying a condo in Wicker Park or Bucktown, Caravette said he advises them to stick with units built in the last two or three years – new enough to have updated features and finishes, and old enough to have some kind of track record. “Your best bet is a high-profile unit on a main street with the glam and the fab and the glitz, so people will be sold on the way you’re sold on it,” he said.

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