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Success Stories

Chicago Sun-Times

Fixing things right  Rehab company renews old housing [By Vicki Gerson]

Urb. Inc.,developer of  Single family and two flat homes, has been involved in Rehabbing on the South and West sides of Chicago since 1986.                                                      

We’ve done well over 500 rehabs of single-family  Homes and two-flats just within the last 10 years, “says URB founder and CEO Brian Urbanowski.

When Urbanowski started URB, he was a contractor who decided to get into the real estate business.  “When you’re a contractor you never know when your next job is.  I wanted to have work in the winter, which is typically the slow season.”  He said.                                                 

In order to have construction jobs for himself and the men who worked for him, he purchased inexpensive buildings on the South Side, rehabbed the flats, and rented them.  As Urbanowski kept purchasing more property, he discovered there wasn’t enough time to rehab all of them himself and manage his contracting business too.  Consequently he gave up his contracting business and decided to use his knowledge strictly to purchase property that could rehabbed.                                                               

As Urbanowski purchased more and more property he hired subcontractors to do the rehab work.  He knew who to hire and how much to pay for the job due to his Contracting experience.  In the late 1990’s, Urbanowski decided to expand his rehabbing business.  In November 1998, Urbanowski shifted his emphasis from construction and development to concentrate his efforts on acquisition and financing of URB properties for rehab by the Company’s fast-growing following of investor/rehabbers.  Urbanowski finds property for his Company by Concentrating on bank foreclosures and tax delinquent properties.

URB’s Investor/Rehabber program provides short term (seller) financing to the rehabber clients who pay $5,000.00 down at closing.  URB finances the rehabber/contractor for only a three, to four month period.  At that time, URB is repaid.  The rehabber fixes up the property and has the option to sell or rent it.

Sparked by spiraling housing costs across the city, a growing number of experienced and first-time rehabbers are repairing and recycling single-family homes on Chicago’ South and West sides.  In 1998 URB short-term financed 60 rehabs.  In 1999, over 150 houses and smaller multi-family buildings wee rehabbed.  The majority of these properties were in turn sold to purchasers who qualified for conventional market-rate home mortgages.

On of the biggest challenges facing URB is keeping the cost of the needed work within reasonable limits.

“We work with our investor/rehabbers to help them avoid unnecessary expenses on the job and to help them complete their projects in a timely manner, at a reasonable cost,” he said.

This year, URB started the URB Power Purchasing Membership.  Anyone who purchases a building from URB is automatically a member.  Members carry an exclusive membership card entitling the URB rehabber to trade discounts and corporate-rate contract pricing at leading Chicago area building materials, paint and hardware suppliers.  This new program allows rehabbers to save money on their projects with combined buying power.

Saturday morning breakfast roundtables provide a relaxed forum for URB rehabbers to share information and ideas.  Keep u with changing trends, and to network for the best tradesmen.  Every successful business relies on its network of contacts and sources, and this forum provides just that.

The URB Investor/Rehabber Program is designed to prepare people to join the “Rehab Revolution” going on across the Chicago area.  URB offers URB Investor/Rehabbers Workshops.  These free public workshops (reservations required) are offered once a month, in the evening at the Ramada Inn.  4900 South Lake Shore Drive, in Hyde Park.  The workshop introduces first-time rehabbers to the concepts and strategies employed by successful real estate rehabbers.

For a minimal fee, URB also offers six hour training seminars to teach the new rehabber the “ins and outs” of the business, how to select the right rehab opportunity and how to finance the project using “other peoples’ money.”  The seminar also discusses what to do and what not to do when fixing up the property, and how to sell or refinance the property fast – at the best price.

URB is on of Chicago’s biggest companies in distressed single – family homes and two –flat investment properties; URB consistently maintains an inventory of ready to-go ready opportunities.  URB has at least 20 properties in its inventory at all times at the right price.

If someone isn’t sure becoming a rehabber is the right business choice.  Urbanowski invites the individual to come in and meet him and his loyal staff.  After a discussion with the individual, if Mr. Urbanowski feels the person is not a good candidate, he will honestly say the business is not right for them.  On other days, Urbanowski spends hours on the phone talking to individuals and answering all of their questions about the rehab business.

Urbanowski believes the future looks very bright for rehabbers in Chicago.  This year the city of Chicago and federal housing authorities announces that over 13 thousand subsidized rental units will be eliminated over the next five years.  The redevelopment plan calls for a down-sized Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), with the remaining units to be either rehabilitated or replaced with low rise new construction.  Those displaced will be provided with CHA rent vouchers for use in securing private sector housing.  For investors and rehabbers, the program offers great opportunity to meet the expected demand for affordable rental housing.

Urbanowski expects his company to be able to acquire more property each year and for more people to become interested in getting into the rehabbing business.  During the next few years, URB plans to continue to help a growing number of independent investors and small contractors come into the business.

“There will always be a need for our business.” he says.  “There will always be foreclosures as well as banks that don’t want to fix up property.  Banks and financial institutions want to sell the property to people who can fix it up.  

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