For the great majority of Chicago-area homeowners, the real-estate charts in Chicago’s October issue (just hitting newsstands this week) reflect the dreary news in the housing market. But there are some people who will get a little boost when they check out how their neighborhood or suburb performed. They are the people who bought and held on to residences in communities where home values have climbed the most since the mid-1990s.

I’m talking to you, families who bought in North Center, Kenwood, Wayne, River Forest, and a handful of other locations back in 1994 and then stayed at those addresses. While some of the air may have gone out of your home’s value in the past few years, you are still doing great. You’re evidence that buying and holding is the most prudent choice in real estate—in good times or bad.

The magazine charts show how prices have changed in each of 77 Chicago neighborhoods and 211 suburbs over the past year, as well as over the past 16 years (since 1994, the earliest year for which Midwest Real Estate Data, the local multiple-listing service, has sales figures for most of the metro area). It’s no surprise that the short-term measure—changes in home values in the past year—are nearly all negative, given the depressed state of the housing market.

On the long-term measure—changes since 1994—77 percent of city neighborhoods and 87 percent of the suburbs are still above water. But some places have lost so much value recently that they are nearly back to 1994 price levels. Other communities, particularly some south Cook County suburbs and South Side and West Side neighborhoods, have already dipped below 1994 levels. These are places where foreclosures and job losses are wreaking havoc.

And that’s precisely why homeowners in the places that have performed best over the past 16 years have reason to be pleased. They chose well for that time and for their future.

Among the top long-term performers are some safe bets, places that have good schools, good transportation, and a long history of appealing to homeowners. They include Lincoln Park and Lake View in the city, and Hinsdale, Oak Park, and Kenilworth in the suburbs. Several of them have gotten upgrades since 1994—Elmhurst and Hinsdale, for example, saw large numbers of smaller homes replaced with bigger ones, thus jacking up the average home value—but they are all five-star stalwarts of Chicago’s middle-class and affluent housing market.

Then there are the places that have been through their own mini-renaissance. They include North Center, Kenwood, Logan Square, Grand Boulevard (which includes much of Bronzeville), and suburban Highwood.  Most of these are in the city, which since 1994 has become a far more attractive place to live, and they are among the places that have been most thoroughly transformed by the return. Working-class Highwood encompasses part of Fort Sheridan, a subdivision of high-end homes on the site of a decommissioned military base.

Here are the top ten neighborhoods and suburbs, in terms of home-value growth since 1994. (This list does not include locations where the number of home sales is so small that price averages are skewed.)


NEIGHBORHOOD (rise in average home value since 1994)

1. North Center: 392 percent

2. Kenwood: 346 percent

3. Lincoln Park: 336 percent

4. West Town: 325 percent

5. Logan Square: 304 percent

6. Lake View: 282 percent

7. Grand Boulevard: 268 percent

8. Uptown: 251 percent

9. Lincoln Square: 242 percent

10. Bridgeport: 221 percent


SUBURB (rise in average home value since 1994)

1. Wayne: 257 percent

2. River Forest: 221 percent

3. Highwood: 202 percent

4. Clarendon Hills: 166 percent

5. Hinsdale: 164 percent

6. Elmhurst: 144 percent

7. Oak Park: 131 percent

8. Willow Springs: 127 percent

9. Glencoe: 125 percent

10. Kenilworth: 121 percent


I will be discussing the real-estate charts in future Housing Bulletins. Until then, pick up a copy of our October 2010 issue for a closer look at the area housing scene, including a peek at the most-expensive home sales from the past year.