Photograph: Courtesy of Anna Klarck with Re/Max Realty
Chicago home prices have finally bottomed out. If you're looking to move in to a smaller place for retirement, this can work to your advantage—whether you're considering an affordable city neighborhood or an exurb.
When the kids are grown and gone and retirement is at hand, you gain some huge home-buying advantages. Namely, you can pick a condo or house in the city without worrying about whether the neighborhood’s schools are any good, or you can pick a town that’s farther out than you would choose if you still had to commute to Chicago every day. The latter, especially, is where you can score some great buys now.
In the City
Photograph: Courtesy of Maggie Finegan with Keller Williams Realty
Median condo price: $155,000 (down 43 percent from the peak)
Most of the condos in this South Side neighborhood were newly constructed or converted (from industrial loft buildings) in the last decade and are well stocked with modern fixtures and amenities. Look for the best deals on Halsted west of 35th Street. There’s also a lively restaurant and gallery scene—and the White Sox. Plus, Chinatown and Bronzeville are nearby, and the CTA makes the Loop easily accessible.
Median condo price: $130,000 (down 44 percent from the peak)
This neighborhood near the city’s northern border has it all: dining, shopping, public transportation, and fabulous Lake Michigan beaches. You can find great condo deals in a variety of buildings: vintage courtyard structures, two- and three-flats, or more contemporary construction. Look for those on Clark Street, Broadway, and the other main thoroughfares.
Median house price: $248,000 (down 41 percent from the peak)
If you want to reside in the city but aren’t ready for condo living, check out this Far North Side community, where you’ll have easy access to the Foster Avenue restaurant strip and scenic walking trails in the North Park Village Nature Center and Gompers Park. Selling for under $300,000, Georgians, gingerbread Queen Annes, and cozy bungalows are your best bets, according to resident and real-estate agent Sue Serra of Gabel Marketing. “This is an excellent neighborhood for empty nesters to make that [downsize] transition,” she says. “A bungalow is perfectly manageable for them.”
In the Suburbs
Photograph: Courtesy of Ilona Leber with Baird & Warner
Median house price: $169,000 (down 43 percent from the peak)
This small village in Lake County, near the Wisconsin border, offers natural wonders (the Almond Marsh and Rollins Savanna Forest Preserves), adult-ed opportunities at the College of Lake County, and a Metra station for your Chicago fix. Focus on the older Cape Cods and ranches around Grays Lake, where three-bedroom houses can be found for between $90,000 and $150,000, says Patti Kremser, the managing broker for Century 21 Roberts & Andrews. Outside of town at Carillon North, a 55-and-older community, duplex townhouses start at $150,000; single-family homes top out at about $315,000.
Median house price: $363,000 (down 35 percent from the peak)
This sleepy little DuPage County community witnessed a building boom during the early part of this century, but many older houses remain—and that’s where you’ll find the best buys. For instance, a 1950s three-bedroom ranch house—perfect for retirees—recently hit the market in the median price range.
Median house price: $136,000 (down 41 percent from the peak)
The opera house in this charming town about 60 miles west of Chicago may have been built in 1889, but it continues to host plays, dance programs, and an annual Mozart festival. (If you crave a visit to that other opera house, a Metra station is a few blocks away.) You’ll be drawn to the big Victorian houses near the square, but the real bargains lie in the newer subdivisions just beyond the historic downtown.
Highest Prices: Hinsdale recorded the highest median house price—$829,000—of any town outside Cook County. That’s down 12.8 percent from 2006. Only Will County’s Frankfort did better (down 9.6 percent).