October 19, 2007

Real estate blogger earns local fame

Lyletta Robinson is not the first condominium owner to take issue with her real estate developer. More unique than the Woodlawn resident’s real estate predicament is her blog, titled I Hate My Developer, which has gained moderate fame by chronicling the struggles of her fledgling condo association.

“It started as therapy,” Robinson said of her blog, which she created in August 2005. The launch date came six months after Carlton Knight, then the developer of Robinson’s condo, turned over his ownership of the building to the condo association on which Robinson serves as a board member. Illinois state law requires the turnover process begins when 75 percent of a condo’s units are sold.

“Now it has turned into something people like to read,” Robinson said of her blog. Robinson’s outspokenness about real-estate issues has garnered her two mentions in the Chicago-centric web publication Gapers Block; she has also been quoted in the real estate section of The Wall Street Journal.

Robinson is no stranger to speaking out for her community. As an Uptown resident six years ago, she regularly attended meetings for the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program, which at the time had the largest attendance of any city meeting. Today she attends 5th Ward meetings and is frequently in contact with Alderman Leslie Hairston.

Robinson created I Hate My Developer largely to speak out about her frustrations with the deficiencies of her century-old building. Knight, who declined to comment for this article, is no longer legally obligated to repair the condo.

“The porch was literally rotted through— it was that dangerous,” Robinson said. “We had part of our façade fall last summer. We were lucky no one got hit.”

The blog also serves to caution would-be condo owners against making uneducated buying decisions. Through the blog, Robinson has connected other Chicago condo owners who have had unexpected problems after move-in day. She plans to take up consulting on condo purchases in part because her blog has unveiled such a great need.

“You have to do not only your homework but some extra detective work, too,” said Laura Louzader, a Rogers Park resident, in a comment on Robinson’s blog. “[No] matter how many disclosures they make, there are things that you won’t know until you either get into the place or talk to people there.”

Earlier this month, I Hate My Developer reached the 10,000 hit mark.

“Now I know that may not be earth-shattering news in the blog-o-sphere,” Robinson wrote, “but it’s quite an achievement for a little blog that isn’t about sex or celebrities.”

Due to a possible detriment to neighbors trying to sell their units, Robinson withholds the name of her condo from her blog and asked that The MAROON maintain that anonymity.

Nearly all other subjects, however, are fair game. Both Knight and Robinson’s fellow board members are aware of the blog, and Robinson often writes about both parties.

“I think the official logo for our condo association should be an ostrich with its head in the sand,” she wrote in one recent post.

A Lake Forest College graduate with a degree in English literature, Robinson has a punchy writing style that attacks in brisk, one- or two-sentence paragraphs. One of the difficulties she experiences in blogging is keeping emotion from clouding her posts.

“I keep it not only objective, but factual,” she said. “It is very rare that I let my own feelings—besides the title of the blog—get in the way.”

In spite of the troubles she continues to face with her living situation, Robinson believes that improvements have happened and that more will come if she continues to fight for them.

“I bought into what I thought was a great deal, and to a great extent still is a great deal,” she said. “It’s a matter of pride. When I have friends coming down from the North Side, they always say ‘it’s so pretty, it’s so nice.’ I look at them and say ‘What did you expect? Where do you think I live?’

“I’m continually amazed at how short some people sell the South Side,” she said.