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Old 05-30-2013, 09:53 AM
 
21 posts, read 42,490 times
Reputation: 18

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Hi all. I'm bewildered as to how to start my search for a new home and was hoping that there are some knowledgeable and active Illinoisans here who can help me out.

My wife and I (mid-30s) and 1 year old daughter live on the NW side of Chicago in a condo (~1300 sq ft, 3 bd, 2 bath). I work from home and *need* a bedroom/study to conduct business out of. Additionally, we are hoping to have a second child by this time next year. What this means is that we need at least a 4 bedroom home. I believe it is time to move from the city to a proper house in an area with better schools, yard, safety, etc.

I am really open to any area around Chicago (see location needs below) , I would like to meet as many criteria as I can. Here are the things I am looking for:

1) Price - I will be taking about a 30+% hit in selling my condo which I bought right before the crash in 2006. Ideally I would like to look around the $450K range but would be willing to go up maybe as high as $600K if everything was perfect.

2) Size - Need at least 4 bedrooms (2 kids, 1 office). A 5th bedroom would be amazing for when family visits. I can't live in cramped quarters and would think that 2,000 sqft would be a minimium (we are at ~1300 now and have to add another child into the mix and would like to have an additional "play-room" for the kids. It really all comes down to layout I suppose. I am not above buying a place where I have to finish off the basement (this needs to be factored into the price above). I know that size is one thing I will likely have to compromise on...but I hope to get close.

3) Location - We really have no ties to the city anymore that we aren't willing to break. We have family in Northlake and Bolingbrook, and I need to get to O'Hare often. So, I'm hoping to stay within about 45 mins average commute to those locations (Northlake/O'hare most important).

Beyond the above things become more esoteric as to what I am looking for. I grew up in the suburbs near NYC, but it wasn't really strip mall commercialized suburbia - and I'd like to stay away from that if possible...even if only 5-10 mins to a more isolated bedroom/small-town vibe.

I love the look of older homes externally, but really prefer a more modern home inside. I am fairly adverse to being in a "cookie-cutter" community or under the auspices of any type of home owner's association.

My kid(s) will both be under 2 - and I think I would plan to be there a while...so I think the schools need to be pretty good at least through elementary.

We like outdoor activities, so a good park district would be great.

I think that is all I will post for now - hopefully I have given enough to get feedback on if I am being realistic to what I would like. In addition to suggestions on locations that might fit the bill, I'm looking for advice on how to find/deal with realtors who can help me look in multiple suburbs that might fit the bill and to sell my current condo (not sure if I should/need-to deal with multiple realtors).

I appreciate any advice and ideas one can provide.

tia

Last edited by bengalih; 05-30-2013 at 11:03 AM..
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Old 05-30-2013, 10:58 AM
 
Location: Not where you ever lived
11,537 posts, read 29,042,552 times
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I do not live in Chicago, although I did many years ago and I do not fly. Cities tend to change over decades. My opinions are based on friends who live 'there' and what I see.

I think there are all types of interesting places to live in about the city. If you are truly ready to move out you might like Oak Park. It should meet most of your expectations. It is a diverse community that is a bit quirky but in a nice way. Oak Park has a nicely developed park system, and a first class library that offers some unusual services during the school year. It's walkable, and seems to be well regarded by most residents. Over the years the Village has earned several awards (and national recognition) from groups such as the International Downtown Association and architectural groups. Politically, I think most of the residents who like Oak Park fall somewhere between This and That. It's upscale where fund managers, physicians, scholars, business owners and bankers enjoy the good life and expect it. The biggest obstacle to living in OP may be the price tag.
https://www.ida-downtown.org/eweb/dy...owntownoakpark

Evanston is farther north. Its upscale and home to a large university, with a walkable downtown. It is way to 'tail gate' for me personally as mine are up and gone. http://cityofevanston.org

You might also like Arlington Heights. it has a different vibe - perhaps a bit more youthful than OP, but not as much as Evanston. It is farther from the Loop, but it has some nice offerings for children. And of course it is home to the beloved Arlington Park racetrack. http://www.vah.com

Naperville sits in two counties. It's nearing 200,000 population and is very family friendly. I learned more about Napervilled by watching a show filmed there than I ever did visiting. It is a beautiful upscale community that may be a bit staid for those who have not yet started a family. http://www.naperville.il.us

In any case, where ever you live you gets what ya pays for.

Last edited by linicx; 05-30-2013 at 11:42 AM..
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Old 05-30-2013, 11:02 AM
 
21 posts, read 42,490 times
Reputation: 18
I have a good friend in Oak Park - and there are some things I like about it. I do think that the historic district and close to downtown area will likely carry price tags way above what I can afford for the space I need. Outside of those areas, I see little appeal to OP in comparison to any other place.

To clarify - I am not necessarily looking at staying as close to the city as Oak Park. In fact, I think I would prefer to be further away as part of the price tag of OP is the fact you are just outside the city.

I am still debating if staying in Cook County is what I want to do, but I really don't have a lot of information yet as to how to weigh that decision.
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Old 05-30-2013, 12:17 PM
 
11,973 posts, read 30,504,396 times
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It sounds like something south of O'Hare near 294 would fit your location needs the best. I'd recommend the La Grange/Western Springs/La Grange Park area, or perhaps Elmhurst. The central portions of these towns have cute downtowns, tree-lined streets, and older homes. Any new construction would be a "tear down" situation. La Grange Park is the least expensive I mentioned, but the area just north of downtown La Grange called "Harding Woods" is the only part of town that doesn't look like 1950s tract home suburbia. That neighborhood is older houses that are walkable to the La Grange downtown and Metra stops.

If you go north, Arlington Heights may have some of the larger homes you are looking for with great schools. The drive to Bollingbrook wouldn't be great, but you said that was a secondary concern. Arlington Heights also has a core that is more charming with a downtown.
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Old 05-30-2013, 05:46 PM
 
Location: Chicago
3,337 posts, read 5,661,521 times
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I second Elmhurst. My husband and I (31 and 33) just moved here from the city 2 months ago and we both really like it. I just took a taxi to O'Hare a couple days ago and mid-day it only took about 15 minutes, which was great. I think it would fit your needs well based on what you posted. We we even able to get back from our friends' house on the east side of Evanston in about 30 minutes. It took us longer to get home from there when we lived at North Ave and Western Ave in the city. I really love how centralized Elmhurst is. Plus, I know it's not far from Northlake as I am there every other day to visit Home Depot.
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Old 05-30-2013, 08:25 PM
 
21 posts, read 42,490 times
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I am pretty familiar with Elmhurst...at least the part that borders Northlake (since we have family there) as well as the downtown area - since I used to work in Northlake as well we went down there for lunch often.

My wife - who grew up in Northlake, has always told me that Elmhurst is considered a very nice, well-to-do area. Personally, I just don't see the appeal. The downtown area is ok - there are some restaurants and stores to walk around in...but the entire downtown area can be traversed in a matter of blocks.

Don't get me wrong - I don't see anything *wrong* with the area - but I don't think for the prices there that there is anything outstanding. You are correct that the location is good for my needs, but I think I can branch out 2-3x further from there and still meet my goal of 45mins or so to get back to that area. If I can stretch my money another 20% further by moving 2x the distance from Elmhurst to O'Hare I think it might be better.

I think that maybe there are some areas of Elmhurst that I haven't looked at closely enough, so I will be sure to do my due diligence.
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Old 05-30-2013, 11:13 PM
 
11,973 posts, read 30,504,396 times
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Check out La Grange. Though your money won't go as far there...
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Old 05-31-2013, 09:45 AM
 
28,460 posts, read 81,558,347 times
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Default Some folks just don't wanna admit that ...

...market forces are beyond the control of any individual buyer (or seller).

Prices in towns like River Forest are higher than those in Oak Park because the supply is smaller and the demand is greater -- though these boards have an abundance of folks that are enamored of the urban aspects of the region the real meat of the home buying public still prefers safe quiet streets when looking for a family home.

Similarly the good qualities of Elmhurst or Lagrange or Hinsdale or Downers Grove or Glen Ellyn means that if one wants a four bedroom home with two car garage on a desirable street that is close enough to the well developed core to walk to amenities but not so close as to reduce quiet / block cohesion one has to be prepared to compete with other buyers that Re likely prepared to spend more...

Should one's budget not be sufficient to compete with such buyers perhaps looking beyond the 45 minute commute radius will be required, or perhaps one could look at towns with less well regarded schools or less of a traditional rail oriented core...

I like to help folks get the best value for their housing dollar but their are no real "hidden gems". That said if one is willing to "take a chance" there are towns when your money will go farther and their is possibility of change that will improve the desirability of a town over time. One such situation exists in Westmont -- recently the high school hosted well known Washington Post writer and advocate for improved educational standards Jay Mattthews to speak at the school. There was also a "conference" for students and parents which had a panel of well regarded AP teachers explain the value of taking college level course while in high school. These sorts if things are encouraging and may result in improved academic performance which ought to boast desirability, but this is not a "sure thing" like buying in area that has a tradition of strong housing values...

Finally I also recommend considering homes that need some updating / repairs. If you are smart and get the right kind if help this perhaps the smartest way to stay ahead of the value curve.
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Old 05-31-2013, 10:43 AM
 
21 posts, read 42,490 times
Reputation: 18
I appreciate your responding...and in the little I have been on this board have seen you are a prolific poster and helpful to many.

That being said - I'm not so sure what your post is meant to add. I am not ignorant enough to dismiss the fact that home prices are based on demand and that moving someplace with less demand will likely mean my money will go further. That is economics 001.

I also don't know why you believe that *I* believe that I have control of any "market forces" (as per your post heading). While I would obviously like to find a $1,000,000 in a fantastic location for $300K - I know it isn't going to happen. What I am asking those in the know is if my budget is realistic for my wants. If what you are trying to tell me is that for the 450-600K that I can spend I can't hope to find something that meets most of my listed criteria, then I can appreciate that - but your reply is so incidental I can't determine what you are trying to tell me.

I have only been looking a few days on sites like RedFin and Zillow in most of the areas within my discussed radius. I have seen a few places in most towns (with the exception of the super-high $$ like Wilmette) that look like they might fit my budget and appear, from the pictures at least, to be acceptable to me. What I can't really tell from the web is what the area is like. I haven't even factored in school ratings which *is* an important thing I left out of my OP - but I think I'm willing to compromise on that slightly to gain other aspects. I don't think that being in the top 20% of schools is that much different than the top 10% - the teachers and school only have a small portion of the responsibility to educate your child.

There is obviously a lot of research that needs to be done...and a web search of good places to live is what everyone sees, and is usually based on the top 10% of schools, ease of transit, etc - so it influences the demand of everyone. Your suggestion of Westmont is the only thing I could distill of value from your post - and I will surely look into it (so thanks for that). I guess what I am hoping for is more suggestions of some non Top-10 places that might come close to fitting the bill if I can compromise here and there.

thanks


Quote:
Originally Posted by chet everett View Post
...market forces are beyond the control of any individual buyer (or seller).

Prices in towns like River Forest are higher than those in Oak Park because the supply is smaller and the demand is greater -- though these boards have an abundance of folks that are enamored of the urban aspects of the region the real meat of the home buying public still prefers safe quiet streets when looking for a family home.

Similarly the good qualities of Elmhurst or Lagrange or Hinsdale or Downers Grove or Glen Ellyn means that if one wants a four bedroom home with two car garage on a desirable street that is close enough to the well developed core to walk to amenities but not so close as to reduce quiet / block cohesion one has to be prepared to compete with other buyers that Re likely prepared to spend more...

Should one's budget not be sufficient to compete with such buyers perhaps looking beyond the 45 minute commute radius will be required, or perhaps one could look at towns with less well regarded schools or less of a traditional rail oriented core...

I like to help folks get the best value for their housing dollar but their are no real "hidden gems". That said if one is willing to "take a chance" there are towns when your money will go farther and their is possibility of change that will improve the desirability of a town over time. One such situation exists in Westmont -- recently the high school hosted well known Washington Post writer and advocate for improved educational standards Jay Mattthews to speak at the school. There was also a "conference" for students and parents which had a panel of well regarded AP teachers explain the value of taking college level course while in high school. These sorts if things are encouraging and may result in improved academic performance which ought to boast desirability, but this is not a "sure thing" like buying in area that has a tradition of strong housing values...

Finally I also recommend considering homes that need some updating / repairs. If you are smart and get the right kind if help this perhaps the smartest way to stay ahead of the value curve.
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Old 05-31-2013, 11:38 AM
 
11,973 posts, read 30,504,396 times
Reputation: 4620
Quote:
Originally Posted by bengalih View Post
If I can stretch my money another 20% further by moving 2x the distance from Elmhurst to O'Hare I think it might be better.
You might think that being further out west would help with affordability, but unfortunately that doesn't really seem to be the case until you get really far out. The nicer towns of DuPage County remain very expensive and desirable, and don't really offer much of a bargain compared to Elmhurst. Maybe Wheaton starts to offer some noticeable discount going west, and the stuff on the Fox River is definitely cheaper. Glen Ellyn and Downers Grove are less expensive if you get away from the Metra...

I think the best "bang for the buck" that meets your criteria is Arlington Heights, though if you don't like Elmhurst I'm not sure it really offers any increase in charm. There are some larger houses for the $$$ available, though, and the schools are really very good.

I can see Chet's point on Westmont, but to me it's a gamble in terms of the schools. The high school just doesn't measure up, and you'd be taking the chance that it would improve by the time you needed it. But some of the elementary schools seem to be fine.
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