With all the talk about the Chicago area’s best neighborhoods and towns, you probably want to know what it costs to get a house there. In fact, as these on-the-market properties show, a pretty nice place in these great areas might be within reach.
Check out the down-to-earth houses and condos in these half-dozen standouts—three from the city and three from the suburbs—ranging from a lakefront Tudor condo to a converted 140-year church.
A consortium of high-rises supplies much of Edgewater Beach’s right-priced housing, but there are smaller multi-families that elbow into the mix.
Condo living doesn’t get much more austere than at Manor House at Bryn Mawr and Kenwood Avenues, a 1907 courtyard building in the expressive Tudor Revival style. The Jameson Sotheby's broker for a 2,400-sqaure-foot, three-bedroom duplex-down that listed for sale March 4 is not alone in linking Manor House to the former site of the British consulate, but there’s no such mention in the National Historic Register of Historic Places nomination form—chalk it up to another tall tale of real estate.
The unit, asking $449,000 with homeowner association dues of $345/month, is presented in a spare state but claims part of a broad turret, has a spiral staircase connection to its lower level, and sports hardwood floors on the main level. Two full baths and in-unit laundry hook-up seal the deal.
Lincoln Park: $409,000
The klutzy exterior of this new-to-market 1974 townhouse on the 2600 block of North Orchard sure doesn’t prime passerby for the visual feast within. Entering from a walled front yard, the living room sets the right tone with hardwood floors, hardwood ceilings, exposed brick, and a wood-burning fireplace.
It’s all original, and characteristic of this builder’s work according to Coldwell Banker agent Susan Rafaeli, whose mother happens to be the seller and sole owner in the home’s 40 years. “My mom was the first woman to get a mortgage from Talman Home Federal Savings & Loan without a male co-signer.”
The deft blend of materials extends past the floating staircase to the dining room, but halts at the admittedly undersized all-white kitchen. The home’s efficient layout fits three equal-sized bedrooms and the separate living room, dining room, and kitchen into just 1,312 square feet. If you were to pick one space as the master suite, the upper level bedroom’s roof deck access and skylit bathroom makes it the natural candidate. The ask: $409,000.
West Town: $849,900
This glassy, open floor plan single-family home is anything but singular in West Town—just the intent of spec builders like Regency Development. Regency, along with Noah Properties and Smart Tech Homes, is filling in vacant chunks of Damen Avenue between Grand and Chicago and its cross streets. This address, on the 2000 block of West Ohio Street, is an execution of replicable designs that are either built then sold or sold at the onset of construction when a buyer sometimes has an opportunity to request customizations.
The home in question, a 3,300-square-foot four-bed listed at $849,900, might not have a buyer’s personal touch, but it does have above-average finishes for its category: dark hardwood floors, an attractive kitchen, master bathroom with steam shower and soaking tub, and a full rooftop deck.
And, if you watch real estate trends, you know the suburban- and bungalow-style basement bar has morphed into the classy quartz-countered wet bar—and this place has two of them!
What’s the telltale sign you’re in a town’s historic center? A perfect gridiron with short, walkable blocks. Few locales in the Chicago region do it better than Geneva, or an intact downtown so large. Loads of shopping and dining and a housing stock leaning heavily Victorian helps make the area a big draw. A pristine four-bedroom Queen Anne with a detached guest house makes for an ideal entry at $474,900.
The home has kept the bulk of its 1890s features, inside and out, including handsome moldings, French doors, and the main staircase. Improvements have come where they should: to the kitchen, baths, roof, and mechanicals. And there’s no lag whatsoever with the guest house’s finishes. Taxes are a doozy, but guess what—that's true all across this town.
Lake Bluff: $724,900
For one of the least expensive properties near the water in Lake Bluff, turn to the eastern part of town’s oldest standing home.
Built in 1876 as a business center for the Lake Bluff Camp Meeting Association, just as the association was marshalling resources for the Chautauqua-esque utopian retreat that preceded the village’s incorporation, the well-kept 2,600-square-foot home at North and Moffett maintains an official air. Pleasant hand-me-downs include 11-foot ceilings, restored original doors and windows, and wainscoting, while the kitchen, bathrooms, and bluestone porch are generally new.
The setting—two blocks from Sunrise Beach and Park and two blocks from downtown amenities in the opposite direction—and the schools are exactly what a young family would want, though taxes pushing $13,000 may sour the dream. On the market since February 21, the $724,900 asking price is $18,000 below the home’s previous 2005 sale.
After last week's amazing church conversion in a dense urban setting, it’s off to semi-rural Barrington for an even scarcer whole home conversion of an 1874 church.
Sohail Salahuddin of @properties represents the listing and tells me the former Catholic church was relocated from Elgin to Barrington in the early 1900s and converted to residential in the 1970s. The sellers are empty nesters likely bound for the city, and they moved into the home 10 years ago from right down the block.
The converters did almost nothing to alter the traditional layout: If it weren’t for the new finished basement the home would have just one bedroom (in the lofted gallery), and a series of open common spaces built into the dramatic chapel. The basement affords two more bedrooms, a rec room, entertainment room, and laundry room. Skylights have been installed in the main level’s 30-foot vaulted ceiling, and a modern chef’s kitchen lurks beneath the master loft. The corner lot adds a fine yard, patio, and greenhouse. A building of this vintage is, predictably, surrounded by other historic structures and quite close to the village’s old commercial corridors and its Metra station—making the 35-mile commute to downtown Chicago far more tolerable. Listed briefly in late 2013 and last selling in 2004 for $530,000, the current asking price is $619,000.