Mary Umberger

Mary Umberger

Bio

When Mary Umberger started covering residential real estate at the Chicago Tribune in the early 1990s, she thought it would be a short-term gig until a “real” reporting job opened up. Then she discovered she liked it and the housing market exploded into the biggest boom in its history.

She’s still here, having chronicled the housing market on its way up and still following it on it's way down, apparently.

She covers the traditional aspects of the real estate beat -- putting human faces on reports about homes sales and reporting changes within the structure of the housing business -- and also tries to stretch the definition of “real estate” as far as her rather tolerant editors will allow.

A good stretch tells us something about the society we live in: Why the encroachment of housing and changing attitudes about “play" are chipping away at the number of sleepaway summer camps. Or how an increasing number of real estate agents are being robbed, injured or even killed on the job. Or why our evolving family structures make it darned hard to sell a grave site.

Umberger's column in the Real Estate section on Sunday will almost never be of the “how to buy a house” variety. The Tribune has other writers for that. Instead, she aims to put the endless, confusing barrage of housing data into human terms, or to bring something totally unexpected for the reader who never otherwise would find himself glancing at the Real Estate section. She also writes frequently for the paper’s daily business section.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Umberger attended Ohio State University and interned at the Columbus Dispatch, Detroit News and at the Tribune. After graduation, she worked at the Akron Beacon Journal and then returned to the Chicago Tribune, where she had various editing posts before taking that short-term job as a real estate writer.

Mary Umberger's reporting on real estate appears in Chicago Tribune Homes. Her column is posted on Sunday. email