You might have noticed that houses got pretty expensive pretty fast. Chicago’s market has been at a 15-year high, while inventory is down 48% from last year, and nationwide the inventory of single-family homes is at its lowest point since 1982. And building a new house won’t save you: high lumber prices are adding $36,000 to the cost of construction.
So if you’re looking for affordability right now, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. You’ll be a bit of aways from downtown; the house might need work to be livable, or just to your taste; it might be in great shape but small. But there are definitely houses out there on all sides of the city that are pleasant and interesting. Here’s a little sample.
Here’s a good example of a good compromise. On one hand, it’s small: two beds, one bath, 1,100 square feet. It’s also right on the edge of the city. On the other hand: it’s at the back of the lot, so the front yard is unusually large, it’s very close to Schiller Woods, it has a big deck, and it’s been nicely renovated to reflect its simple open-plan layout, so it’s a flexible space.
This 1956 box has a similar feel on the inside… and is clearly very different on the outside. What looks like it might be a small fabrication shop has been simply renovated in a contemporary style. Thanks to the number of windows, it’s got more natural light than it might seem. Again, this is right on the edge of the city—this time, the opposite end, the far southeast side near the lake, practically under the Skyway. It’s an industrial look in an industrial area, but you’re also close to some underrated parks. And it’s a lot of space—1,900 square feet with four bedrooms and two bathrooms—for the price.
How do you get new construction this cheap? Through the Chicago Community Land Trust. It’s one of six townhomes available to people making 120% of the area median income. It’s not large—three beds, one bath, 1,100 square feet—but the nine-foot ceilings open up the space. It’s basic, but the basics are solid, like the tankless water heater.
For a more eclectically renovated home, check out this large two-story Washington Park place in between the Dan Ryan and the University of Chicago, and close to the park itself. It’s over 2,000 square feet with two beds and 1.5 baths, one with a big soaker tub. The turret has, as you’d hope, been transformed into a cozy space, and there’s a big unfinished attic and basement to do even more with. The renovations are pretty contemporary, but they don’t do layouts like this anymore.
Here’s another example of compromise: it’s pretty far northwest, a bit far from public transportation, and… you’ll probably want to repaint, well, everything, unless your furniture goes well with aquatic colors. And a lot of the rooms are just kind of worn. But it’s in Portage Park, it’s got a great deck and yard and some wonderful spaces (like the nook that’s apparently being used for religious services), and a gorgeous floor in the kitchen. It’s pretty big, too: 1,432 square feet with four bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a raised basement that makes it more livable than most.