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Old 05-21-2010, 06:21 PM
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Can anyone recommend good builders to work with in the Darien area? Before too long I'll be selling my late father's property as a teardown, and since I've never done this before (and will never do it again), any advice would be appreciated.
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Old 05-22-2010, 10:35 PM
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Really depends how big the property is and what is reasonable to construct on the site. If this is in an area that, due to school boundaries, traffic patterns and overall 'fitness' of the site you might be able to sell it to somebody that can redevelop a bigger parcel into a mini-subdivision -- guys like McNaughton had a nice run of that in south Clarendon Hills / Willowbrook.

If the site is better suited to one really massive house maybe somebody like Tim Thompson or Regis McKenna.

If it just a regular site that will only hold one or two decent houses you are gonna having a tougher time as a lot of the little guy builders with speculative endeavors got wiped out in the last couple of years...

Try talking to the real estate agents. The big listers of existing homes in the area will be able to give you a solid idea of what is feasible. Also talk to the guys from teardowns.com, they specialize in this.
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Old 05-27-2010, 11:46 PM
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The property is a half acre lot in an area of '60s ranches and split levels just south of 67th Street. There aren't a lot of teardowns south of 67th, but just to the north there were a lot of older, smaller homes and thus more teardowns.

It would be a very nice lot for one great big house.

I'd been hoping to go straight to builders and avoid realtor fees, but on the other hand maybe going through realtors would be a better idea if it would bring the property more exposure and more offers. It looks like going through teardowns.com would involve realtors fees, right?--but lots of builders would see the listing presumably.

I was intending to use a site called valueinland.com (which briefly became hinsdaleteardowns.com, I believe), where seller listings were free, but to my dismay it went belly up several years ago. I recently discovered a site called teardownsandland.com--could this be the successor to valueinland? The contact phone number is in the 630 area code.

If I approach builders directly, will they expect me to present the property at a set price, or will they inspect it and make an offer?

My real preference would be to rehab the house and keep it as a second home in the Chicago area (we live in WI), but that isn't financially feasible for us.
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Old 05-28-2010, 07:17 AM
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Half acre is not going to have much appeal, given the decline in builder activity you are almost certain to get a better price as a straight 'fixer upper'.

I am not sure if your folks house is on the 'right side' of the line but the difference between a home that is the "option" zone that could allow attendance to Hinsdale Central vs one that is firmly inside the Hinsdale South attendance boundaries could be hundred of thousands...
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Old 05-28-2010, 12:08 PM
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The house has multiple issues, and I'm guessing it probably isn't worth fixing up. It would be worth it to us to fix some things and live with the other eccentricities because of the sentimental value, but that isn't an option unfortunately.

A half acre lot isn't big enough to interest builders?? There are lots of huge houses on postage stamp size lots.

I hadn't even thought about the school district issue.....I checked the map, and the lot is just south of the option zone, so that is not in our favor. Not that Hinsdale South is what you'd call a bad school though.

Well, assuming I'll be selling to a builder, any other names that spring to mind given our situation? Or, maybe more importantly, any to avoid at all cost? (You can PM me if necessary to avoid libeling anybody.)

And any tips on the selling process in general? I'm only gonna be doing this once, and I have to get it right.
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Old 05-28-2010, 01:48 PM
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I would really approach this like any attempt to list the house for sale.

It is good that you know that it is south of the option zone line, that helps you compare apple to apples, and I agree that Hinsdale South is a quite acceptable school -- the reason I mention the school issue is that I know from direct experience that the ability to move into a brand new custom built home and not give up the school attendance option to Hinsdale Central was a driver for many folks that did teardowns in the general area. It is not so much folks wanted / needed some enormous lot / home it was that with folks willing to spend HUGE money for the "in town" spots in Clarendon Hills or Hinsdale folks could sell, upgrade and STILL come out money ahead...

The reason that much larger parcels were (and frankly still are) more desired is not just due to the ability to build one big house on a postage stamp sized lot, but that if the lot could reasonably be subdivided then the parceling out can / did allow for great economics for the re-seller -- hypothetically somebody buys a run down place for about $400K. They teardown the existing structure and build a nice new place that has a market value of about $900K. They also can fit two or more houses on the re-sub-divided parcel. Each of those lots could be sold for $200k or more and that effectively reduces the acquisition cost of the land for the first home to a negative number...

Anyhow, what I would suggest is to interview three or more agents that have active listings nearby. Doesn't matter too much in this area if the listings are for a similar "value in the land" situations or for new construction or for other 'fixer uppers'. Depending on the SPECIFICS of the site /parent's house and just how difficult it would be for anyone {including potentially a buildr themsleves, to qualify for owner occupied financing) to actually move in to the house the real estate agents should be able to give their direct input on how long it will take to sell, the likely buyer, the smartest listing price and specifics of targeted marketing. I would be shocked if none of the agents you interview will say something like "I bet I could get three builders to look at this in less than a week" IF you are willing to set a very low price. In such a case the agent ought to be open to adjusting their commission a bit too, as they know full well the structure of teardowns.com compensation is different than a traditional full service agency...

Assuming you then sign with a qualified agent they will be able to represent your interests and will be your advocate during negotiations. Frankly as long as you do NOT do anything NUTS like not do a traditional "all cash" sale (which does NOT mean that the buyer won't be using financing, but it does mean that you WILL NOT accept a land contract or any kind of shared agreement...) then who you sell to matters very little. The swings in price have taken out most of the nutty builders who tried to sweet talk folks into signing over title for a contract promising some cut of profits after a new house on the lot is built / sold -- that is like agreeing to let a Hollywood movie company pay you AFTER they do their accounting!!!!

With rates low, temperatures warm and inventory not exactly bursting at the seams you ought to be talking to agents NOW!
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Old 06-07-2010, 05:02 PM
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Thank you for all the information--I wish I could start the selling process now, but there's still too much to do at the house. In fact we've been busting our butts recently trying to get everything done.

If I set a very low asking price, won't that just bring in a lot of lowball offers? Would potential buyers ever offer more than the asking price?
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Old 06-08-2010, 04:42 PM
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FYI--Do a LOT of checking around before you work with anyone in this area. From what I have heard, it is notorious for fly-by-nights and for spectral contractors who half-do stuff and then vanish without a trace. And, take especial care, because the City of Darien will provide NO HELP TO YOU when these jokers sneak off.

The Mayor of Darien (who is in effect an 'interim' mayor, as she first gained power when the previous mayor resigned in disgust) is not to be believed. Just tune into the public access channel for Darien sometime to get a gander at the fleeced homeowners whose builders vanished into the ether without a trace, leaving behind debris, pits of water, etc. The mayor just sits there like a stone image throughout. Heck, it ain't HER property, right?

And, her pathetic excuse that the City granted permits to companies that they 'just can't locate' at the moment is bizarre high comedy. There appears to be no attempt to check these companies out, just hand over the dough and you get the permit.

No wonder Darien never gets its highfalutin' 'town square' idea off the ground, and that huge chunks of land around 75th St. sit there year after year like the South Bronx.
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Old 06-12-2010, 01:17 PM
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Wow--I guess I'm not in town enough to know about all this stuff. The shady/questionable contractors are exactly what I want to avoid; if they cheat buyers they'll do the same to sellers.

What I've been doing is just driving around and getting names of builders from signs in front of houses under construction in the area, and then checking them out online. I'll also check the BBB listings, maybe make some calls--actually there seems to be a goodly number of reputable builders around, fortunately--now if I can just find one who'll give me a good price....
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