Goodbye 2011: Welcome 2012!

New year 2012 message on a computer keyboard, 3d illustration isolated on whiteAs 2011 comes to a close, let’s take a moment to look back on this crazy year around Chicago.
Here are our top 10 Chicago real estate highlights and lower moments of 2011 to remember . . . or forget.
1. Is Rahm Emanuel a Chicago resident? The year started with a major controversy over whether Chicago homeowner Rahm Emanuel, who had rented out his Ravenswood home to go be President Barack Obama’s chief of staff in Washington, was truly a resident and therefore eligible to run for mayor of the Windy City. His renting tenant even ran for mayor for five minutes. After several court battles, it was determined that Emanuel, a Chicago taxpayer, was in fact a resident and could run. And win.
2. Ousted Illinois governor puts Chicago home up for sale. After being sentenced to 14 years in jail on political corruption charges, impeached governor Rod Blagojevich and his Chicago real estate agent wife, Patti, put their Ravenswood Manor home on the market. The asking price on the infamous piece of Chicago real estate, which they purchased for $505,000 in 1999, was dropped last month from over the million mark to $998,000.
3. The great blizzard of 2011 shuts down the city. From February 1-2, the third worst snowstorm in our history dumped 20.2 inches of snow on us, paralyzing the area and Lake Shore Drive and keeping residents inside their homes for days. After officials failed to close the Drive early enough and hundreds of motorists were stranded, some for up to 12 hours, the city implemented some changes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
4. More crazy weather in July: An intense wind and thunderstorm on July 11 knocked out power to more than 850,000 ComEd customers. That is a record. From July 22-23, the area received 6.86 inches of rain, a new new daily rainfall record. Temperatures also averaged 5.7 degrees above normal, making this the third warmest July in history. This year saw the second-wettest weather ever recorded in local history and the fifth-latest first measurable snow ever. Let’s hope the mild winter doesn’t turn into the nightmare all the experts were predicting for Chicago in 2012.
5. Income tax hike leads to out-of-state moves: At the beginning of the year, Governor Pat Quinn approved the largest income tax increase in state history, raising it 67 percent on residents and up to 46 percent on businesses. Major corporations threatened to leave state and some did leave, taking their jobs and our residents with them. According to United Van Lines, Illinois, along with New Jersey, owned the highest out-of-state migration rate in the country this year.
6. Good bye, Daley family. Mayor Richard M. Daley spent the last few months of his 22-year reign as Chicago’s mayor doing a Neighborhood Appreciation Tour and visiting almost every ward in the city. Way too soon after, on Thanksgiving Day, his beloved wife, Maggie, succumbed to breast cancer after a nine-year battle. There are talks of renaming a building after Maggie Daley, a champion of the arts; quite possibly the Chicago Cultural Center.
7. Oprah switches from talk show queen to landlord. Oprah Winfrey ended her popular talk show this year, taping her final show at Harpo Studios in May after 25 years of production. One of the last things Mayor Daley did while in office was rename the block in front of the studio “Oprah Winfrey Way.” Several months later, Oprah put up her eight-room co-op on Lake Shore Drive for rent at $15,000 a month. It’s still available, by the way.
8. Another talk show queen moves to town. Harpo Studios won’t be vacant for long. Rosie O’Donnell is moving in with her own show and a new Chicago home. There were rumors she would stay at Trump Chicago Hotel while searching for Chicago real estate — and could quite possibly buy there — but after Donald announced that he was against LGBT rights, she said forget it. She instead invested in a 6,000-square-foot home in Wrigleyville.
9. A crooked politician loses her home. Betty Loren-Maltese, the former Cicero town president who swindled more than $12 million out of residents in a mob-related insurance scam in 2002, attended the auction in which her home went for $87,000. It was valued at about $223,000. Loren-Maltese, who spent seven years in federal custody for her misdoings, later sold most of her belongings in a garage sale attended by hundreds. She still owes the government millions in restitution.
10. Oops. This month, the National Association of REALTORS announced that extensive errors had been found among existing-home sales, and revisions were made dating back four years. And, over the summer, the Illinois Association of REALTORS® found a computer glitch had overestimated the median sale prices of homes sold in Chicago from November 2010 through May 2011. These important statistics are used to form housing policies. Tsk. Tsk.
There were many other Chicago real estate stories of 2011, some good, some bad. Let’s hope for much more of the former in 2012. Happy New Year, Chicago!