City-lovers who refuse to venture west of Harlem Avenue may not get why a whole lot of other people have such affection for Naperville, but the town collected yet another laurel on Monday, when Money magazine released its 2008 list of the best places to live in the United States. Naperville was No. 3, after towns in Minnesota and Colorado.
Naperville is a regular member of the list, having landed on it in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006. (In 2007, the list focused on small towns, which disqualified Naperville.) And, as I noted in this 2006 article about Naperville’s charms, Money isn’t the town’s only fan: The U.S. Census Bureau dubbed it the nation’s best place to raise children, and AARP ranked it in the top ten towns for senior citizens.
The latest plaudit from Money prompts a question: Has Naperville’s status as a brand-name town helped sell houses there during the ongoing slowdown in the real-estate market?
It looks like, so far, the answer is no. The number of single-family home sales in the past 12 months in Naperville is down 33% from the year before, according to Midwest Real Estate Data’s records—that’s about the same as the decline for the region (36%) and for SOME neighboring towns. (Lisle’s decline was 35.6%, Plainfield’s 33.5%, but the number of sale in Bolingbrook and Aurora dropped by more than 40 percent.)
Real-estate agents who work in Naperville, however, say the town’s star power definitely helps point buyers toward Naperville.
“My business with Naperville listings has been substantially easier than with Aurora or Plainfield or even Lisle,” says Gail Niermeyer, a Coldwell Banker agent. Newcomers looking for homes along the I-88 corridor, particularly corporate transferees, “always want to look at Naperville first—and once they see Naperville, it’s hard for them to give it up.”
“Naperville does a phenomenal job with its downtown and its events, like Ribfest,” says Lisa Chapman of Buhnell Real Estate Group. That and the schools, she says, are key reasons that despite high property turnover in Naperville, people aren’t moving out. “They buy up but stay in Naperville. They don’t move to another town.” That’s helped by the fact that the town has an unusually wide range of home prices, from older subdivision houses in the mid- to high-$200,000s to superluxurious new houses priced over $2 million.
Because of the presence of big corporations like OfficeMax, BP America, Nicor Gas, and Edward Hospital, lots of corporate transferees arrive without much knowledge of the region but “they already know about Naperville,” says Peg Redding, an agent with John Greene, Realtor. “They’ve read the articles, and they’re already sold on Naperville.”
The town’s high profile works for transferees both coming and going: Moving in, you know you’ll find a community with admirable schools, restaurants, and housing stock. Going out, you can hope the house sells better than it would if it were in a nearby town, for the same reason that got you there. Last Friday, Redding closed a $392,000 sale on a three-bedroom house in the Cross Creek section of town whose seller had bought it just a year ago for $391,000. The owner had been transferred again (her company was paying relocation expenses), so she didn’t expect to make a killing on the house, but she sold it in two months for only a little less than her asking price of $399,800. It sold, Redding said, “to somebody who knew about Naperville, just like [the seller] had been last year.”
Thinking of checking out housing in Naperville? On Thursday, July 24, the two Coldwell Banker offices in town are hosting a “twilight tour,” a series of open houses in the after-work hours, as an alternative to the usual Sunday open houses. Call either office (630-369-9000 or 630-355-5000) to have the list of properties faxed or e-mailed to you.