Home Buying in Lakeview>Question Details

G08, Home Buyer in Lakeview, Chicago, IL

Thinking about a two bed/one bath garden unit in Chicago, located at Roscoe and Lakewood. Is this a bad investment because it's a garden? Flood

Asked by G08, Lakeview, Chicago, IL Thu Feb 11, 2010

risks? It's roughly 3 feet below ground level. If there are disclosures, how would I go about finding them?

Help the community by answering this question:


When it comes to discussion about leakage, I would like to suggest that sweeping generalizations don't benefit anyone. They are like stereotypes about ethnic groups... completely inappropriate and potentially hurtful. Some builders construct fine quality homes that are water tight, and others do not. Some buildings are old, and others are new. Some are well maintained and others are not. Construction quality is as varied as the population of the city itself.

In neighborhoods like Lincoln Park, the lower levels in most single family homes and duplex down condos are built out as living space, and used for play rooms, exercise rooms, guest rooms, etc. Based on some of the comments that have already been made, one could construe that all lower levels leak, are infested with mold, and are potentially hazardous. If that were the case, then why do we continue living in them? Why not just build all homes on a slab and skip the lower level altogether? We live in a new home with a lower level that is more than 3 feet below grade, it was constructed by an excellent builder, and we have not had any issues. My kids play downstairs every day and it does not keep me awake at night.

I am not saying every home (or garden apartment is perfect) but I do feel that gross generalizations are not constructive. I also agree with Sandra that people who take the time to participate in this dialog deserve to be treated with respect. Name calling is inappropriate and unprofessional.

Best of luck,

2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010

I respect your opinions and experience but I wish you would relay them without name calling. I believe that would be the professional thing to do.

Sandra Matson
Baird & Warner
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
I did Chris Michaelson's inspection at the Logan Square property several years ago. As he stated, the basement leaks. Naturally, that bothers me and I feel responsible, in part, for his leaky basement.
Fortunately, Chris understands that a home inspector is NOT omniscient and some defects in a home MAY NOT be uncovered during an inspection.

His experience, and similar experiences where clients have been surprised by damp or wet basements, has made me hypersensitive in looking for mold and moisture in lower level spaces. We use moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras as well as other less technical methods to look for signs of problems during our home inspections.

To Jenny Ames:

Your attempt to equate basements with ethnic insensitivity is patently ridiculous. I don't generalize about ethnic of racial groups and I haven't done it regarding basements either. If you actually read what I wrote, I never said ALL basements leak. I said plainly that I have inspected a lot which do leak. That's a fact, not a generalization.

I have inspected some wonderful basement living spaces. Some newer homes have properly insulated basement walls and radiant slab floors. They can be warm, dry and comfortable.

I recall a listing of yours in Lincoln Park that I inspected recently where the buyer pulled out of the deal partly because of some below grade issues. Perhaps that's a bit of a raspberry seed in your molar! Oh well, I don't kill deals I just interpret the home.

Have a great day!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 12, 2010
Once again ask questions! Speak up and make sure everything is in writing! This area is one of the favorites to me! Good Luck!
Web Reference: http://www.maryjodaly.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
Check out the Lakeview Real Estate Market Report for May 2014. Prices are up and Lakeview has been traditionally a strong market and a solid investment.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jun 22, 2014

If it the unit I think it is It sold for $246,000 in 2007. The location is great, Southport corridor, however when deciding on whether it is a bad or good investment you have to think of the time frame for which you want to live there. If you plan on living in this unit for less than 5 years it would be a bad investment. If we are to go back to a normalization of home appreciation than you can figure the price will rise with inflation over the course of time. So overall you have to make the decision on whether or not it is a bad investment. The unit is modern and up to date, I would worry about the exposed brick wall, for heat loss. That being said hire a good inspector.

Mark Manz
Broker Associate
Koenig & Strey Real Living
HomeServices of America, Inc.
A Berkshire Hathaway Affiliate
direct 773- 551- 7811
fax 866- 653- 0883
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Feb 17, 2010
Good Morning G08.

First of all, It's absolutely critical to get a good home inspection when you are buying any real estate. In your situation, it's also very important to have an inspector that has the equipment and expertise to evaluate garden level spaces. There are many sources of water in a building, and a few are particular to the basement level.

A few things you should look for:

1. Is there an Overhead Sewer System? This is evidenced by a properly installed ejector pit and pump. The design of an overhead sewer raises the drain points in the basement to above grade and prevents sewer back up. The manholes in the street should leak back up before water comes up your tub drain in a properly installed system. You should also make sure this system is functioning properly and has been maintained. They are mechanical in nature and will eventually require service.

2. Proper Drain tile installation and pit. This is a segregated drainage system from the ejector/overhead sewer system. It takes water, attempting to penetrate through the foundation and routes it to a pit. The pit then evacuates the collected water and a pump pushes the water safely away from the foundation.

3. Does the building have proper downspouts and other roof drainage. If the downspout from the roof terminates at the base of the building, with no other control for the water, it's likely this water will try to find it's way into the foundation.

4. Positive grade away from the building. Water should not accumulate near the junction between the building and grade. All hardscape and grading should pitch water away from the building.

5. Leaks from units above. The garden level or basement is the final destination for all leaks in a building. You should make sure other residents pay attention to the condition of their plumbing and that the association deals with problems quickly. This includes, sinks, tubs, showers, toliets and appliances (washer/dishwasher/ice and water fridge/Central AC coils/water heater/humidifier). Roof leaks should also be dealt with quickly as this water is also headed downstairs. The association should have a go to plumber and roofer and a system for handling issues expeditiously.

6. Front and Rear Entry Drainage: The drains at the front and rear should be present, designed so that they are effective and don't clog easily, and tie into a system that doesn't allow sewer backup. You'll need to check these drains regularly to make sure they are clear of leaves and debris.

I'm not going to generalize and say all garden units are bad, or that finished basements are a bad ideal. It's all in how the space was designed and built. Typically, basements are built out to add value to a home, or add extra income or value to a building. Proper installation of ejector pumps, sump pumps, drain tile, vapor barriers, foundation drainage barriers takes skilled trades and cost good money and is much more cost effective when finishing the basement is planned for in the initial construction. Finishing space in an existing building will require substantial reworking of the existing drainage system. Because value is always a key concern, not everyone who finishes a basement or builds out a garden takes the appropriate measures to ensure a dry space.

Best of Luck and I hope you find the above information useful. If you need a qualified home inspection service, I am happy to give you a few. I will save the methods of testing for the home inspector community.

Wayne Beals
Keller Williams CCG
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Feb 15, 2010
Unless the home is REO the listing agent should have foreclosures. I have personally invested in several garden level units and done very well with them by both flipping and renting. Get all the facts you can, have all the pros come out and check out the building and foundation, and do your homework. Treat it like any other investment- there are risks and rewards.

Lastly, just make sure you account for the fact that it's a garden in your numbers. We always try and pay at least 10% less than similar above grade units so we can make sure we can make a profit even when we have to discount. Some buyers just don't like grade or below grade units and you have to price it low enough to over come that. Otherwise go for it and don't over think it- every investment has risks.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 12, 2010

Now that you say the "L" is in the back yard I strongly suggest you continue looking. The "L" will just further limit your buyer pool when you consider reselling.

I am going to suggest you find a good agent to work with that can help you with these types of decisions as well as negotiations.

Best to you,
Sandra Matson
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 12, 2010
Thank you very much again, all of you!

I'm certainly going to take all this into consideration. The unit is beautiful, and the area is perfect. However, these concerns about resale seem consistent, as do the concerns with the potential of flooding. Combining this with the EL being essentially in the backyard, the owner is going to have to come down a considerable amount before I seriously consider this property.

Thank you all very much again, and if anyone else has any opinions at all, please post them and I will be sure to read them :)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 12, 2010
I would have to side with the agents that say the garden units are not very good investments. Your resale value is less due to a smaller buyers pool. Right now alot of regular units more affordable than ever. It is a great time to buy. If you find a garden apartment you absolutely love and you can't afford anything else in the specific area you want to live go for it. It's better than giving your money away to a landlord. That area is very nice, I have a brother in law that lives there. Just know that being below ground level there is always a chance of flooding even if there has been no past history. Don't pay too much for it, make sure your agent shows you comparables. However, I would encourage you to explore all your options if you are just settling for a garden unit.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
Seems like the answer has been covered, but I will throw my two cents in. If you like a garden unit then go for it. Note, that they are dark and kind of "dingy" feeling. But its what YOU like, not what we like.

Investment wise, just note that most people dont want a garden unit so its worth less. If you are ok with that, then move forward with it. Good luck.

Matt Laricy
Americorp Real Estate
Brokers Associate, e-PRO
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
I have to agree with those that advise against garden units. I understand that some garden units are only 1 or 2 steps below grade and don’t seem too bad, but there are too many factors working against them. Security is of course a concern, but I agree that the moisture issue is far and above the most significant. Any basement is eventually going to have moisture issues…it’s not a matter of if but when. And perhaps the sellers have not had any issues with seepage or flooding in the past, but chances are you will.

From my personal experience, I have had many issues with basements. Most recently, I bought a multi-unit building in Logan Square and the seller made no disclosure of seepage issues in the basement. Perhaps there weren’t issues with it at that time or perhaps they misrepresented the building’s condition...in any event, it’s an issue my wife and I now deal with, particularly during heavy rains. As a result of this seepage, we now have to tear up all the carpet that we installed just a few years ago. In addition, my first apartment in the city was a garden unit and at one point sewage backed up into our bathtub, forcing us to relocate for several days... In short, there are potential problems with garden units that I would recommend avoiding.

Needless to say, I advise my clients against garden units due to their potential drawbacks. Many other agents also dislike them and, as such, the potential buyers for those types of units is relatively limited. That could make it a challenge to unload the property at which point you feel that it’s time to move on to something better and presumably less subterranean.

Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss further.


Chris Michaelson
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
Dear Ms. Daly,

If a home is inspected in let's say, February, when the ground is dry and frozen; perhaps after an unscrupulous seller has performed some cosmetic fixes (painting, carpet, etc) to hide chronic moisture problems that only come up during rainy weather......how is the almighty omniscient inspector supposed to know that the basement is a leaker?

Oh, I forgot! Just sue the seller after it floods in April!

So you've sold SEVERAL basement condos...very impressive. Well I've inspected thousands of below grade living spaces and good percentage of them have leak issues that are difficult to find. Many below grade units are incorrectly insulated and detailed with improper vapor barriers that trap not only liquid moisture from seepage but also condensation behind the walls where it festers for years quietly growing moldy.

Your simplistic reassurances and trite explanations do nothing to protect your home buyers....but then that's not your job is it? That's the job of the somehow all-knowing home inspector. You can always blame him/her if your client ends up swimming at home or unintentionally growing new life forms behind the walls!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
It's actually a quite beautifully done place in an excellent location. My first visit to the place did not indicate any flood-history, as I made sure to check the siding by the wooden floors (all wooden, no carpeting).

The place is beautiful inside and it's in one of my top location choices.

Do I let the concern of flooding and a poor general view of garden units deter me from this condo? I mean, the place is literally 3 feet under ground and has ~9 foot ceilings.

Thank you all for the time to answer my questions!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
I have sold several garden units and not once heard any problems from these clients in which I take in consideration for all their needs and still in contact with. I always look out for my clients best interest. To call anyone a shark that you don't even know is wrong stay on track with the clients need not your ego. If the inspectors do the job and there is a water problem it will come up in the report. If the inspector does the job correctly there should never be any problems with the disclosure of water or leaks.
Web Reference: http://www.maryjodaly.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
Sorry to double up on the answer to this one but I just have to say that the Illinois disclosures are toothless and largely meaningless. They will be cold comfort to you when you get surprised by some serious defects down the road.

For a real estate professional to tell you not to worry because the disclosures will protect you is just plain irresponsible and is a big reason that realtors as a professional class are looked at with such disdain.


But there are a lot of sharks in the pool who will tell the water is just fine. Protect yourself, do your homework, be picky, have a back-up plan.

I have worked with real estate professionals from CA who are just aghast at the lack of consumer protection in an IL real estate transaction. Unfortunately, the City of Chicago is just as bad in it's failure to uniformly enforce a solid building code. The odds are stacked against you G08. You have to get in the driver's seat, perform your pre-drive check, strap in, and drive defensively or they will eat you alive.

Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
I also disagree with Philip. I know many people that have lived in garden units over the years without issues ...including me.

However, this said what I usually tell my buyers is that it is best not to buy a garden unit if you can avoid it as many buyers will not consider a garden unit. This will narrow your market when you resell. Generally women will not consider a garden for security reasons and they make up a large part of the market.

If I can be of further assistance, do not hesitate to contact me.

Sandra Matson
Accredited Buyers Representative
Certified Residential Specialist

Baird & Warner
Direct: 312.981.2315
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
Oh yeah! You want to hire a lawyer and chase down the seller after your basement apartment starts to smell like a 3 month old orange.

Don't worry! She's lived her whole entire life in that neighborhood!

Honestly, how can these people be in business?

Does that dump er I mean basement flat have carpet on the floors? If so, the next time you go to take a look at it bring a pair of needle nose pliers with you and pull up the carpet in a few strategic areas. If the tackless strips are rotted and their nails rusted then you have some type of moisture problem. It might be periodic seepage or it might be rising damp coming up through the slab.

Most experts say that prices are still dropping. Do you want to buy something that is one of the least desirable properties on the market in a declining market? How will you feel if your new place is worth 10% less next year?

More than ever you need to know what you're getting into. Do your homework!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
Many potential issues such as?
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
I totally disagree with Phillip! If you need more information I would be please to help! Don't hesitate to contact me. Ive been an agent in this area for over 10 years and lived here my entire life.
Web Reference: http://www.maryjodaly.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
You should not have to worry about flooding as long as it says that there is no issues with flooding or water in the disclosures. This way you can always go after the seller and they are resposible if they do not disclose problems. When you put contract together ask if therer is flooding. Make sure you do comps against other garden units in the area. You need to ask your realtor and lawyer to make sure it is in writing. Good luck with this and all your future real estate deals.
Web Reference: http://www.maryjodaly.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
Avoid All Garden units!! Disclosures mean nothing. There are many potential issues, none of which are good. If you cannot afford a normal condo, keep renting until you can. The market will favor the buyer more than the seller for a number of years to come. There is no need to buy now if Garden units are all you can find.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 11, 2010
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