Talk of The Town: February 2024

Take a Leap in 2024

As we anticipate having an extra 24 hours in February, let’s dive into the fascinating world of Leap Years—exploring things to do in and around Chicago and taking a leap into the local real estate scene.

Imperfect Calendars

As early as 8,000 BC, civilizations have tried to create calendars that would align with the seasons. Some, like ancient Chinese and Islamic cultures, developed lunar calendars that tracked the months by the moon’s orbit around Earth; but the 354-day lunar year caused an 11-day gap between the calendar and the seasons.

In 46 BC, Julius Caesar tried to get things right with the Julian Calendar; it had a 365.25-day year and a leap year every fourth year – but it was still imperfect. By the 16th century, major dates and holidays in the Julian Calendar were off by 10 days when compared to the movement of the Sun. This led Pope Gregory XIII to unveil the Gregorian Calendar in 1582.

That year, Pope Gregory made a one-time change, dropping 10 days from the month of October to get things back in sync with the seasons. Then, he introduced a new leap year system that used the solar year of 365.2422 days. Still in use today, the Gregorian Leap Year system adds one extra day every four years—the only exception being years that are divisible by 100 but not 400. For example, 2000 was a leap year but 1900 was not, nor will 2100, 2200 or 2300 be leap years.

Take A Leap Into Real Estate

If you’re contemplating a Leap Year move, now is the time to check in with your Dream Town agent. As we prepare for the dynamic spring market, the extra day this month offers the perfect opportunity to meet with your broker. Here are some trends and forecasts you’ll want to discuss.

Mortgage Rates: After rising to nearly 8% in October 2023, mortgage rates cooled markedly at the end of the year, with the average 30-year fixed rate dipping to 6.67% before Christmas. Though it is unlikely rates will return to the lows we saw in 2021, industry forecasters including Fannie Mae agree that the downward trend will continue. The Mortgage Bankers Association sees rates declining to nearly 6% by the 3rd and 4th quarters.

Chicago Transfer Tax: Next month, Chicago residents will vote on a referendum authorizing the City Council to change Chicago’s real estate transfer tax. Currently, all real estate sales in the city are taxed at a flat rate of 0.75%. If the referendum passes, this rate would drop to 0.6% for any sale up to $1 million.

However, the proposed tax structure would be tiered—increasing the rate on high-dollar sales. On a luxury property that sells for over $1 million, the tax would be 2.0% on the amount over $1,000,000. For sales greater than $1.5 million, the amount over $1,500,000 would be taxed at 3.0%. If voted in, the city could see a surge in luxury listings as sellers try to avoid the higher tax.

Housing Inventory: The persistent challenge of limited inventory was another major factor in 2023. But with falling interest rates, people who were hesitant to sell and give up their low interest loans may be enticed to list in 2024. But lower rates could also bring more buyers into the market, thereby putting upward pressure on demand and competition.

So what should you do? There is no crystal ball to tell us exactly how these and other factors will interact and play out. But by assessing your financial goals and real estate dreams, your Dream Town broker can provide expertise and tailored guidance based on the most relevant current data: Information that you will need to make informed decisions as you contemplate a leap year move!

Do Something Special On That Extra Day

With 24 extra hours, this February is a good time to escape your routines and try something new. Here are a few ideas to consider.

Garfield Park Conservatory | 300 N. Central Park, Chicago: Hailed as a revolutionary work of “landscape art under glass” when it opened in 1908, this is one of the largest botanical conservatories in the world. Make your free online reservation and come in from the cold.

Curling at Kaiser Tiger | 1415 W. Randolph St, Chicago: Try your hand at this winter Olympic sport! In addition to its brews on tap and gastropub menu, this West Loop beer garden offers authentic Canadian curling stones and an onsite Curling Master to explain the rules and help with scoring.

Cuddle Bunny | 2901 N. Clark St, Chicago: With a second location in Schaumburg, this is a comfortable space where customers can enjoy the soothing companionship of domesticated rabbits. Reservations can be made online for $13 per hour.

World of Winter | Downtown Grand Rapids, MI: Just 3 hours from Chicago, Grand Rapids is a perfect weekend destination. Running through March 10, their World of Winter is the largest winter festival in the United States, with more than 100 free events, activities, and outdoor art installations.

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