More than 506,000 Chicago-area homes—or one-third of the market—were underwater as of the fourth quarter, according to California research firm CoreLogic Inc. That’s up 7.6 percent from the previous year.
Underwater properties are bogging down a residential market that’s clawing back from its post-crash ditch. By opting to stay put, these homeowners are removing a substantial portion of potential saleable properties from the market, limiting choices for those who are ready to buy…
Rising prices ultimately will push more underwater homeowners to sell, Mr. Humphries says, but it’ll be a while before prices get anywhere near the levels seen in the market apex of just a few years ago. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of single-family homes, a closely watched barometer of values, in February stood 34 percent beneath its September 2006 zenith.
For buyers, meanwhile, the process of finding and closing on a home has become a scrum—and it’s likely to stay that way for a while. This spring, showings are drawing crowds and bidding wars, and fast sales are common, buyers and brokers say.
I wonder how much of this is tied to the psychology that people feel losses, such as the value they may have lost in their house’s value, more than equal gains. What tactics could be used to convince people that they might be better off getting out of the mortgage? I’ve seen one such argument: the value loss on a smaller house is likely to be less in absolute dollars and then homebuyers could benefit from larger drops in prices for larger houses.
Love to see random sites around the world? Check out the game Locatestreet where you are given a picture from Google Streetview and you have to guess (with multiple choice and with the opportunity to utilize a few hints) the correct location.
After playing the version with random US locations, I discovered that context matters – check out the housing styles and the vegetation for some insights into the location. Indeed, you might just see lots of trees and landscape. Also, knowing where population centers are can go a long way in making a closer guess as to where the exact picture was taken…
h/t Atlantic Cities
Oversized McMansions are history. Instead of big houses with rooms that might seldom — if ever — be used, builders are offering luxury amenities that add to comfort and enjoyment for years to come.
How about a Woman Cave? Other innovations include separate suites for in-laws or “boomerang” children who return home for a time after college or maybe a divorce, luxury walk-in closets and gourmet kitchens that make even a microwave dinner feel special.
“Two things sell homes — baths and kitchens,” said Peder Jensen, director of sales for Nashville’s Jones Co., which recently introduced the Woman Cave…
In addition to lots of granite, Dock Street offers kitchens with double ovens and gas cooktops. Master closets have a California Closet organizer.
“It’s sexy to have a nice master closet,” said Dan Kingsbury, project manager and principal broker at Tollgate Village. “It adds a ‘wow’ factor.”…
“Years ago it was all about square footage. The more the better. Now people want to downsize but upgrade,” he said.
Critics of McMansions have argued for years that the homes are more about being impressive rather than being useful. Additionally, McMansions have been viewed as symbols of excessive consumption. Yet, do these smaller homes with upgraded amenities really get away from this? While the amenities might be more understated and more functional, these amenities are likely not cheap and builders and developers can boost their profits on all sorts of upgrades. In the end, aren’t both the McMansions and upgraded amenities still about consumption, whether it is directed at visitors and possible buyers versus turned in on the homeowners themselves?
The National Association of Realtors is running a new television commercial supporting tax incentives for homeowners. Here is the money line toward the end of the advertisement:
The National Association of Realtors supports maintaining homeowner tax incentives, because they make homeownership more affordable for more families.
There had been talk in the last few years about getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction (see an example here during the fiscal cliff negotiations) but I haven’t heard anything more recently. Is the National Association of Realtors trying to get out in front of this possible issue?
It is interesting how the ad plays on some common themes of American homeownership such as the home as a castle and that kids should feel safe at home instead of having to worry about whether it is affordable. Who exactly is the evil dragon in this ad – banks? Government officials? Putting kids out in front here is a smart move – who wants to deny children a nice home that their parents own?
As poverty mounted throughout the nation over the past decade, the number of poor people living in suburbs surged 67% between 2000 and 2011 — a much bigger jump than in cities, researchers for the Brookings Institution said in a book published today. Suburbs still have a smaller percentage of their population living in poverty than cities do, but the sheer number of poor people scattered in the suburbs has jumped beyond that of cities.
In the Chicago area, the number of poor in the suburbs increased by 99 percent in the last decade, from 363,966 to 724,233…
More poor people moved to the suburbs, pulled by more affordable homes or pushed by urban gentrification, the authors said. Some used the increased mobility of housing vouchers, which used to be restricted by area, to seek better schools and safer neighborhoods in suburbia. Still others, including immigrants, followed jobs as the booming suburbs demanded more workers, many for low-paying, service-sector jobs.
Change also came from within. More people in the suburbs slipped into poverty as manufacturing jobs disappeared, the authors found. The housing boom and bust also walloped many homeowners on the outer ridges of metropolitan areas, hitting pocketbooks hard. On top of that, the booming numbers of poor people in the suburbs were driven, in part, by the exploding growth of the suburbs themselves.
The shift caught many communities by surprise, the authors found, with public and private agencies unprepared to meet the need in suburban areas.
This analysis is part of a new took titled Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.
This is not new for those who follow suburban trends: the suburban population has become increasingly diverse in terms of social class in recent decades. In fact, there have always been pockets of working-class residents in suburbs since suburbs began in the United States. However, there is a longstanding image of suburbs as mainly wealthy places as those with means left cities.
One other thought: even with the increasing number of poor people in the suburbs as a whole, poorer residents are not likely scattered evenly throughout suburban regions. Take the Chicago area for example: how many poor residents are in places like Kenilworth or Barrington or Lake Forest or Oak Brook versus places like Harvey, Addison, Waukegan, and Elgin? Some of the residential patterns of social class in suburbs then mirror some of the issues American cities have faced for decades, poorer areas isolated from wealthier areas, but with a twist: while all of these city neighborhoods may be under one government, suburbs have varying layers of government, making it more difficult to provide services to pockets of poorer residents. Additionally, wealthier suburbs have effectively limited affordable housing in many of their communities, restricting where poorer suburban residents can live and find opportunities.
The Chicago Tribune explains how a new jazz symphony based on the reversal of the Chicago River came about:
That story has been told in history books and classroom lectures, but now it’s coming to life in a novel way: a jazz symphony composed by Chicagoan Orbert Davis and inspired by the revelatory photo book “The Lost Panoramas: When Chicago Changed Its River and the Land Beyond” (CityFiles Press). In effect, Chicago history will be told here not by academics but by writers and musicians.
Co-authors Richard Cahan and Michael Williams spent years unearthing 21,834 forgotten photographs documenting in luminous black and white the reversal of the river — and its triumphant and disastrous effects on the world around it. Their 2011 book in turn has led trumpeter Davis to tell the tale in “The Chicago River,” a major opus he and his Chicago Jazz Philharmonic will perform in its world premiere Friday evening at Symphony Center, with historic photos projected on a screen.
Neither the coffee-table book nor the symphony would have happened, however, if the precious photos hadn’t been discovered more than a decade ago in the basement of the James C. Kirie Water Reclamation Plant in Des Plaines. The stench of decaying film negatives attracted workers’ attention and drew them to an even more precious find: 130 boxes of glass-plate negatives spanning 1894 to 1928, with written records accompanying them…
Not everyone, however, would hear jazz when studying these vivid images of a rougher, more rambunctious Chicago of more than a century ago. Jazz, however, stands as the ideal music for this time and place, because the turn of the previous century marked the explosive beginnings of jazz in Chicago. Jelly Roll Morton, the first jazz composer, came here from New Orleans as early as 1910, followed by Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong and a generation of New Orleans artists, making Chicago not only the next jazz capital but the exporter of the music to the rest of the world.
The work will be preformed this Friday. It sounds like a clever way to combine music, art, and history. These discovered photographs shed light on something that had only been written about before (see a recent summary here about how Chicago’s growth was fueled by excrement) but the music has the opportunity to add a new dimension.
The music is also a celebration of how a key infrastructure decision helped make Chicago what it is today. Many have heard the problems facing the city because the river flowed into Lake Michigan but what would have happened if the Chicago River hadn’t been reversed? How sustainable was the situation? What else could have been done at the time? People may not think much about sewers and water supplies but these are essential for large dense populations. In other words, you can’t be a global city without a decent sewer system.
The sheer concentration of people attracted by the urban lifestyle means that cosmopolitan cities like New York are host to people speaking more than 800 different languages – thought to be the highest language density in the world. In London, less than half of the population is made of white Britons – down from 58% a decade ago. Meanwhile, languages around the world are declining at a faster rate than ever – one of the 7,000 global tongues dies every two weeks.
It is having an effect not just culturally, but biologically: urban melting pots are genetically altering humans. The spread of genetic diversity can be traced back to the invention of the bicycle, according to geneticist Steve Jones, which encouraged the intermarriage of people between villages and towns. But the urbanisation occurring now is generating unprecedented mixing. As a result, humans are now more genetically similar than at any time in the last 100,000 years, Jones says.
The genetic and cultural melange does a lot to erode the barriers between races, as well as leading to novel works of art, science and music that draw on many perspectives. And the tight concentration of people in a city also leads to other tolerances and practices, many of which are less common in other human habitats (like the village) or in other species. For example, people in a metropolis are generally freer to practice different religions or none, to be openly gay, for women to work and to voluntarily limit their family size despite – or indeed because of – access to greater resources.
The biggest takeaway from this in my mind is the reminder that the megacities of today are relatively recent in the scale of human history. Outside of the last 150 years or so, at only a few points in human history has a city or two had a million people. Cities have been very influential throughout history, whether in Rome, Constantinople, Baghdad, or elsewhere, but today’s scale and rate of growth is astounding.
I also wonder if seeing these kinds of changes won’t really be fully known for a couple of hundred years where we can then look back and see that the changes in cities starting in the 1800s really altered human life. At the same time, plenty of learned people have noted the changes that started taking place in European life in particular in the late 1700s and early 1800s, from the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution. The more I have thought about it, the more I’ve become convinced that sociology’s origins are intimately tied to these changes in urban life.
A larger article about new trends in eating in America includes these figures about how much millennials eat out:
Disproportionately affected by the recession, the average millennial is expected to make 199 visits this year, down from 250 in 2008. But the restaurants they frequent are some of the fastest-growing chains.
This seems really high to me but it also fits with being in a certain stage in life. People eat roughly 1,000 times a year (give or take some meals) so eating out 199 times is roughly one-fifth. I have never gotten anywhere near these kinds of numbers myself but I could understand why it happens. It takes a lot of time to cook from planning out meals to buying groceries to cooking to cleaning up. Especially if millennials are consumed by their career, all of this business about food may just be too much. Eating can often be a social event, whether with co-workers or friends or family. On the other hand, eating out is often way more expensive – so perhaps it is a trade-off of time versus money. Also, many restaurants of today lack character or give you much of a reason to want to stick around outside of the immediate people you are with. And, maybe this isn’t just about millennials: I’ve seen figures in recent years that suggest 1/4 of American adults eat fast food every day.
All of this reminds me of Michael Pollan’s writings about how we treat food in the United States. Instead of eating natural food in relaxed and sociable settings (that can take hours – so perhaps you lose the time advantage), we tend to eat to be filled up or too have the proper amount of nutrients.
So how do restaurants try to appeal to millennials? Here is how one restaurant does it: by appealing to customization.
To appeal to millennials, Harald Herrmann, CEO of Yard House, a 42-unit chain focused on American fare and a vast beer selection, said customization is key.
“They don’t want to be confined to anything,” Herrmann said. “If you can put an offering out there that allows four to five millennials the opportunity to behave any way that they want and make decisions on the fly in an environment that’s casual and fun in a way that they can be expressive, then you’re onto something.”
At Yard House, Herrmann said, 30 entrees can be made vegetarian. He added that many groups of young customers eat their meals family style, ordering a number of dishes to pass around.
The ability for self-expression has also proved crucial in keeping millennial employees happy.
The chain, which works hard to include employee feedback, recently made visible tattoos acceptable for employees.
One other thought: I’ve seen a number of articles lately about the potential purchasing power of millennials. But, without good jobs and perhaps more stable situations, this spending is not going to happen at the levels it could. So…why don’t many politicians talk about this?
You can purchase mugs, magnets, tats, and even beer steins with UrbanDictionary.com’s definition of a McMansion. Here is their definition for McMansion and an example of the word being used:
Definition: A loser’s term of jealousy for a nice house he or she can never afford.
Example: “Did you hear how well Susie’s doing? You know we used to all make fun of her in school, well I hear she’s got a good job and just bought a beautiful new home.”
“Yeah, she’s just the type who’d buy a McMansion. I’m happy with my double-wide in the trailer park, it’s more ‘real.’”
It is what you might expect from UrbanDictionary: snarky and turns the term around from its typical critic of the homeowner who would dare purchase such a garish and unnecessary home. Additionally, the claim that a double-wide trailer is more authentic is not what any critic of McMansions would actually say.
So, how many of these items with the term McMansion have been purchased? Any? The t-shirts are rather bland and who would want to wear such commentary? These items seem destined to be clever gifts that then aren’t used much…
There are segments of our population that feel isolated and powerless because it seems no one is listening to their message. Unfortunately we even have a name for them, the marginalized. What exactly does that mean? These are the groups that are left out and not listened to. Examples abound such as the homeless, mentally ill, people with disabilities, inmates, children and the elderly.
For a country so rich in many ways, we have lost the luster by treating those without a voice as if they were not worthy. It speaks volumes about what we do honor.
Is it most important how much money one makes or how powerful they are? Who has the biggest McMansion and the most cars?
Who can boast that they have several vacation homes and multiple residences? Who has a golden parachute ready to be opened when the business goes under and many are left without employment?
There is one idea behind this reference to McMansions that is common but one that is not. First, the common idea: that owning a McMansion is about displaying wealth and status. Critics of the homes suggest those who buy them simply want to show off their money and do so by purchasing homes that are meant to impress. This ties in with images of Americans being obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses, consumption, and materialism.
The second idea is not as common. What if owning a McMansion is more about inequality and who has what resources in society? Even critics who argue McMansions are about people chasing status tend to argue that these people should buy more architecturally sound homes that are less garish. What if McMansions are part of a whole system that privileges those who can purchase homes, provide their children with plenty of support, and enjoy some luxuries in life? This idea does not come up very often. Perhaps this is because the idea implicates owning expensive single-family homes more broadly. Perhaps it is because plenty of Americans still like the suburbs and their private spaces. Regardless, thinking of McMansions more as part of the issue of inequality then could get into ideas how money should be spent, how we should build homes and neighborhoods, and what it means for more people to live the good life.