NOTES: Median sale prices are for 2021. All suburban data is for detached housing. SOURCE: Midwest Real Estate Data

$350,000, 14936 Highland Ave., 4 bedrooms, 2,168 sq. ft.Photograph: Shannon Phelan/Pawlak Properties at Keller Williams Experience Realty
Orland Park
Median sale price: $399,900
Five-year change: 32%

With more than 650 acres of parkland, this village lives up to its name. Nature lovers have easy access to the Cook County forest preserve system via the Orland Grove on the north side of town and the Orland Grassland on the south. The “World’s Golf Center,” as Orland Park has proclaimed itself, attracts duffers with facilities like Silver Lake Country Club and its three public courses. Downtown Chicago is just a 30-minute drive (or about an hour via Metra’s SouthWest Service, with three Orland Park stops), and there are destination shopping malls in town, including Orland Square and Orland Park Crossing.

You can find cheaper suburbs nearby, but not with the great schools and other amenities Orland Park offers. Which is why this town of nearly 60,000 appeals to young families and empty nesters alike. “Generations have lived there, so that’s what makes it a community,” says Baird & Warner managing broker Jim Psyhogios. You can get an expansive single-family home, such as a 3,000-square-foot house listed for $675,000 in the gated subdivision Crystal Tree, but there are also less expensive options, like a three-bedroom split-level with hardwood floors for $219,000 — and both properties are in the district for coveted Carl Sandburg High School.

The market here has been hot, with 642 single-family homes sold last year, compared with 506 in 2019. Still, prices have risen more modestly than in towns close by, such as Palos Park. “What keeps value are good schools, well-maintained streets, and safety,” says Ray Morandi of Morandi Properties. “And that’s not going to change in Orland, as people are going to continue to look for that.”

$269,900, 17614 Burnham Ave., 3 bedrooms, 1,430 sq. ft.Photograph: VHT Studios
Median sale price: $193,000
Five-year change: 105%

Yes, taxes are lower across the state line, but this border-hugging town offers values that rival parts of northwest Indiana, in addition to a shorter drive — 40 minutes — to the Loop. In its quaint downtown district off Ridge Road, you’ll find specialty shops, including Gayety’s, an ice cream parlor and chocolate shop that's been around for more than 100 years, and a farmers’ market on Wednesdays in the summer. Fox Pointe (pictured above), a $5 million outdoor venue that opened in 2018, also hosts a Wednesday evening concert series in the warmer months. On Lansing’s west side, residents can access the Thorn Creek Trail’s 30 miles of pathways.

Lansing offers better values than other suburbs farther west. “Prices seem to get larger as you move from east to west in the south suburbs,” says Jim Psyhogios of Baird & Warner. “But the percentage of the increase gets larger moving the other way.” In other words, you can get in relatively low and catch some growth. A three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath house with modern finishes lists for $289,900, and a four-bedroom home with an in-ground pool is priced at $330,000.

$470,600 (sold), 577 Cherrywood Dr., 4 bedrooms, 2,498 sq. ft.Photograph: VHT Studios
Median sale price: $298,000
Five-year change: 45%

A little over 20 miles from the city and extending into both Cook and Lake Counties, Wheeling was once an overnight stop for 19th-century Chicagoans headed to Wisconsin. Nowadays it’s a popular location for families with young kids looking for suburban homes and amenities, such as a water park (pictured above), and easy access to Chicago. Wheeling is known for its dining scene, anchored by a restaurant row along Milwaukee Avenue. Residents also flock to the newer Wheeling Town Center, a mixed-use development with residences, retail, entertainment, and restaurants, all centered on a Metra station serviced by the North Central line, which gets you downtown in less than an hour.

Homebuyers gravitate here for lower prices than in adjacent northwest suburbs such as Buffalo Grove and Arlington Heights, where the median sale prices last year were $410,000 and $422,000, respectively. “Wheeling is one of the more affordable communities in the northwest suburbs,” says RE/Max United broker Paula Carson. “Wheeling also has a wide selection of housing options to serve the needs of potential residents, including a new luxury apartment complex in Wheeling Town Center, luxury condominiums, and a variety of traditional single-family subdivisions.” A three-bedroom house with vaulted ceilings and a large yard with a pond view was listed in April for $395,000, while $188,000 can get you a two-bedroom end-unit townhouse with an open floor plan, fireplace, and community pool.

$410,000 (sold), 2614 Oak Park Ave., 4 bedrooms, 2,886 sq. ft.Photograph: Santiago Valdez/Compass
Median sale price: $287,000
Five-year change: 52%

Despite attractions like FitzGerald’s, the longtime music venue, and Autre Monde, the acclaimed Mediterranean restaurant — not to mention Cermak Road’s variety of shops and eateries — this blue-collar town that borders Chicago's West Side often gets overlooked. New construction and rehabbed properties have contributed to rising prices, says Compass broker Santiago Valdez, but you can find bargains on older homes and undeveloped land. In January, for instance, a new four-bedroom, 3,300-square-foot house sold for $578,000 less than a year after its empty lot was purchased for $52,000. Cheaper properties, Valdez says, have “introduced a lot of new energy to the Berwyn market for buyers.”

In Berwyn, which is just 30 minutes by car or Metra from the Loop, you can enjoy suburban living without the cookie-cutter homes: You’ll find ranches, A-frames, multiunit housing, and a rich collection of Chicago-style bungalows. Prices are increasing, but at a slower clip than in adjacent Cicero — and they remain far below those in neighboring Oak Park. “Berwyn offers a great product for the price point when comparing it to other areas in proximity,” Valdez says. A one-bedroom, first-floor condo was recently listed at $90,000, and $450,000 could get you a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a two-car garage and an extra port for, say, boat storage.

$300,000, 342 Homewood Dr., 4 bedrooms, 1,506 sq. ft.Photograph: Sean Cochran/EXP Realty
Median sale price: $305,000
Five-year change: 37%

Those discouraged by soaring prices in Naperville should consider the family-oriented suburb of Bolingbrook. “It’s very close to Naperville, then Woodridge and Downers Grove are right around the corner, but it’s not DuPage County,” explains Sean Cochran, a broker with eXp Realty. “Taxes are not cheap in Bolingbrook, but it’s less than DuPage County.” Situated in the I-55 corridor, Bolingbrook offers amenities like the Promenade Bolingbrook, a pedestrian-friendly mall, and Waterfall Glen (pictured above) and Greene Valley, two forest preserves just outside of town. Last year, the Bolingbrook Recreation & Aquatic Complex was completely renovated, and this year four more playgrounds will be refurbished. “This village is home to some of the most beautiful parks in the surrounding area and a progressive administration that has prioritized economic development,” Samara Morris of Baird & Warner says.

You’ll find everything from large homes in gated communities to modest ranches along tree-lined streets, like a three-bedroom listed in April for $275,000. Cochran says most buyers want single-family houses, but don’t overlook attached homes, including a three-bedroom remodeled townhouse listed for $230,000. Good luck finding those prices in Naperville.

$320,000, 647 Wilbur Ct., 3 bedrooms, 1,646 sq. ft.Photograph: Betsy Lynn Photos
Median sale price: $340,000
Five-year change: 33%

If you’ve visited this far north suburb, chances are it was for a trip to the amusement park Six Flags Great America or the outlet mall Gurnee Mills. Though most people simply pass through the town of just under 30,000, those who stay — including many military families from Naval Station Great Lakes, which is a 15-minute drive away — enjoy a quiet community and an appealing place to raise kids. “Gurnee has good schools, is close to the highway, and attracts a lot of families,” says Lance McBride, a broker with RE/Max Showcase.

It’s also among the more affordable suburbs in Lake County. One reason: the commute. Gurnee is an hour’s drive sans traffic from the Loop (or a 10-minute drive and a 70-minute Metra ride from bordering Waukegan). But in this era of hybrid work, it’s a smart option for buyers looking for more space for the money, like a four-bedroom, 2,400-square-foot house on a 8,276-square-foot lot listed for $290,000 or a four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot house with a three-car garage priced at $479,000.

$675,000, 321 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., 5 bedrooms, 4,800 sq. ft.Photograph: Giuseppe Battista/Remax Destiny
Median sale price: $375,000
Five-year change: 34%

With a downtown redevelopment plan in the works, this DuPage County village is evolving — and homebuyers like what they’re seeing. The community is known for its scenic riverwalk, which connects the downtown to a municipal complex, water park, library, and nature center. On Main Street in the old downtown, you’ll find mom-and-pop shops and boutiques, while the newer section boasts specialty grocery stores and microbreweries. A short drive north gets you to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, and just west is the storied Medinah Country Club, set to host the PGA’s Presidents Cup in 2026.

Renee Schoenherr of Century 21 Affiliated says people are moving to Itasca because of its location, low crime rate, and schools. While proximity to O’Hare is a big draw, residents can also take advantage of the Metra station and the three interstates that run through the village. “People really like being able to take the Metra train into downtown Chicago to work, and they really like the school district,” Schoenherr explains.

The more affordable homes tend to be in the northwest part of town, but you’ll find decent values almost everywhere compared with Elmhurst, Medinah, and other suburbs close to the airport. A three-bedroom brick ranch with a large yard was recently listed for $251,000, but if you need more space, you can get a 4,738-square-foot, five-bedroom home for $649,900.