In the past decade, formerly frumpy downtown Des Plaines has undergone a transformation into a lively place dotted with new restaurants and stores, a fantastic central library, and, most noticeable of all, thick clusters of new, mid-rise condo buildings. Standing at the center of town-at Metropolitan Square near the Metra station-you can look southeast along Miner Street and see five of them lined up. Turn in any other direction and you will spot more. These new buildings have done great things for Des Plaines, bringing foot traffic into the nicely revivified downtown and property taxes into municipal coffers.
City building officials say they have no accurate count of how many new condos have been built over the past decade in and near the downtown area, though they clearly number in the hundreds. And one local real-estate agent has detected a negative impact. Mary Wright, a Keller Williams agent in neighboring Park Ridge, crunched some data from the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLS) and found that “used” (that is, older) condos in Des Plaines dropped in price during the first quarter of 2007 when compared to the same time last year. One-bedroom, one-bath condos sold for 4 percent less; two-bedroom, one-bath condos for 7.8 percent less; and two-bedroom, two-bath condos for 1.9 percent less. (Not enough three-bedroom units sold to deliver reliable numbers.)
“There is so much new inventory to choose from that buyers think they don’t have to look at used condos,” Wright says. Although prices are higher for the new units, they generally come with new appliances, bigger rooms, new hardwood floors and granite counter tops-"all those perks that people want now,” Wright says. (Because most new condo sales are not reported to the MLS, it is difficult to tell how new-condo sales are faring compared with a year ago.)
Wright does not attribute the price drops on used condos to a softening real-estate market, in large part because the same set of data for four neighboring towns-Arlington Heights, Park Ridge, Mount Prospect, and Palatine-showed a mix of increases and decreases in both sales volume and prices. Only in Des Plaines was the drop so pronounced-and it’s the one suburb that appears to have the biggest crop of new condos.