La Esperanza – Go For the Chips and Salsa

by Tracy Molnar on December 13, 2009

Entering La Esperanza (Spanish for “hope”), you are greeted with cheerful decor, festive Mexican music and hosts who seem to speak English as a second language. The menus and signs boast “authentic Mexican” food, a phrase that has often puzzled me. After all, should’t authentic Mexican food have to be from Mexico? I searched Google but it didn’t completely help the case. Loosely, it seems that to claim to be “authentic Mexican,” your food can’t have been Americanized with cheese and other non traditional ingredients. Strictly, can only contain ingredients available to native Mexicans. Those ingredients include corn, tomatoes, goat and fish. While La Esperanza certainly goes beyond corn, tomatoes, goat and fish, they do edge towards my newly found understanding of authentic or non-Americanized food.


My party of two and a half (it included our 15 month old son) enjoyed the chips and salsa. Seconds and thirds were ordered and devoured! We had the chicken fajitas and beef enchiladas, and found both a bit on the bland side. However once they were spiced and sauced up with salsa and sour cream they were quite good. But if you love cheese like I do, you may be surprised to find the fajitas served sans cheese. You should consider doing your tummy (but not your arteries) a favor by ordering a side of that. It seems I like to Americanize my Mexican food a bit after all.


La Esperanza does have a children’s menu with items at approx. $4-5. On the regular mendu, sandwiches run about $6 and dinners $8-11. The cheapest a-la-carte item rings in at $1.99 for a taco while the most expensive menu item was seafood fajitas at $10.75. Our meal came in just under $30 with two dinners, a kid’s meal and tip. Not out of line for today’s restaurants.


I’ve enjoyed several decent meals at La Esperanza and will go back for more. But the draw for me is certainly the chips and salsa. Enjoy!


Address

1636 N. Ironwood Drive
South Bend, IN 46635
574-273-0345
http://laesperanzarestaurants.com/

Hours

Mon: 11 am – 9 pm
Tue: 11 am – 9 pm
Wed: 11 am – 9 pm
Thu: 11 am – 10 pm
Fri: 11 am – 12 am
Sat: 11 am – 12 am

Read the South Bend Area Blog’s reviews of other Mexican restaurants Hacienda and Mazatlan, or scan the reviews of all the restaurants we’ve highlighted to date, 13 and counting.

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WNDU Feature on New Condos in South Bend and Mishawaka

by Nick Molnar on December 10, 2009

WNDU reporter Stephanie Stang put together a feature story on new condo construction in South Bend and Mishawaka that aired December 9th and 10th.  Its not a primer on the condo market, but does introduce the topic to a general audience.

The four minute story includes interviews with condo owner Jim Olson, Riverwalk Townhomes’ John Piraccini, Mishawaka mayor Jeff Rea, American Trust Place’s Brad Toothaker and with me.

Development boosters may think the tone too downbeat; people predicting economic calamities will think it too hopeful, but I think  does a fair job introducing a complex issue without making guesses about an uncertain future.

Here is a link to the video:

and for more details on the South Bend condo market, here is a link to the 52 articles about condos on the South Bend Area Real Estate Blog going back to May of 2006.

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Hundreds of New Condos Near Notre Dame

by Nick Molnar on December 8, 2009

Sometime in the next few days local news station WNDU is running a story about the continuing construction of condos in the South Bend Area when the number of buyers is down. Preparing for the increased interest, I scouted the progress of the condos near Notre Dame today to get a count of new units for readers of the South bend Area Real Estate Blog.
In South Bend, the terms condo, townhouse and villa are tossed about more loosely than in cities where condos are a large part of the market. Technically, a condo is a form of ownership where you purchase your unit  and a share of the common area, in a townhouse you own your unit and a specific area of land but pay into a condo association that covers landscaping and some items of exterior maintenance, and villa is a term used here to describe a freestanding home (usually a 1-story) that is sold with a mandatory maintenance plan that covers landscaping and sometimes exterior maintenance as in a townhouse or condo. In my experience, people looking to purchase property that want condos are less concerned with the distinctions of condo – townhouse – villa than they are with making sure the home will be looked after and the yardwork will be done if they lock the door and leave for 6 weeks.
Using that admitedly loose difinition of condo, and looking at the projects near campus (as opposed to downtown South Bend or on the river in Mishawaka), I went out today to try to get an accurate count of the number of Notre Dame condos built since 2005, a snapshot view. Physically visiting the projects is necessary because developers announce master plans that are revised, and construction is ongoing at several locations. In cases were buildings are partially finished I used my judgement – I didn’t count a foundation pour, but if a building looks complete from the exterior I did count it. There may also be some variation in my count and the proper number of built condos – I counted front doors or garage doors, and some buildings are confusing and others have units which were combined. Despite those cautions, I’ll stand by this as the best new condo count available today.
Dublin Village – complete – 58 units – townhome style buildings
Pendle Woods – a number of vacant lots – 38 freestanding villas
Wexford Place – complete – 8 units in two townhome style buildings
North Douglas – stalled – 32 units in two 16 unit buildings
Irish Crossings – spaces for several more buildings – 62 units in three and 4-plexes
Stonebridge – active construction – 32 units in 4-plexes
Stadium Village – buildings up, 13 units in two buildings
Ivy Quad – active construction – 6 units in the first building
Keenan Court – stalled – 6 units in two buildings
that leaves out the coming units under construction and many more announced especially at Eddy Commons, the retirement community built at Holy Corss, the condos downtown Mishawaka and South Bend. It also doesn’t consider the newly built rental apartments at Irish Row and Eddy Commons, the new construction siongle family homes along Notre Dame Avenue, or the new and recently built villas in neighborhoods throughout Granger.
So the question is … How big is the demand for Notre Dame condos?
In five years we’ve seen the doubling of supply of condos near campus with slowed but continuing development. Is this a response to a real demand or is it speeculative? Is the University increasing enrollment and faculty numbers so more people want quality housing near the school? Was it reflective of the heightened interest in real estate as an investment seen at the height of the bubble? Do purchases wax and wane with enthusiasm for a certain sports team? Were these projects with long lead times that missed the market?
I think it’s more complex than any simple answer, but each of those questions gets to the issue from a different angle. If you’re a buyer, investor or seller it’s important to think about the whole condo market, but it’s more important to understand the nuances of the developments – which meet your needs and which will be best when it’s time to resell. There are huge differences in the different condo communities – freestanding, 4-plexes or 16 to a buildings, attached garages, tandem garages, no garages, single level or 3-story, stones throw from campus or a 5 minute drive, $140,000 or $440,000, which have units reselling at a loss and which are still selling well,
Developers, residents, buyers and everyone share your thoughts in the comments.
Need help evaluating the condos to buy or making a plan to sell, click here and contact us.

Sometime in the next few days South Bend news station WNDU will run a story about the ongoing construction of condos in the South Bend Area when the number of condo buyers is down. Preparing for the increased interest that story should bring, I scouted the progress of the condos near Notre Dame today to get a count of new units for readers of the South Bend Area Real Estate Blog.

What’s a Notre Dame condo?

In South Bend, the terms condo, townhouse and villa are tossed about more loosely than in cities where condos have long been a large part of the market. Technically, a condo is a form of ownership where you purchase your unit  “walls-in” plus a share of the common area. In a townhouse you own your unit and a specific area of land but pay into a condo association that covers landscaping and some items of exterior maintenance. Villa is a term used in South Bend to describe a freestanding home that is sold with a mandatory maintenance plan that covers landscaping and some items of exterior maintenance like a townhouse or condo. In my experience, people looking to purchase South Bend property that want condos are less concerned with the distinctions of condo / townhouse / villa than they are with making sure the home will be looked after and the yardwork will be done if they lock the door and leave for six weeks. Considering that, I’m including condos, townhomes, and the villas from one project, Pendle Woods, that has been popular with Notre Dame professors, alumni and other affiliates

How do you count the condos if they are still building them?

Using that admitedly loose definition of condo, and looking at the projects near campus, I went out today to try to get an accurate count of the number of Notre Dame condos built since 2005. I was looking for a snapshot view of what is built today. Physically visiting the projects is necessary because developers announce master plans that are later revised, and construction is ongoing at several locations. In cases were buildings are partially finished I used my judgement – I didn’t count a foundation pour, but if a building looked complete from the exterior I did count it. There may also be some variation in my count and the proper number of built condos. I counted front doors or garage doors and some buildings are confusing, others have two units which were combined into one . Despite those cautions, I’ll stand by this as the best new-condo-count available today. If you have any corrections, leave them in the comments and I’ll update the figures.

OK. How many new condos have been built?

Here is what I came up with, broken out by project

  • Dublin Village – 58 townhouse units, construction is complete
  • Pendle Woods – 38 freestanding villas, with a significant  number of vacant lots
  • Wexford Place – 8 townhouse units in two buildings, construction is complete
  • North Douglas – 32 units in two buildings, construction has stopped
  • Irish Crossings – 62 units in 3and 4-plex buildings, several vacant lots
  • Stonebridge – 32 units in 4-plex buildings, active construction
  • Stadium Village – 13 units in two buildings
  • Ivy Quad –  6 units in the first building, active construction
  • Keenan Court – 6 units in two buildings, construction has stopped

drumroll please…. that’s 255 newly built homes.

255, that’s it?

Yes. But that leaves out the coming units currently under construction and many more announced but unbuilt condos, especially at Eddy Commons. It also does not count the retirement community built at Holy Cross, the condos in Mishawaka on the river or downtown South Bend. It doesn’t consider the newly built rental apartments at Irish Row and Eddy Commons, the new construction single family homes along Notre Dame Avenue, or the new and recently built villas in neighborhoods throughout Granger – not Notre Dame condos, but which all pull demand from the new condos. Consider those projects and you can more than double the number of new homes competing for Notre Dame condo buyers from 255 to well over 500.

How big is the demand for Notre Dame condos?

In five years we’ve seen the doubling of supply of condos near campus and now see slowed but continuing development. Is this growth a response to a real demand or is it speculative? Is the University increasing enrollment and faculty numbers so more people want quality housing near the school? Was it reflective of the heightened interest in real estate as an investment seen at the peak of the real estate bubble? Do purchases wax and wane with enthusiasm for a certain sports team? Were these projects with long lead times that were planned years ago but have missed the market?

I think it’s more complex than any simple answer, but each of those questions gets to the issue from a different angle. If you’re a buyer, investor or seller it’s important to think about the whole condo market, but it’s more important to understand the nuances of the developments. Consider which projects meet your needs and which will be best when it’s time to resell. There are significant differences in the new condo communities:

  • freestanding, 4-plexes or 16 to a buildings,
  • single level or 3-story
  • stones throw from campus or a 5 minute drive
  • $140,000 or $440,000
  • 8 units or 80 in the community

These differences not only impact the livability of the condos, but how they will sell and resell. If demand is significantly less than forecast by developers, it won’t be spread evenly among the condos. Some projects will fail and others will flourish. Some will remain half-built or become apartments and others will sell out and hold their value.

Developers, owners, condo watchers and everyone, what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.

If you need help evaluating the condos before you buy or when making a plan to sell, click here and contact me.

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South Bend Real Estate Report: November 2009

by Nick Molnar on December 3, 2009

The South Bend Area MLS contains information on 245 sales that closed in November 2009. They add up to $27.48 million in sales. That is slightly higher than October 2009, though lower than November 2008.
There has been speculation that the homeubuyer’s tax credit, which originally expired November 30th but has since been extended through June 30th, artificially inflated the number of sales last month.
Here is the long term sales graph

The South Bend Area MLS contains information on 245 sales that closed in November 2009. They add up to $27.48 million in sales. That is slightly higher than October 2009, though lower than November 2008.

There has been speculation that the homeubuyer’s tax credit, which originally expired November 30th but has since been extended through June 30th, artificially inflated the number of sales last month.

34 sales were disclosed as foreclosures in the MLS which sold between $5,000 and $139,000.

Here is the long term sales graph

Sales Prices

The high price sale was $775,000 for 19000 New Road, a 1989-built 3,000 square foot home plus finished basement on 80 acres. For a home without significant land value, the high price sale was $465,000 in Covington Shores. It sold at a loss since the seller paid $480,000 for it in 7/07 and paid fees at the time of sale.
The low price sales were neighborhing homes at 720 and 724 Kenmore. They were sold at auction an brought in $3,200 and $4,600
for non auctioned homes, 617 walnut was the most affordable. It sold for $5,000 and was listed for $7,500 at the time of sale.
Check the scatter graph of the price of every sale in October 2009 below for a better sense of the market.

Financing

FHA loans have become more common compared to recent months. They accounted for 38% of sales, followed by cash purchases which accounted for about 1 in 3 sales, then by conventional loans which fell to about 1 in 4 purchases. VA and other types of financing remain rare.

Condos and Townhouses

Sales of condos continue to be light. Two  townhouse/condo sales are recorded in the MLS for November 2009.
  • Irish Crossings saw what I believe to be its first resale. 54652 Burdette sold for $340,000 in a cash purchase. It was last sold on 4/28/08  for $346,319 by the developer.
  • 534 Kamm Island Place, in the Townes at Kamm Island, sold for $361,774.
There are 49 condos or townhomes listed for sale within two miles of the Golden Dome, and three villas at Pendle Woods. Searching today, I found the following on the market:
  • 12 condos at Oak Hill
  • 7 townhomes at Irish Crossings
  • 6 condos at the North Shore Club
  • 6 condos at Roseland Square
  • 5 condos at Woodbridge
  • 5 townhomes at Dublin Village
  • 3 townhomes at Stadium Village
  • 2 condos at Riverside Terrace
  • 1 townhouse at Ivy Quad
  • 1 townhouse at Wexford Place
  • 1 condo at New London Lake

Though those numbers are somewhat misleading as Ivy Quad has a number of units for sale but listed just one in the MLS. It also doesn’t include the 50+ Champions Way townhomes that will be need to be sold at Eddy Commons or the other condos and townhomes that will be offered at Eddy Commons.

New Construction

There are 12 November sales in the MLS that appear to be builder sold new construction.
  • One is the Townes at Kamm Island Place townhouse mentioned in the condo section above
  • Four were sold by Weiss Homes between $147,335 and $263,328
  • Two are in the outlying areas I don’t highlight on this blog: Shipshewanna and LaPorte
  • Two were sold by Cleland Homes at $137,000 and $141,500
  • The most expensive was a Quail Ridge villa built by Birkey Homes that sold at $456,250 after starting at $779,000 in March of 2008
  • One was a Platinum Builders villa in Bradford Shores. It sold for $415,000 after being listed as high as $499,000
  • One is a 1,610 square foot 3 bedroom, 2 bath home in Fernwood that sold for $247,298.

That’s November 2009 by the number. If you have specific questions, put them in the comments or call / e-mail.

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Some Sellers Are Now Requiring Waivers To Tour a Home

by Nick Molnar on November 30, 2009

Quasi government agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have quite a few homes for sale throughout the country, including the South Bend area.  They sell homes “as is” without guaranteeing their condition and without repairs. That has become the norm for banks and government like institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Now we are seeing a new development in South Bend – homes for sale that require potential buyers to sign a waiver of liability to enter and view the property.

Here’s one example:
“DUE TO DISCOLORATION IN BASEMENT, ANYONE ENTERING THE HOME MUST SIGN A WAIVER ” and a sample waiver, this one from a Freddie Mac owned property

As you might expect these waivers are most common in properties with a relatively low price. I found three homes that required waivers for entry priced around $30,000 with just a few minutes of searching. But they are not limited to inexpensive homes.

Recently this home sold for $138,000 after being listed as high as $465,200. At the time of sale it required a signed waiver for entry.

Would you still look at a house if the price was right but you had to sign a waiver to get inside?

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