Housing Bulletin-The Money’s on Lisle

Four Chicago suburbs got the nod from Money magazine on its 2007 list of Best Places to Live in the U.S., released on Monday, and while they’re all perfectly lovely places to live, the choices show the editors’ fondness for quiet, outlying bedroom communities.

Which might be precisely what Money’s readers prefer; after all, they’re looking for a place to spend their housing dollars in an economy that seems to have lost its spark. So why not put your money where it (and you) will be safe?

The Chicago area’s top finisher was Lisle, at 20th. Next was Libertyville, at 52nd, Woodridge at 61st, and South Elgin at 82nd. Naperville, which had been No. 3 in 2005 and No. 2 in 2006, was knocked out of consideration by this year’s shift to small communities. (Money only considered towns whose population is between 7,500 and 50,000).

Chicago’s top four are all steady, sturdy places, with good schools and parks, easy commutes, and a housing stock that didn’t go bananas in the boom market.

The package’s editors wrote that along with their usual focus on safe streets, good schools and job prospects, they paid extra attention this year to racial and ethnic diversity and to real estate prices, “with the cost of housing an issue for so many families.”

On the first count, diversity, Chicago’s two top scorers did quite well, with scores far above the average Money listed for its top 100.  Woodridge scored a very high 95 (on a 100-point scale) for diversity, meaning it has an impressive mix of people. Lisle scored 70.4, also quite good considering that the average level of diversity in Money’s top 100 towns scored 59.2 points. (The point scale was determined by Money on assorted components of racial and ethnic diversity; it doesn’t relate to any direct count of minority populations.) South Elgin was slightly below the average at 52.9-meaning it’s somewhat diverse but nothing to brag about among this group. Libertyville’s score of 31.3 suggests it’s not yet a place you’d call diverse.

On the second count, housing prices, three of Chicago’s four entries came in strong, with median home prices well below the top-100 median of $359,352. (Lisle was $287,276, Woodridge was $281,362, and South Elgin was $263,640.) Libertyville was far more expensive, at $487,289. But it’s worth noting that all four of Chicago’s top towns had property taxes that were dramatically higher than the norm for the top 100.

Money crunched several dozen other stats for each town to compile its rankings. The full list can be seen here.

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