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Old 10-01-2013, 01:13 PM
 
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Apologies for another Oak Brook vs. Hinsdale vs. Clarendon Hills post but I believe none of the previous ones have addresses a few of these topics together:

Before I get into it, here a blurb on me: My wife and I have been renting in Westmont (the part that feeds to Hinsdale Central) for some time now and were hoping to buy a home in the near future. Due to our professional commitments, we need to live around Westmont, Oak Brook, CH, Hinsdale. What we have realized is that even though parts of Westmont feed into Hinsdale Central, the middle and elementary schools (Westview Hills and Maerceker) are not up to par for the taxes that you pay. E.g. For $600 - $750k you can get a decent 4-5 bed, 3,200+ sq ft home and pay about $12-16k in taxes. So we're now back on the shopping block and are considering Oak Brook vs. Hinsdale vs. Clarendon Hills.

1. Taxes: For a home that is 4-5 bed, 3,200+ sq feet, it looks like you pay AROUND$800k - $1m plus in these towns. A sample Oak Brook home would most likely be 20-30 yrs old with need for refresh, CH and Hinsdale home will be nice but will cost $1m or above. For this similarly spec'd home, taxes in Oak Brook looks like are around $7-11k, Hinsdale: $14-18k, CH: $14-16k
2. Diversity: While Hinsdale and CH do offer great "neighborhood" feeling, I don't see any type of diversity in these towns (Asians, Hispanics and Blacks make up for <10% of total town's population). Comparatively, Oak Book claims around 12% Asians alone (including the village mayor).
3. "Keeping Up with Jones": This topic has been discussed before but I have the need to re-ignite this. My wife and I are self-made (read: "new money") and put in years of hard work to get to where we are today. While we're destined to have our kids face this "Keeping up with the Jones" issue in any affluent town, just driving through Hinsdale / CH makes me sick to my stomach. The houses look too picture perfect (they don't seem like "homes") and it seems like people dress up to go for a walk in their neighborhoods --> I know this statement is potentially controversial but I just moved back to Chicago from the east coast and keep thinking that Hinsdale / CH are too similar to Alpine NJ / Short Hills NJ / Westchester / Long Island suburbs.
4. Modesty?: While our top priority is to provide the best schools possible, we are also believers in modesty. We don't want the kids to know how much $ we have but want them feel secure in a town. Now granted this is a lot more nurture type issue, it is hard to raise modest kids in towns where each new home on a street tries to out-do the previously built one. I want to take pleasure in putting up holiday lights WITH my kids even if the lights are messy and want them feeling good about it (vs. some neighbor who hired a professional lighting company to make his / her home picture perfect).

While Oak Brook does have numerous gated communities and 30,000+ sq. foot mansions, I do feel like you have the ability to create a relatively "normal" environment for your family in some neighborhoods (Brook Forest / Ginger Brook / Trinity). Don't get me wrong - these are VERY affluent areas and not very modest, but compared to Garfield St and Elm St in Hinsdale, these homes look a lot more blue collar!

While Westmont meets our 2,3 and 4 from above, the taxes and the quality of schools for those taxes, has turned us off. We're thinking of building a home and are open to all three towns (Oak Brook, CH, Hinsdale), but given taxes, diversity, keeping up with the Jones and ability to stay modest, we are leaning towards Oak Brook. We're budgeting around $800k - $1m for the land + construction and want to have a relatively smaller home with no room exceeding 20x20 in size.

Appreciate any relevant observations.
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Old 10-01-2013, 03:56 PM
 
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I have lived in the area served by D86 for many many years. I know dozens if not hundreds of families that have availed themsleves of the excellent high schools as well as the elementary school of D181, D53 and similar feeder districts. I have to say that values that the OP seem to worry about are top of mind for many families and once you get to know any of your neighbors you will soon see that down to earth to folks with normal concerns do in fact make up the majority of all these areas.

I am a pretty involved neighbor. I know many of neighbors and routinely get updates on their children, many of whom were classmates of my own kids. I had the pleasure of talking to one neighbor and her daughter (both of whom had no make-up on and the most unremarkable of casual clothes...) -- youngerst daughter will be doing a short rotation in Africa for maternal health in conjunction with her own medical education at a promiment med school in the region, she hopes to practice family medicien upon graduation. Her dad owns a modest engineering firm. Another neighbor has son at Wash U studying physics, dad is retired from dental practice becuase of arthritus, mom is nearing retirement from midsized corporate law practive. Also have neighbors that, despite being partners at prominent law firm with hundreds of attorneys drives family minivan to work at predawn hours to make it home for sons' little league games. The DuPage Co State's Attorney is a neighbor, we sometimes chat while walking our dogs. He is no-nonsense guy that sees first hand the ravages of poor choices and is about 180 degress from the kind of character that Michael Douglas played in Traffic -- rather than some poltically connected "drug czar" whose own daughter goes from prep school to crack addicted prositute, the record of the SA is to throw the book at anyone that gets involved in illegal drugs or is irresponsible enough to result in a DUI. This sort of responsility is a big part of why parents choose to pay more for homes in D181...


Further, as I personally know more than a handful of builders I have to say that the majority of folks are really not all that obsessed with "out doing" any existing homes and more than a few buyers of spec / built-to-order homes specifically request that features of their homes be "toned down" from the more grand plans that some designers lay out. There are also an abundance of nice homes of various ages in each of the towns you are considering and I know from first hand experience it is far more cost efficient to buy an existing home so long as you have realistic understanding of what is involved -- an addition for a familyroom, kitchen or maybe kitchen and one bedroom / bath can often make even pre WWII homes quite livable at a far more attractive price than all new construction IF the rest of the house is sound...

I have to laugh at the thought of any home in Oak Brook having a "blue collar" appearance! While I do know some folks in OB that own businesses including things that started out in "skilled trades" like collision repair or electrical contracting the folks that can afford even the most modest home in the least costly part of OB almost certainly are quite removed from pounding out dents or pulling wire! Among real estate professionals it is almost universally agreed that the ostentious displays of housing excess in Oak Brook and Burr Ridge are head and shoulders above even the least restrained homes in Hinsdale which in size, showiness and value tower above anything in Clarendon Hills. You really have got that completely wrong...

BTW Oak Brook, as well as CH and Hinsdale all have "Village Board of Trustee" style of government. There is no mayor. The Village President is elected along with the Trustees. They are all unpaid volunteers. Turmoil in Oak Brook has led to a some contentious elections but there is nothing particularly exceptional or unusual about a well qualified, dedicated volunteer garnering support from their neighbors regardless of their heritage.

Similarly while the raw data on the racial mix of families may suggest a greater percentage of folks with foreign heritage in OB all one needs do is drive past the playgrounds of any of the schools or observe an AYSO soccer game to see that there are lots and lots of folks from every corner of the planet represented among those that value education in Hinsdale or CH as well-- what is true is that the very large of homes in parts of Oak Brook that do facilitate folks that have a tradition of multi-generational living tend to be more attractive to folks fro parts of the world where that tradition is more common so is true the more westernized folks from those areas are more likely to be encountered living in a less cavernous home in Hinsdale or Clarendon Hills.

In all honestly if you want to acquire a buildable lot inside Oak Brook that is served by D53 & D86 you will almost certainly spend more than a lot capable of supporting a home of similar floor area ratio would cost in Hinsdale and either town would be signficantly more costly than finding a builable lot in CH. After that things get tricky. The details of new construction requirements mean that the home in CH, which would need to have fire sprinklers as the fire chief of CH has convinced the Trustees that is an effective way to provide for life safety with minimal fire department staff, will likely have a very high cost per sq ft., Hinsdale likely a bit lower but given the tendancy for new homes there to be larger a greater overall cost and similarly even higher total costs in OB... Hard to say it is more modest to have a bigger, higher net expenditure home that is "more modest" than a smaller home with a higher cost per sq ft... I also have to say that since CH is so much physically smaller than either of the other towns BUT has a nice compact train-centric core the interactions one is likely to have with one's neighbors is a singificant factor -- personally I see some folks that are doing spectactularly well heading up properitiary firms grabbing a donut & coffee right along side retirees to a huge plus as it s quite a democratizing interaction. This happens less frequently in Hinsdale as it is physically larger, encompassing far more place for these interactions to happen, which in turn means that fewer folks bump into one another. The physical lay out of Oak Brook, which utterly lacks any sort of core whatsoever, makes these sorts of encounters all but impossible...

Finally when it comes to "keeping up with" any neighbors I gotta say you are not looking at the same streets I travel on. I personally drive a 10 year car with over 150K miles on it, my retired neighbors have a Honda, the neighbor next to them drives an F-150, retired couple next to him has a Mercury Marquis, neighbor across the street has a Camry Hybrid -- I could go on & on listing the modest vehicle choices! Similarly while there are a handful of newer larger homes more than a few families have 4+ young children so it ain't like they are rattling around inside some "grand ballroom". Very uncommon for folks in Oak Brook to have homes anywhere near as compactly laid out as the majority of homes in Hinsdale or especially CH.
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Old 10-01-2013, 04:28 PM
 
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Your'e really overthinking this......

Those all nice areas and I'm including Westmont.
Oakbrook has a lot of Indians/Indian Americans.
Chicagoland is not diverse, it's very segregated between black and white. Asians (chinese, indian, japanese, korean etc) are a small percentage of the overall population.
Just live where you want to live and figure out what attributes makes you happy. If you get hung up on "this street looks like this and that and my decorations look like that" then youre just another judgemental prick.
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Old 10-01-2013, 06:00 PM
 
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Default Tend to agree...

Quote:
Originally Posted by 3Series View Post
Your'e really overthinking this......

Those all nice areas and I'm including Westmont.
Oakbrook has a lot of Indians/Indian Americans.
Chicagoland is not diverse, it's very segregated between black and white. Asians (chinese, indian, japanese, korean etc) are a small percentage of the overall population.
Just live where you want to live and figure out what attributes makes you happy. If you get hung up on "this street looks like this and that and my decorations look like that" then youre just another judgemental prick.
I too have found that most parts of Westmont are pretty good places to live -- the parts that feed into Hinsdale Central are generally a heck of a value. While the test results for Maerecker are signficantly below that of D181 or D53 middle schools this is still a rather well performing school by any other measure than direct comparison with top tier of the state...

I will be first to admit that it is wise to consider school rating when shopping for a home but it is just one factor that needs to be evaluated and if the OP wants a nice place to live for a fraction of what they'd spend in Oak Brook or Hinsdale then Westmont should not be dismissed.

The OP needs to get out a bit and make some connections with people. Belive me for every one person that hires some commercial decorating firm to light up their house for the holidays in Hinsdale there are 20x that many that are doing their level headed best to just have a nice low key existence. And the vast majority of folks that do choose to buy a home in Westmont almost certainly looked at what their budget would buy in other towns and decided that the trade offs were acceptable -- there is big push at the Westmont Community Unit School District to improve the sucess of students especially at the high school were limited AP offerings has led to notable lack of recognition of the quality of the schools.


I will say that in towns like Westmont and Downers Grove the numbers of families that have two parents both working outside the home is VASTLY different than what one encounters in more affluent areas -- in Oak Brook the handful of "working moms" I have met tend to be surgeons or high powered attorneys. In Downers Grove or Westmont LOTS of moms earn a nice salary as teachers, nurses, real estate agents and other occupations that are very valuable. Might be a factor for the OP as sounds like both parents are accustomed to working hard...
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Old 10-02-2013, 01:30 PM
 
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Originally Posted by 3Series View Post
Chicagoland is not diverse, it's very segregated between black and white. Asians (chinese, indian, japanese, korean etc) are a small percentage of the overall population.
You're apparently stuck in the 1968 version of Chicagoland. Today's Chicagoland is VERY diverse, and goes far beyond "black and white". Heck, DuPage County is 10% Asian and 14% Hispanic, and this was always known as the bastion of white conservatives.
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Old 10-02-2013, 02:02 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Lookout Kid View Post
You're apparently stuck in the 1968 version of Chicagoland. Today's Chicagoland is VERY diverse, and goes far beyond "black and white". Heck, DuPage County is 10% Asian and 14% Hispanic, and this was always known as the bastion of white conservatives.

Do you consider Hispanics/Latinos white??

With your thinking I'll concede that it's beyond black and euro-white with a rising hispanic/latino population. However, I'll hold the line on "VERY" diverse when Dupage county is 70%+ white and Cook is near 50%. Those numbers are from diverse and any suggestion towards that is narrow minded thinking. Is the landscape changing? Sure, however its not adding to diversity in neighborhoods/towns. Look at towns/neighborhoods like Berwyn, Crystal Lake, Northbrook, Olympia Fields, Lake View, Humboldt Park and Englewood.

I suggest that we play match the ethnicity to the town/neighborhood. Then we plot it on a map and see if integration is prevalent in an ethnically diverse area such as Chicagoland....
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Old 10-02-2013, 02:15 PM
 
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If you want to see real diversity, look at the demographics for people under 18 years of age. I live in a suburb that is 85% "white" according to the census, but the numbers are skewed by the older generation, and the schools are much more diverse than the over all population of the suburb.

All northern cities of a certain age have residential segregation, and African Americans are usually the most segregated in terms of "segregation index", which is a measure of racial dissimilarity of residents in adjacent housing units. Chicago is hardly unique in this respect, and has a lower segregation index than New York City and many other northern metropolises.
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Old 10-02-2013, 03:26 PM
 
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Thank you all for your responses... apologies for the delayed response here.

Chet - Appreciate your lengthy and thoughtful responses. Though, your second comment "families that have two parents both working outside the home is VASTLY different than what one encounters in more affluent areas " - seems very much in sync with what I think of in Hinsdale and CH as well. Your comment made it sound like OB only - can you please clarify? This is my point though, this to me doesn't seem "modest" down to earth types.

3Series - I agree that I am probably overthinking this, and COMPLETELY agree that "If you get hung up on "this street looks like this and that and my decorations look like that" then you're just another judgmental prick." --> But you see my point of not having to be surrounded by snobs!

Sure Downers and Westmont are great towns with hard working type families but that is not what I am comparing. After much thought, DG is out for us. My issue with the Hinsdale Central feeding part of Westmont is that even though you find a home priced lower than in CH and Hinsdale, you're paying similar in taxes for a lower quality elementary and junior high school. Let's assume that up to $1m range, $ is no issue, the cost savings are not that important.

I have been looking at all 3+ bedroom transactions in these three town (CH, OB and Hinsdale) for about a year (closings not listings) and nothing in Hinsdale / CH seems to be under $950-$1m with a tiny 6 - 10k sq. foot lot.

The way I think, at the end of the day, it comes down to these choices:
1. Hinsdale / CH: Buy a smaller home with excellent elementary and junior high schools, high taxes, and risk snobby neighbors. Sure AYSO may have more diversity ("Token" from South Park - anyone? :-)), but compared to OB (or Barrington, Barrington Hills, Naperville, etc.) CH and Hinsdale are nowhere as diverse

2. OB: Buy a larger home, lower taxes, still excellent schools (though Hinsdale central is far), and have more diverse neighbors. Chet - I agree that there are non-modest parts of OB, but they're pretty insulated from the neighborhoods I mentioned (Brook Forest / Ginger Brook / Trinity).

See, everyone selling me on Hinsdale > OB has mentioned the "community feel" as the key selling point. Given that junior schools are a relative wash, taxes and relative home prices are high in Hinsdale, I am paying this premium for this "community feel". As much as I agree with 3Series that you shouldn't think too much about others, I think BECAUSE I am paying higher in Hinsdale / CH FOR the neighbors and so that becomes important (do you see what I am saying?). If this premium is not worth paying, I might as well be a "hermit" in OB ...
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Old 10-02-2013, 05:16 PM
 
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I think the OP is really missing the major differences between the towns that they seem most focused on. Anyone with access to the MLS data of sold homes can relatively easily sort on homes in the Walker or Prospect Elementary school attendance area in Clarendon Hills and they will see DOZENS of sales far below $1M with extremely livable features. Taxes are generally right around 2% of selling price. Lot sizes are not generally enormous but there is large variabiity and giving the compact layout of CH most homes in CH are very convenient to not just the walkable core but also top notch parks. The same things are largely true in Hinsdale -- yes, taxes may be a bit lower but selling prices are generally considerably higher and the availability of homes that are older tends to be tighter as the pressure for teardown builders has been higher. That said you still get excellent walkability, great parks and nice mix of neighbors. Many of the folks that still live independantly in their own homes in Hinsdale or Clarendon Hills are well past 70. When they do decide to sell there are some smart buyers that will move right in with their young familes, others that will do a modest expansion and still other buyers that will tear the place down...

In Oak Brook there are just signficantly less homes to choose from. You are restricting yourself to a real paucity of options as only about half of Ginger Creek is served by D53 and the majority of homes in subdivision like York Woods, Brook Forest and Trinty Lakes are not on huge lots. You just don't encounter a whole lot of families with young children. Heck while once the water feature of nice looking subdivisions like Ginger Creek or Brook Forest were in vogue now folks with young kids will not even consider them and even older folks have legitiimate concerns of more costly insurance due to increased risk of storm related flooding. It is true that the property taxes are a relative bargain but with very large homes and selling prices that are quite high (as well increased operational / maintenance costs and sometimes non-trivial HOA fees...) your real out of pocket costs are not super low...

You are completely missing the point on "diversity". The stats one should care about are not just total number of non-caucasions but age distribution. My kids played AYSO. The way it is organized you typically get kids from each elementary school grouped on teams and believe me there was nothing "token" about the kids whose parents were from Madrid or Singapore or Bangalore or Yokohama or Taipei that choose Hinsdale /CH over Oak Brook. There are just orders of magnitude less kids in Oak Brook! Brook Forest kids ROUTINELY have to be mixed in with kids from the parochial / private schools. If you care about having someones' retired parents living with them as neighbors then fine look at the census data. If instead you care about what kinds of kids your children will have as classmates then get you feet on the ground. You absolutely WILL NOT have more diverse neighborhood, what you will have is a dearth of children in pretty much every part of Oak Brook. Honest.

If you are specifically looking for an estate sized lot in Oak Brook it is not going to be cheap unless it has some HUGE unremediable negative like fronting a busy street. Don't just take my word for it go drive through the subdivision and neighborhoods. Pull up the data of both homes for sale as well buildable lots. Look at the lot dimensions and the often visually tricky lack of sidewalks in Oak Brook to assess the true amount of space one really gets for "outdoor living". I really doubt that you will have any luck finding any bargain chunk of land and when you try to build a modest house be prepared for the HOA's architectural review process to find anything too far "out of character" with the neighboring homes to get denied building permits...

My comments about two income households can be summarized thusly -- in my many years of selling real estate and living in the area I have a seen a DIRECT correlation between relative affluence and likelihood of single income. As hard to accept as may be: the folks that choose to live in $1M+ homes are about 3x more likely to be relying on a single earner than the folks that choose to live in $350K homes. As average home prices in (factoring the relatively large number of townhouse / condo sales) OB are signficantly higher than in other towns that feed into D86 I can say without reservations that odds of two income families are MUCH MORE rare there than even Hinsdale which has very similar gross household income numbers and both towns tower way above CH, which in turn is much more costly on average than towns like Westmont or DG...

Of course the bottomline on all these things is that EVERY housing decision has LOTS of trade-offs! If you are hoping to have a large lot and an impressive home maybe you are going to have to accept the fact that you are very likely to be a bit of freak if you do not hire out your holiday light stringing. If walkability is not important to you maybe you are fine accepting the fact that your kids likely will not have any neighbors to play with in their enormous yard. If you enjoy your low property taxes maybe your spouse will not resent the fact that all the other moms spend all day at home.
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Old 10-02-2013, 10:02 PM
 
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Originally Posted by chet everett View Post
Don't just take my word for it go drive through the subdivision and neighborhoods.
I find this difficult in Oak Brook, because of all of the gates. It seems like anything built since 1990 has a gate house, at least along the main drag on 31st street. ????
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