Where to Buy Now

The silver lining behind the residential real-estate collapse is the opportunity for housing bargains. Here are 14 up-and-coming Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs where prices are relatively low and the promise for future growth is strong

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Where are the best bargain-priced homes in this battered real-estate market? Two sales in the city of Chicago can help answer that question. On an oversize lot in the South Shore neighborhood, a 90-year-old stucco bungalow recently updated with stainless-steel appliances, granite countertops, and a stylish paint job was sold this past May for $230,000.

That same month, $230,000 also bought a house in Avondale (on the city’s Northwest Side, between the more expensive Irving Park and Logan Square neighborhoods). A foreclosed property with a grungy stucco exterior, the house needed some work inside as well: As the listing sheet  put it, “A little TLC will go a long way.” Translation: “Yuck.”

Although both houses sit in attractive parts of town, the Avondale house is no steal, once you figure in the many thousands of dollars a rehab would likely require. The renovated South Shore house, already modernized, turns out to be the bargain, even though it is a little pricier than its immediate neighbors (most of them not yet brought up to date). And as it turns out, the South Shore stands out as one of seven city neighborhoods (along with seven suburbs) where today’s house hunters can find the best residential values.

Everybody who is looking for a home these days expects to find a once-in-a-decade bargain—and shoppers can, given the surfeit of unsold homes to choose from and the ongoing downward tilt of real-estate prices. But a superlow price isn’t the only criterion for calling a house a bargain. That’s where I come in.

Each week I roam the city and suburbs looking at real estate; over the past year I have looked closely at some 300 homes—and that doesn’t include the thousands of other places I casually observed as I traveled around. Using my years of experience, as well as the expertise of local sales agents, I have pinpointed 14 areas that, because of prices and other advantages—such as schools, parks, transportation, shopping, and dining—are bargain havens. Not all of these places have the same advantages, which is why I have highlighted the pluses and minuses for each area. (In some instances, where schools and other “advantages” are neither better nor worse than the norm, no comment is warranted.)

As you will see, many of these places benefit from their adjacency to a proven, popular, and often high-priced community. Each of these 14 neighborhoods and suburbs is a viable “off-brand” alternative that will likely grow steadily in value as the market makes its slow return to normalcy. Give them a few years and these places may be just as magnetic as the area’s more established—and more expensive—residential destinations.

For more detailed information on the price of real estate in these and more than 270 other neighborhoods and suburbs, see Chicago’s annual real-estate chart.

Illustration by Harry Campbell



5 years ago
Posted by Laura Calvache


I like the concept of your article, reading with interest what neighborhoods will be up and coming in the near future, hoping that many realtors’ opinions would be shared as well. So, I examined with keen interest what the perspective is on Albany Park. However, this realtor finds your assessment of my neighborhood to be somewhat incomplete. Thank you for a great try, but maybe a little more substance is what is needed? For example, where but in Albany Park can you get a 3-4 bedroom, 2 bath home on an oversized lot for under $500,000? Smaller starter homes with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath are starting around $200,000 which is a resonable price for having your own home in the city. We are also close to some great trendy areas, like Lincoln Square and the Kedzie Brown Line stop, but yet close to the airport via Blue line or freeway and mall shopping in suburbs via the freeway. Thanks again.

5 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Palos Heights is actually in the SouthWEST suburbs, a great area. The people are a lot friendlier than you will find on the north side and the areas and houses are overall not as old. Nearby Palos Park is one of Chicago's wealthiest and unknown suburbs and nearby Orland Park has everything!

4 years ago
Posted by mikeP

Why take a chance in an "up and coming" neighborhood when there is so much inventory in the established "always wanted to live there" neighborhoods? I think during a hot market is the only time you invest in up and comers.

3 years ago
Posted by monica1980

I agree with many of your choices, a smart person knows you buy low and sell high. Thanks for all your research it really comforts me to know that all my feelings about some of these investments I have made will pan out. I purchased a home in Aurora for less than what the previous owner paid of course she took a big loss when she sold due to her employment and I on the other hand will have the chance to wait and watch my investment grow. I have been watching real estate for many years and the best advice has never changed and that is location, some of the areas you have suggested are not just up and coming they are hot as far as shopping and so much more.Geneva offers one of the only dog friendly indoor malls and Aurora (Rt.59)has a casino, excellent parks and great access to the tollway and Metra.

2 years ago
Posted by jennifermadonia

Where can I purchase a copy of the October Issue of your magazine? I can only find November Issues on the stand.

2 years ago
Posted by Elizabeth Riley (Chicago magazine)

Hi Jennifer!

Back issues of the magazine can always be purchased through the site here: http://bit.ly/uHO2R3

Let me know if you need anything else.

2 years ago
Posted by Ben

I bought in Bronzeville three years ago and it was a great decision. The proximity to the lake, US Cellular, IIT, the Police HQ, downtown, and great transportation links are fantastic. There are amazing houses with history and character. People are generally very nice and welcoming. It's still rough around the edges, but I've seen good progress in the past three years even with the soft economy. A new bank replaced a fried chicken restaurant. Old run down buildings have been torn down and replaced with grass and trees. The new marina at 31st street is beautiful.

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