Biography

When Mary Umberger started covering residential real estate at the Chicago Tribune in the early 1990s, she thought it would be a short-term ...

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Mary Umberger

Mary Umberger

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Down payments can vary widely by housing markets

Down payments can vary widely by housing markets

March 23, 2015

For the past several years, it's been a rule of thumb that to buy a home with a conventional mortgage, you'll need to put down 20 percent of the purchase price. At least, that's the oft-repeated mantra in the financial media.

  • Smart-home technology playing bigger role in real estate

    March 16, 2015

    The real estate world tends to think of technology in terms of websites and apps. But it's a big housing world out there, and tech finds its way into our real estate lives in myriad ways. Some recent sightings:

  • Having an open-door policy for real estate agent safety

    March 9, 2015

    Sam DeBord has a modest suggestion. He'd like the real estate industry to significantly change the way it works.

  • Consultant sounds alarm on Florida's housing risk

    March 1, 2015

    Jack McCabe sees trouble in paradise. He's seen it before.

  • Starter homes hovering on the brink of extinction

    February 16, 2015

    The dodo bird. The passenger pigeon. The stegosaurus. The starter home?

  • Highlights from home-building trade show in Las Vegas

    February 2, 2015

    At the annual mob scene here that's known as Design Construction Week, one couldn't turn around without bumping into a forecast of one kind or another. The event that's become the Super Bowl of home building — the simultaneous presentations of the International Builders' Show and the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, in addition to three smaller design-related expos — recently drew about 125,000 people to learn what's coming next in housing, in both economic and design terms.

  • A fresh look at advances in real estate technology

    January 26, 2015

    The housing world was famously slow to embrace technology when that thing that used to be called the World Wide Web — or worse, the information superhighway — appeared a couple of decades ago, but it finally got the message. It seems to be on an app-a-day binge, but some tech is showing up in other ways in the housing world. A sampling:

  • Prospects for housing market looking brighter

    January 19, 2015

    First-time homebuyers and would-be buyers with scuffed credit histories may find more doors opening to them in the real estate market in the coming year, according to a leading mortgage-industry analyst.

  • Builder touts health benefits of some newly built homes

    January 15, 2015

    Is your home making you sick?

  • Where can you afford to live?

    January 5, 2015

    Do you make enough money to be able to afford a home?

  • Micro-unit apartments may be perfect fit for young adults

    December 29, 2014

    How would you like to live in an apartment that's only slightly larger than a one-car garage?

  • Florida housing trends may be an early-market barometer

    December 22, 2014

    Florida is a real estate junkie's kind of place. What happens in its macro- and micro-markets always bears watching, whether as some kind of economic barometer or as a locus of sheer real estate kinkiness. A few recent observations:

  • Millennials' version of the American Dream

    December 18, 2014

    The fingernail chewers in the housing industry are keeping an anxious eye on Generation Y.

  • Sales of million dollar homes outpace rest of market

    December 9, 2014

    Which of the following is true?

  • Go into a condo purchase with eyes wide open

    November 28, 2014

    Sara Benson swears that she doesn't hate the idea of condo ownership. As the owner of a Chicago real estate brokerage, she readily admits that she owes a part of her living to the consumers who buy and sell theirs.

  • New website launches for people who love old homes

    November 24, 2014

    Meggen and Peter Taylor are house people. They're fascinated by anything and everything to do with houses. And the older the houses, the better. The couple's affection for real estate and historic architecture spills into other parts of their lives. When they travel, they want to stay in vintage hotels or in restored private homes. They want to visit historic properties.

  • Study turns the tables on dining room preferences

    November 17, 2014

    The dining room is dead. No, the dining room lives.

  • Apartment rents steadily rising throughout country

    November 12, 2014

    If you're a renter, you're almost surely digging deeper into your wallet to satisfy your landlord these days.

  • Safety tips every real estate agent should know

    November 12, 2014

    It's happened again: In mid-October, a Laguna Niguel, Calif., real estate agent who was locking up a house for sale was punched in the face, placed in a chokehold and knocked unconscious by a man who was attempting to break in. And again: Three days later, a Richmond, Va., real estate agent was sexually assaulted as she worked alone inside a model home, by a man who said he wanted to view the house. And again: In late September, an agent in Arkansas was robbed, kidnapped and murdered after showing a vacant home to a man who posed as a buyer.

  • Chicago area's homebuilding recovers at slower pace

    September 12, 2014

    Chris Huecksteadt hates the phrase "cautious optimism," but in today's real estate market, that's what he's able to muster.

  • A survival guide for fledgling landlords

    September 4, 2014

    Sometimes, when landlord Leigh Robinson has tenants who are late with the rent, he might send them a cartoon — a gentle jab to remind them to pay up. If that method fails, or if the tenants are complete deadbeats, he might bribe them to move out.

  • Challenges that divorcing home sellers face

    August 29, 2014

    Shaaron Delsohn wears two hats. On some days, she's a divorce mediator, a third party who helps soon-to-be divorced couples work out agreements over children, finances and the nearly inevitable issue of what's going to happen with the house.

  • Protecting a home sale from ash borer threat

    August 23, 2014

    What if you were buying a home and were advised the furnace was operating on borrowed time? Or perhaps the kitchen appliances look as if they were manufactured during the Nixon administration.

  • How to estimate remodeling payback

    November 4, 2011

    Want to increase the value of your house? Add a third bathroom.

  • Appraisers see green in energy upgrades

    October 31, 2011

    If you're a conservation-minded homeowner and you go to the trouble, and expense, of installing a high-efficiency furnace or a truckload of insulation or other energy-saving features, you'd probably like to get credit for adding value to the place.

  • Credit reporting digs deeper

    October 14, 2011

    Sometimes it's hard to escape the notion that our lives are being slowly, inevitably reduced to a single database.

  • The down-payment hurdle

    July 29, 2011

    Tight credit is leaving the housing market gasping for air. That's the drum beat from many corners of the real estate industry, which has been complaining loudly that restrictive mortgage-lending standards are a leading reason housing can't seem to climb out of its very deep hole.

  • FICO's radar picking up potential walkaways

    May 6, 2011

    Your mortgage payments are up to date, and you pay your bills on time. Your credit score is above average.

  • Agents and brokers are holding the foreclosure door wide open for buyers looking for a bargain

    June 22, 2008

    Two years ago, Jason Pietrucha read the foreclosure writing on the wall.

  • Cool designs and hot trends in refrigerators

    June 13, 2008

    We ask a lot of our refrigerators.

  • Nothing open and shut about deal closings

    January 27, 2008

    Headed for your real estate closing? No matter which side of the table you'll be on, have a Plan B.

  • Judging a home by its siding

    December 16, 2007

    In today's real estate market, anxious home sellers -- or those merely thinking about selling -- might well heed a finding of the latest annual remodeling study: It's what's outside that counts.

  • Purchase price just the start

    November 18, 2007

    Separate from the monthly mortgage bill, would-be home buyers have to factor in numerous costs to determine their affordability comfort level, financial counselors say. Some of the considerations:

  • Here's a new one: Being too broke to sell

    September 30, 2007

    Most anybody in the mortgage business will tell you that August was a month that will live in infamy: The market was in turmoil, as doubts about the stability of subprime loans spread to other sectors of the mortgage world.

  • Rising tide washing over rentals

    May 13, 2007

    The rent is going up.

  • Think you know what it's worth? Think again

    October 15, 2006

    Here's one of those glass-half-empty/glass-half-full bits of news: Recently online company househunt.com surveyed real estate agents and concluded that 51 percent of U.S. home sellers are getting 95 to 100 percent of their asking prices.

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