Brown’s Line on House-Hunting—Plus Bungalow News

Maybe it’s not auspicious to launch a website that lets house-hunters find real estate listings near their preferred transit stops in the same week that the Chicago Transit Authority threatens a new round of service cuts and fare increases. Fortunately, Tom Brown is taking the long-term view…


Livebytransit.com will let you search for property by El or Metra stops.

Maybe it’s not auspicious to launch a website that lets house-hunters find real estate listings near their preferred transit stops in the same week that the Chicago Transit Authority threatens a new round of service cuts and fare increases. Fortunately, Tom Brown is taking the long-term view, and besides, he had already scheduled the launch party—October 15th, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at The Kerryman, 70 West Erie Street—for his site: livebytransit.com.

Brown, a former traffic engineer and real-estate developer, drew on his background to create the site, which also functions as the entryway to his nascent real-estate agency, New Urban Property Services. As Brown sees it, as traffic gets denser and fuel costs rise, “transit locations are going to get more and more important, and therefore property near transit locations will increase in value faster than properties that are not.”

Two recent studies back him up. In August, a national analysis commissioned by CEOS for Cities found that homes in walkable neighborhoods generally sell for more than those in car-dependent areas. And last week, a Re/Max report indicated that, in the first half of 2009, Chicago suburbs served by Metra had smaller price declines and sold fewer houses than towns without train stations. (The better price situation speaks for itself, but the smaller number of sales in those towns might indicate that homeowners there were more content to sit tight, perhaps in part because of the better quality of life in a train town.)

At Brown’s site, which has been live since late August, users can select individual El or Metra stops; the site brings up houses listed for sale within a particular walking range of that stop. There are no featured listings or other ads on the site; Brown hopes to make money when house-hunters, after finding a home they like, opt to work with his agency to search further or to buy.

Brown suggests that even people dependent on a car to travel between their home and job can benefit from living near public transportation. “If living in a walkable location brings a premium price to properties,” he says, “then living near the train is a way to protect your investment.”

ALSO: On Saturday, the Merchandise Mart will host a series of seminars and vendor exhibits for bungalow owners and fans: the Historic Chicago Bungalow and Green Home Expo. And there’s one great old bungalow that’s sorely in need of more than an exhibit. In June 2007 I wrote about a Beverly bungalow designed by Walter Burley Griffin that was for sale at $570,000. The place is still unsold, and it is now being offered as a short sale (priced at less than the seller owes on it) for $342,902—just 60 percent of the mid-2007 price. It’s listed with Prudential Biros.

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