Cindy Gaffney only joined @properties last year but has plenty of experience as an agent, having been one for several yearsalthough she previously managed school and senior living food programs.
Gaffney, who is originally from the Rockford area, talked with Windy City Times about, among other things, changing times for the real-estate market and her sonwho works for the same company.
Windy City Times: Real estate is a family affair for you, as your son is also an agent. Do you have any idea why he decided to go into real estate?
Cindy Gaffney: He's 23 and a graduate of the University of Illinoiseconomics and psychology. When he graduated, that was about the time we were having layoffs. I've had my real-estate license, and it's something I've always loved. We got to talking about it, and he said, "You know, I think I'm going to get my real-estate license." And I said, "It's a great time. Go ahead and get it." He actually started full-time before I did; I became full-time last year.
Windy City Times: You got your license in 2006 and you said it's something you've always wanted to do. Why didn't you go into it sooner?
Cindy Gaffney: I was a single parent with a child at home. I was working full-time; I've always been involved in food-service management25 years. It was something I was really passionate about, and I did it for many years.
In 2006, I decided to get my real-estate license; at that time, I was living out in Rockford. I started with Coldwell Banker Premiere out in Roscoe [ a suburb of Rockford ] ; I was living in Rockton [ another suburb ] at the time.
However, my food-management position changed and I took a position in Evanston with senior living. At that time my son was in college and I said, "I'm moving to the city." That was five years ago. I moved to Andersonville, and I haven't looked back. [ Laughs ] Andersonville is such a neighborhoodsuch a homey feel.
Windy City Times: It's like you're in the burbs but you're in the city.
Cindy Gaffney: Yeah, and I like that because I had lived in the Belvedere/Rockford area my entire life. I absolutely love being in the city. I love being less than a mile from the lakefront. It's an amazing city.
Windy City Times: I looked at your sales, and I saw that you sold properties in Joliet. I started to wonder, "How large an area does she cover?"
Cindy Gaffney: Here's the thing: When I came into real estate full-time, I was looking at what was going on in the market and I was predominantly short sales and foreclosures. I thought, "In order to make myself competitive, I need to understand those sales." So I spent some time last year getting myself up to speed.
Once I got a couple of short-sale certifications, I decided to help people who needed to sell their properties. It didn't matter where I wentso that's how I ended up in Joliet. I had a couple out on the market at Hanover Park. I was regional for quite a while, having been in food-service management, so I was all over the place; I'm familiar with a lot of the city and suburbs. I'm not afraid to get out of my familiar area.
Windy City Times: I have a basic question: What is a short sale?
Cindy Gaffney: That's a good question. It's when somebody needs to sell a property, but they owe more on it than the property's worthso they're asking the bank to take less than they owe on that loan. So many people are in that situationupside-down in a mortgage. Banks will typically entertain these because the person has had some type of a hardshiplosing a job, getting transferred, getting divorced [ or something else ] .
A short sale is a good alternative to a foreclosure or what we call a deed in lieu. A deed in lieu is basically giving the deed back to the bank. The last option is foreclosure, when the bank has filed with Cook County to take over the property, and is eventually awarded the property.
Windy City Times: Compared to, say, two years ago, how is the housing market?
Cindy Gaffney: It's improved. I look to see what's happening in the housing market. [ Shows WCT a chart ] Overall, there was still a 3.9-percent decrease in housing prices but when you look at the previous quarters, that's still an improvement; prices haven't fallen as significantly. The number of delinquencies on loans has also fallen slightly. So we're seeing improvements.
Windy City Times: What's your advice to people who are looking to buy?
Cindy Gaffney: First of all, get your credit in order. Know what's on your credit report. Make sure you can afford what you're buyingand get pre-approved. When people get pre-approved, I tell people, "Just because your letter says that you're pre-approved and can spend X amount, that doesn't mean you have to spend that." Look at your finances, and see how much comes in and how much goes out. Determine what you think you can afford, and compare that to your pre-approval.
Windy City Times: What's your advice to those who are selling?
Cindy Gaffney: It's kinda the same thing: What's the situation? Are they looking to move up?
If they're looking to move up, they must consider what they selling their home for, and what they're going to be able to buy their new home at. A lot of people wait for the bottom of the market, but the important thing is the cost of the home, and that includes interest rates. We've seen an increase in interest rates so the buyer's purchasing power is less.
That applies to a seller as well. If interest rates are climbing, buyers are getting less house of their money so there may be fewer buyers in that price range. It's a very personal decision on each side; I sit down with buyers and sellers and figure out what their goals are.
Windy City Times: Someone told me last night that Chicago has the second-largest rental market in the country.
Cindy Gaffney: We do have a very big rental market, and we seeing more rentals as people who have either short-sold or had their property foreclosed on going into that market.
Windy City Times: If someone decides not to go with an agent and looks online or in the paper. What are key phrases to watch out for? Is "an up-and-coming neighborhood" a good thing?
Cindy Gaffney: It depends. I always recommend using an agent because that's our business. I should know the market and be able to show you statistics, and tell you what's happening. An "up-and-coming neighborhood?" What is an "up-and-coming neighborhood?" Does it mean that there are more renovations going on? It's not about the verbiage; it's about the facts and the statistics.
Windy City Times: What are the best and worst aspects of your job?
Cindy Gaffney: I love working with people, and I enjoy somebody find the home of their dreams. That is so rewarding.
The worst aspect? Sometimes it's the fact that it's a 24/7 business. If that phone rings at 10 o'clock at night, I'm picking it up. There are people who work nine to five; I'm not one of those people.
Cindy Gaffney is part of the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. For more on her, see http://www.atproperties.com/agents/CindyGaffney.
Real estate news:
Going down: Local home prices have now decreased for 13 consecutive quartersmore than three yearsbecause of the prevalence of foreclosures and short sales, according to an article in Crain's. The Federal Housing Finance Agency's index of home prices in the area decreased 3.02 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the same period in 2009 and dipped 0.77 percent compared to the third quarter of 2010. James Shilling, a finance professor at DePaul University, said that Chicago's shrinking population ( down 7 percent to 2.7 million in 2010, from 2000 ) is also a factor.
The $7-million mansion: However, not all prices are decreasing, apparently. According to ChicagoRealEstateDaily.com, a huge Lake Forest mansion designed by David Adler is back on the market for just under $7 million. Yoonok Kim and Hi Kyung Kim have owned the 14,937-square-foot home on Lake Road since 1984, according to property records. The mansion, built in 1917, sits on nearly three acres and has six bedrooms, six full bathrooms and a private beach. Houda Chedid of Coldwell Banker NRT has the listing.
Affordable housing in Winnetka?: The tony suburb of Winnetka ( median income: $201,650 ) is split over the issue of affordable housing, according to the Chicago Tribune. In the town of 12,000, some residents are balking at the plan, citing possible governmental inference; supporters say that affordable housing would allow the village's teachers, police and other professional to live and retire there. The median home price in Winnetka was $1.1 million last year, and the plan would help those making at least $45,000 annually.