When Illinoisans move, they tend to become Hoosiers. There’s a lot of back and forth, as Illinois also gets cross-border in-migration from our neighbors, but Indiana takes more people than it gives—about twice as many in 2018. It’s the number-one destination for out-migration, ahead of Florida; Wisconsin, on the other Chicagoland border, is third.
Why? A likely cause is affordability. As the Center for Budget and Tax Accountability found late last year, the recent trend in Illinois out-migration (overall, not just to Indiana) has been a big loss in the low-income population. And you can definitely get more housing for the money, like a classic farmhouse, in decent shape, on almost two acres, for considerably less than $200,000. Or you can go up or down price tiers and find something completely different, a totally different world of real estate just next door.
This gently postmodern beach house dates to 1988 in the best possible way: curvy windows, glass blocks, and a split level arrangement highlighted by a walkway bring in lots of light to a huge semi-open-plan living area with a double-sided fireplace. It’s tucked into thick forest, which makes the solarium-style sunroom particularly cozy, but second floor porches take you up over the treetops. It’s big, as you’d expect from the price—four beds, five baths, nearly 5,000 square feet—but appropriately relaxing for its spot by the lake.
For the opposite but no less cozy, try this 1942 knotty-pine cabin. It’s not big, about 1,600 square feet, but it crams five beds into that space while still featuring a big, warm, living area with a classic stone fireplace, plus an airy screened-in porch. If the feeling you get from it is “vacation rental,” that’s what it is, which gives you some flexibility if the big city calls again.
Sure, it needs work, but it’s a farmhouse, that’s the spirit of the thing: some sweat equity for a flinty cost. In exchange, you get three beds, two baths, a respectable 1,600 square feet, and most importantly nearly two acres of land, plus a barn for your… barn things. There’s plenty it needs, but the upshot is that getting back to the way it’s supposed to look doesn’t require stripping down bad renovations. If you’d rather just hang out at the beach, however, it’s just a 15-minute drive to the Indiana Dunes.
You can’t get much closer to Chicago without being in Illinois than this classic 1916 home, built for a chemist in between Wolf Lake and Lake Michigan. Just off the entryway is a beautiful hardwood central stair, a formal dining room, and an exposed-beam parlor with a stout fireplace at the center. The classically sized living space means a lot of square feet, just over 4,000, with four beds and one full bath. It’s the kind of house that could be transplanted from Oak Park, but it’s a short walk from the lake—and property taxes are just a couple grand a year.
If woods are more your thing than the beach, out in Valparaiso sits this very 1950s house on 10 acres of land just off the Moraine Nature Preserve. While it has some MCM touches, this 7,000+ square foot home is more Liberace than Eames: an ornate Chippendale fireplace with an actual bar (no hiding the bar in the basement, they party here), zebra-stripe wallpaper in the massive master bath, a mirrored hallway with chandeliers, a truckload of drapery surrounding its massively oversized bay windows (with another chandelier), and a living room (or parlor, or something) with a mirrored wall and a marble fireplace and a hardwood wall and an Italianate mural. Is it tasteful? Well, it is full of a lot of different tastes.