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Old 07-21-2010, 12:23 PM
 
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My wife and I are considering a move and have narrowed our focus to basically Riverside and La Grange. I would appreciate any insights you have comparing these two suburbs.

We have two young children (3 1/2 and 2) and plan to send our children to Catholic schools, so the qualifty of local public schools is not an issue for us. I work in the city and really like the short 20 minute commutes that both suburbs offer (my current commute is 1 hour each way on the train alone).

I really like La Grange (great downtown; great park district activities; La Grange Field Club; good catholic grade school), but the housing prices are about $150,000 -$200,000 more for the same house as compared to Riverside (at least that is what I am seeing).

Riverside's winding streets, stately houses and mature trees make this an absolutely gorgeous, but there really isn't a downtown. I also worry about crime (or at least feeling a little less safe) in Riverside (and surrounding areas), as compared to La Grange. In addition, the property taxes appear to be higher in Riverside.

Anyway, I would appreciate any comments you provide.
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Old 07-21-2010, 01:34 PM
 
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Crime is basically a non-issue in basically every part of Riverside proper. The winding streets make it easy for locals and cops to spot outsiders and hard for bad guys to figure out a getaway...

That said the reason Riverside tends to be less expensive than LaGrange can be traced to a variety of trade-offs, and the impression of "safety" is part of that equation, before I explain why it is important to understand the general locale that both towns are in.

LaGrange is wholly inside Lyons Township, which accounts for its association with LT High School, among the most desirable of high schools in west Cook Co. Riverside is inside Proviso Township, though a very long time the Riverside-Brookfield High School was carved out of, in much the same way as OakPark-RiverForest was carved out. The other villages / cities inside Proviso tend to be pretty poorly served by the high schools. Even if YOU prefer a private school that equals more cost and folks just will not pay for schools that do not have good performance.

The immeadiate vicinuity of Riverside relies on the shopping options of North Riverside, Berwyn or Forest Park, all towns with far rougher reputations than Riverside. LaGrange instead has an association that flows more toward Western Springs, Countryside, Westchester and even Oak Brook. These tend to shape the impressions / precautions that folks take, and consequently any violence at the grocers in Berwyn / North Riverside tend to rumble through the community pretty hard, while there simply is not much crime is the areas adjacent to LaGrange...

When it comes to schools a curious feature of Riverside is that the scores are quite good for the most part, and expenditures are not out of line on a pure dollar amount, but given the relatively low population the TAXES collected tend to be quite high, and folks with the nicest homes in Riverside have MIND BLOWINGLY LARGE annual expenses, in the range that only commercial property owners pay in other towns...

For folks that have a desire to own a particular kind of home Riverside is probably more affordable than Oak Park, but not by much. Further if the reason for wanting to own such a home is to have tourists come and visit than that happens more frequently in Oak Park than Riverside.

Really the "competition" is not so much between Riverside and LaGrange, which really share very little in common, and between Riverside and Brookfield OR Brookfield, LaGrange Park, LaGrange, and Western Springs. Once folks get a feel for what sorts of houses are available at each price point in each town the decision may also shift toward Hinsadale and other towns further west along the BNSF where express trains vs locals make the commute a non-issue...
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Old 07-21-2010, 02:02 PM
 
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Hi Chet, if you lived in Berwyn area, (I'm in North Riverside) where would you buy investment property (smallest multi unit commercial - 5-6 units? I know that you may have a different financial situation from me, but I'm purely asking about your opinion as to which nearby suburb makes more sense for best return on investment for the next 5-10 years.
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Old 07-21-2010, 02:27 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chet everett View Post
Crime is basically a non-issue in basically every part of Riverside proper. The winding streets make it easy for locals and cops to spot outsiders and hard for bad guys to figure out a getaway...

That said the reason Riverside tends to be less expensive than LaGrange can be traced to a variety of trade-offs, and the impression of "safety" is part of that equation, before I explain why it is important to understand the general locale that both towns are in.

LaGrange is wholly inside Lyons Township, which accounts for its association with LT High School, among the most desirable of high schools in west Cook Co. Riverside is inside Proviso Township, though a very long time the Riverside-Brookfield High School was carved out of, in much the same way as OakPark-RiverForest was carved out. The other villages / cities inside Proviso tend to be pretty poorly served by the high schools. Even if YOU prefer a private school that equals more cost and folks just will not pay for schools that do not have good performance.

The immeadiate vicinuity of Riverside relies on the shopping options of North Riverside, Berwyn or Forest Park, all towns with far rougher reputations than Riverside. LaGrange instead has an association that flows more toward Western Springs, Countryside, Westchester and even Oak Brook. These tend to shape the impressions / precautions that folks take, and consequently any violence at the grocers in Berwyn / North Riverside tend to rumble through the community pretty hard, while there simply is not much crime is the areas adjacent to LaGrange...

When it comes to schools a curious feature of Riverside is that the scores are quite good for the most part, and expenditures are not out of line on a pure dollar amount, but given the relatively low population the TAXES collected tend to be quite high, and folks with the nicest homes in Riverside have MIND BLOWINGLY LARGE annual expenses, in the range that only commercial property owners pay in other towns...

For folks that have a desire to own a particular kind of home Riverside is probably more affordable than Oak Park, but not by much. Further if the reason for wanting to own such a home is to have tourists come and visit than that happens more frequently in Oak Park than Riverside.

Really the "competition" is not so much between Riverside and LaGrange, which really share very little in common, and between Riverside and Brookfield OR Brookfield, LaGrange Park, LaGrange, and Western Springs. Once folks get a feel for what sorts of houses are available at each price point in each town the decision may also shift toward Hinsadale and other towns further west along the BNSF where express trains vs locals make the commute a non-issue...
This is a great response; captures the essence of the issue. Though, doesn't Riverside mostly belong to the Riverside-Brookfield HS and not the Proviso district?

In my opinion, I think Riverside is more isolated than LaGrange and therefore less desirable, for the reasons you mentioned (i.e., connection to the other western flowing burbs). I'm not so sure I buy the "no crime" issue..it may be no better or worse than LaGrange crime (which is relatively low), but I would be surprised if winding streets completely dissuades thiefs.
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Old 07-21-2010, 02:43 PM
 
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Default Crystal ball?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigV View Post
Hi Chet, if you lived in Berwyn area, (I'm in North Riverside) where would you buy investment property (smallest multi unit commercial - 5-6 units? I know that you may have a different financial situation from me, but I'm purely asking about your opinion as to which nearby suburb makes more sense for best return on investment for the next 5-10 years.
I am one of those guys that as housing prices continued to climb would keep muttering "this can't go on forever", knowing that at some point the ever higher prices and ever bigger mortgages would simply cause the rubber band to snap. Yet I look at asking prices in many towns and ask myself WHY would anybody want to pay THIS much for so little...

The reason this is important is that you have to understand that a 5 year horizon is VERY different than a 10 year horizon, and different still than longer and shorter terms.

For one thing, in 5 years the odds of the current President still sitting on the important side of the desk in the Oval Office look pretty good. His healthcare plan STILL won't be very operational, but the taxes for it might be. If the Congress is more business friendly there are lots of reasons to be hopeful that real estate will be treated as least as good as it currently is.

Going out 10 years? Who knows. I mean seriously 10 years ago Obama was still a not very well known second stringer in the Illinois Senate...

I like to look at a multiple scenarios, for different price points, and different potential kinds of tenants. I doubt that areas that are currently not favored by young families will suddenly shoot up in the ratings. Similarly I would bet against an area that has LOTS of favorable things for singles / those without kids drifting radically. Those things make it hard for me to not really like most parts of Oak Park, though I worry that some spots are (even with recent price declines) overpriced. If that seems contradictory, it very well may be. OR it may be that I think prices are simply unlikely to move up without some unforeseen shift in the economy...

In my experience the RETURN from getting under-improved / run down property FAR EXCEEDS buying property in good condition. I would even go so far as to say that unless you have a special knack of attracting very different kinds of tenants OR significantly overhauling multi-unit building (by say taking a place with lots of one bedrooms and decreasing the unit count but increasing the number of two / three bedroom units...) then I would avoid investing for the near term. The costs of doing this sort of conversion are not cheap, both becuase of the out of pocket expense AND the broader implication of shifting toward a mix of tenants that tend to be more troublesome, but the return / potential seems better... Of course the "floor price" has not really been set -- when there are entire high rise in nice south Loop locations with gorgeous units unsold for way below replacement cost I really don't want to compete with that.

Sorry for my "non answer" but you did ask for opinion / advice and most of that comes from a mix of experience and bias.

btw, to help with the "main question" in this thread I think that commerical shifts in LaGrange remain QUITE LIKELY, with the old YMCA being torn down literally right now, while Riverside has a much less , uh, dynamic, commercial future, with a variety of obstacles to move things along...


PS -- As I thought I made clear, the location of Riverside is "carved out" of Proviso township. Maybe a map will clear this up: http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/archives/irad/township_maps/cook_map.html (broken link)

Last edited by chet everett; 07-21-2010 at 03:54 PM..
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Old 07-23-2010, 12:11 PM
mh7
 
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My wife & I looked at Riverside before buying in La Grange last year. Riverside felt like a gigantic subdivision to me & seemed isolated from the surrounding communities and as you mentioned, has no functioning downtown area. The appeal of both the 10 minute walk to the metra and the restaurants & activities in downtown La Grange is why we purchased here (we also considered Western Springs & a few other places as well).
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Old 07-23-2010, 01:39 PM
 
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Riverside has really gorgeous windy streets with tons of trees, pretty architecture, and fine schools. Although I have some issues with RB (they got rid of their Advanced "track" of classes in favor of pushing all of those kids into the AP "track," thereby dumbing down the AP classes - they did this to increase their ranking in Newsweek), I love how its so small compared to other area high schools.

The problem with Riverside is that you have to drive 15 minutes to go anywhere basic, like Whole Foods, or to get a good meal. La Grange is way more full service.
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Old 07-23-2010, 02:01 PM
 
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Whole Foods? Doubt the drive to Oak Park is any longer from Riverside than the drive to Hinsdale from LaGrange...

Decent meal? Riverside has more than couple of ok resturants itself, and if it takes you 15 minutes to get from Riverside to Brookfield, LaGrange or Oak Park you need more than a GPS to help you out with those twisty streets, but I do agree that LaGrange, with its larger internal population base and more standard grid offers better acces. Not that big a deal overall to those that prefer the twisty roads, but a factor.

I don't how folks could say it "feels like a subdivision" either unless they mean to COMPLEMENT the work of Frederick Law Olmstead in laying out the town to give the area a feel that is unmatched in the region and even encourage other developers to lay in a water feature that mimics the natural meanderings of the lazy DesPlaines and devotes extra ordinary amounts of land to the public Riverside, Illinois - FrederickLawOlmsted.com
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Old 07-23-2010, 02:46 PM
mh7
 
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I like the layout of riverside a lot & I'm familiar with Omstead, etc. I think it felt like a subdivision to me because there is a distinct change in the feel of the area as you enter or leave riverside and much like a traditional subdivision, it seemed like there was not really much walkable access to anything which was a major turnoff for us.
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Old 07-23-2010, 03:23 PM
 
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Default Not trying to argue, just point out the reality...

The whole town is smaller than some subdivision. There is a normal sized grocery store in the heart of town, several restaurants, hnadful of commercial / service busineesses, several churches , a library, a train station, recreational offerings, including swimming.

No gates, no special security.

No cut through traffic.

No cutesy directional signs.

To each his own...
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