My adult daughter and I recently tried to buy an apartment building on Chicago’s North Side, the Promised Land for Big Ten kids from the Midwest—they go to Chicago after college for four more years of life in the post-college bubble. We looked for buildings in Lakeview and Uptown, both up-and-coming North Side neighborhoods. (My family looks at buildings for a living. I’ve been in the real estate business since 1976.) We “ran the numbers” and concluded that in North Side Chicago we could get, at best, a 5 percent capitalization rate, meaning that we could expect rent payments after expenses to add up to only a 5 percent return.
The real estate rollercoaster ride for U.S. homeowners isn’t new. Some markets had even rockier rides in the early 1980s or ’90s.